Ryder Cup feelgood factor spurs Howell

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The Independent Online

David Howell knew he was going up in the world when he was paired with Samuel L Jackson in the pro-am section of the Dunhill Links Championship. Not that the modest Ryder Cup rookie from Swindon is overly fussed with such trappings. A 65 on the Old Course to become the halfway leader at 14-under-par, was more to the point.

Howell led by one stroke from Luke Donald, another team-mate from Europe's victory at Oakland Hills and also enjoying the Ryder Cup aftermath. Donald also had a 65, which he revealed was probably six or seven strokes better than his previous best on the Old Course.

Howell, who teamed up with Paul Casey for a vital fourball victory on the second morning in Detroit, admits the existence of a feelgood factor from the Ryder Cup, but feels his good form - he was third last week in the World Championship event in Ireland won by Ernie Els - is more specifically explained.

"I'm swinging the club well at the moment and I'm always confident when that is the case," he said. "It just hasn't happened very often in the past. Most [of] the guys on the team are feeling pretty good about themselves so there is a feelgood factor," he added. "Maybe I am walking half-an-inch taller just now."

But Howell has not won since 1999 in Dubai and another victory may be overdue. "I wouldn't say I feel an urgency to win," he said. "But I'm obviously looking forward to it and there may be a lot more relief when I finally do it. But my main aim is to play better and more consistently and I know I have done that over the last five years."

Donald's season, which started with his solid but unspectacular results in the United States where he has played since turning professional three years ago, has ended in a frenzy back in Europe with two victories and a Ryder Cup debut. From now on he is intending to split his schedule across the Atlantic.

"I plan on keeping both cards next year," said the Chicago-based player. "It was a blessing that I came over to try and make it into the Ryder Cup team. Things have worked out perfectly. I couldn't have scripted it better.

"Winning twice has given me a lot of confidence and helped me to play even better. There were times last year when I wasn't playing well and it can be easy to be intimidated by all the big names on the US Tour. But I'm a different player to last year and now I belong among the top players in the world," Donald added. "I'm not really intimidated by anything any more."

It was another easy day for scoring on the Old Course but no one did better than 65. Yet most of those on the leaderboard have played at Kingsbarns and St Andrews so have the daunting task of taking on Carnoustie today. Everyone has to play at each of the three venues before the final round on the Old Course tomorrow.

Graeme McDowell, who equalled the Old Course record on Thursday with a 62, had to go to Carnoustie yesterday and had a double bogey at the 18th, his ninth hole. The Northern Irishman then had four birdies in a row from the second but stumbled again with a double-bogey seven at the sixth. At 10 under, he was joint fourth but plays at Kingsbarns today.

Howell holed a wedge shot for an eagle-two at the 18th on the Old Course, but it would be fair to say there were more hysterical celebrations on the 17th when Jodie Kidd, model, polo player, motor racing driver and 18-handicapper, holed her third shot, from 70 yards, for a birdie on the Road Hole and a net-eagle. "I couldn't believe it and I wanted to stop right there," Kidd said. "It's up there with the best things I've done in my life." Her professional partner, Colin Montgomerie, certainly enjoyed the celebrations. "There was lots of hugging and kissing," he reported.

Kidd enjoyed the company too. "Colin is a really cool partner, the nicest professional golfer I've ever played with."

"I've got great admiration for all the amateur players," said Montgomerie. "They are out of their comfort zones but they do our jobs better than we could do theirs." Monty on the catwalk? "Don't go there." Quite.