Howell's magic runs out in play-off defeat

France's Grégory Bourdy denied David Howell what would have been an amazing victory yesterday, winning the Portuguese Open at the third hole of a play-off at Oitavos Dunes.

The former Ryder Cup star, having fallen to 274th in the world rankings entering this event and so down in the dumps about his game just two weeks ago that he changed coaches, produced a closing 64 that was his lowest round for over two years, but found it was not quite enough.

Scot Alastair Forsyth, seeking a second win in three weeks, had also tied on the 18-under par mark after two closing birdies, but fell out of the race after driving into a bush on the second hole of sudden death. Howell and Bourdy, who stayed alive with a 12-foot putt there, then switched from the 18th to the 17th and the Swindon golfer missed the green and failed to get up and down.

It was the fourth time out of four Howell had lost a play-off. Bourdy had led by four at the start of the day but a front nine of 39 left him playing catch-up. "It was so difficult in the first nine holes. I lost a little bit of my game," said Bourdy.