James Corrigan: Honest Howell is way ahead of blog standard

Where would we be without knowing which dance-track Rio is listening to while at the jeweller's?

There was a period in the history of mankind, some time between the dotcom bubble and the advent of Twitter, when every sporting personality worthy of their marketing coterie was entering the blogosphere.

Here was their chance to bypass that evil race of trolls known as journalists and tell the public what the personalities, themselves, wanted them to hear. It promised to be PR heaven, a land where the platitudes would roam free, where the positives would spring forth from the luscious fields of idealised images, bordered by lucrative sponsors' endorsements.

And the negativity, all the off-field antics, all the mercenary transfer dealings, indeed anything private at all? Well, what right has the sporting fan to know any of this and how could it possibly benefit the sporting celebrity by revealing any of this? No, the insight would remain controlled, the interesting titbits would have all the flavour of the canapés at the Vegan Ball.

Alas, the nature of these blogs contained the seeds of their own destruction. "You can tell a person's personality from the words they use," so said Tal Yarkoni, a psychologist who completed exhaustive research into blogs. But what can you tell from the words their media manager uses? Absolutely nothing. Every sporting celebrity came across as boring, dull and corporate.

Thus, nobody read the blogs and those that did were instantly put off genuinely interesting people such as, erm, Jonny Wilkinson. So off the sporting celebrities trotted to a new Promised Land called Twitterdom. There they could dash off endless reams of guff and dress this up as a wonderful connection with the supporters. Where would be without knowing which dance-track Rio Ferdinand is listening to while he waits at the jeweller's?

At least one sportsman did not join the exodus to 140 characters. The golfer David Howell took to blogging like a duckhook to water. He penned his blogs himself, relegating his PR man to the role of sub-editor, but with the edict that he only insert the commas, unsplit the infinitives and on no account apply the Tippex treatment. With a collection of witty missives, crammed with self-deprecation and anecdotes, it was a genuine portal to the life of a professional golfer. And as the Swindon swinger – to use a nickname which, other than in certain cul-de-sacs in Haydon Wick, never quite caught on – rose to the heights of world No 7, his readers could ride the emotions of his glory. Think Tiger Woods, but as a human being.

It didn't last long. Howell embarked on one of those nose-pinching slumps which only golf seems to produce. Within a year he was out of the world's top 100 and, within another couple, out of the world's top 300. Inevitably the blogs dried up, for as Howell, himself, pointed out "there's only so many ways you can describe 'teed off Thursday, went home Friday'." But when they did arrive in our inbox they were gems.

Take this entry from the Dubai Desert Classic, where his long-suffering caddie pleaded with him not to take on a shot over water on the final hole. "He stood in front of the ball for two minutes, telling me not to waste a shot," recalled Howell. "Saying I cannot reach is like a red rag to a bull. So I pulled out the three wood, told him in no uncertain terms to get out of my way, hit the thing as hard as I could and watched in delight as it landed 36 inches over the water and trickled to within 30 feet of the pin.

"I then gently threw the three-wood 15 yards back down the fairway so he would have to fetch it as punishment. Sometimes you have to remember this is just a game, it's supposed to be fun and sometimes, even though the odds are against you, the challenge just has to be taken on."

The challenge hasn't gotten much easier for Howell in golfing terms. Yesterday he was down the pack at the Portuguese Masters, earning the few euros he needed to retain his European Tour playing privileges. Yet, a few things have altered in his life, a few things which will affect him for ever, and last week in the finest blog of his or any other sportsmen's career, Howell described these life-changers with beautiful poignancy.

First came the usual pops at his faltering game, and luck, as his caddie left him "for an older man" – Darren Clarke a couple of weeks before he won the Open.

And then followed this bombshell. "Sally Pearce, my wonderful thoughtful caring mother passed away. Having had pancreatic cancer for two years she finally lost her battle quicker than any of us imagined. Like all families, ours will never be the same.

"It's hard to move on from that last paragraph with anything positive, but that is exactly how life is sometimes and you have to try to find good things to focus on. My mum herself was adamant about that. The last words I was able to say to my Mum were that Emily and I are due to be parents..."

I urge you to read the entire blog at www.davidhowellgolf.com. It will make you laugh, cry and ponder. It is a uniquely honest account and will remain so. If there were more of his ilk, sport would provide an infinitely more pleasurable spectacle.

Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice