Howell keeps his Ryder Cup hopes alive with a strong last-day effort

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The Independent Online

Britain's David Howell kept his slim Ryder Cup hopes alive with a rousing finish at the Open yesterday. The 33-year-old Englishman, who is currently 79th in the Ryder Cup world points list, conquered strong winds to shoot a three-under-par 67, matching the second lowest score of the week.

"I am greatly encouraged by finishing so strongly," Howell said after covering the back nine in a two-under 34 as stiff winds whipped across the links. "On Thursday I said to my caddie: 'What are we doing here?' I was playing so badly. But you don't give up, this is the Open.

"I've not written off my Ryder Cup hopes but I have to have a good result in the World Golf Championship in two weeks' time," he said of the forthcoming WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

Howell, who eagled the par-five 17th on his way to a 12-over tally of 292 for the tournament, was frustrated by his putting form over the weekend.

"Putting is normally the strongest part of my game but I have struggled with it in these conditions and today I had three three-putts," he said. "That was very strange. I had three three-putts and shot 67 so it goes to show what can be done. But I holed a bunker shot as well so things didn't go against me."

The 37th Ryder Cup takes place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky from 19-21 September.

The world No 2, Phil Mickelson, said his 16th Open appearance had been one of the toughest of his career.

"Consistently day in, day out it has been as challenging as I have played in," the American left-hander said after a closing 71 gave him a 14-over-par 294. "We had times like this at Muirfield in 2002 when the wind would come up even stronger, but consistently this has been one of the hardest ones."

Mickelson, the highest-ranked player in the field in the absence of Tiger Woods, was full of praise for the course.

"It has been a very fair test," said the 38-year-old. "The course was set up fair and even in the conditions there was a score out there. You could make birdies on some holes and fight for pars on others. There was enough room to play. This is what the R&A wants, to test players in adverse conditions and have a course that's set up fair."

Mickelson said his putting let him down. "I really struggled on the greens and consequently my score wasn't what I would have liked," he said. Mickelson has only once finished in the top 10 in the game's oldest major – he was third at Royal Troon in 2004.