Shoulder injury may rule Howell out of title decider

When a golfer starts hearing voices it is usually time to reverse the clubs into the nearest car-boot sale. But for David Howell the conflicting whispers in his ears might just cause him to take the most important decision of his career so far.

"One's telling me to go home and stop being ridiculous," said the Englishman, "the other's warning me that I might regret it for the rest of my life." Valderrama is praying Howell listens to his heart and not his head here this morning.

For if Howell concludes he is indeed fit enough, despite a right shoulder injury, to tee it up in this final event of the campaign then we could truly have the nail-biter the sponsors yearn for. Paul Casey's lead in the Order of Merit might be imposing but with a trio comprising Padraig Harrington, Howell and Robert Karlsson close enough to deny him, it is by no means a formality.

"That's why I'm so desperate to compete," said Howell, whose latest ailment has kept him from playing a shot in 10 days. "The Order of Merit is a big deal, but Ifearmaking it worse and having to have eight weeks off. It's a big decision and I'm struggling to make it."

This being golf, and Howell being a Ryder Cup team-mate and all that, there was genuine sympathy from Casey. "It would be a hollow kind of victory," said the 29-year-old. "I honestly believe David has played the best golf of anybody in Europe this year and, by rights, should be leading this thing."

Only victory would guarantee Howell overhauling Casey's near £163,000 advantage. Karlsson is in the same boat, while Harrington little more buoyant. First or second - to someone other than Casey - would be good enough for the Dubliner to make up his £147,000 shortfall.

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