Howell exploits some tough conditions

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David Howell, the former Walker Cup golfer from Swindon, completed his first round in a five-under-par 66 despite suffering from a wrist injury in the Italian Open in Bergamo yesterday.

Howell, 20, is now in joint second with Italy's Costantino Rocca and Sweden's Patrik Sjoland, one stroke behind the leader Gary Evans, who shot a 65 before a thunderstorm and heavy rain caused play to be abandoned the day before. At that time Howell had played 12 holes in two under par and had hit his approach five feet from the flag on the 13th green.

Yesterday he immediately holed the five-footer for a birdie three and had two more birdies, at the 16th and 17th, to finish in 66, just before another thunderstorm followed by rain, halted play for more than two hours.

Weather permitting, the second round will be played today, and only the top 50 players, instead of the usual 65, and those tied for 50th place, will play the last two rounds tomorrow.

Howell is a little concerned at having to play three rounds in two days, assuming he makes tomorrow's cut. "I've a strained tendon in my right wrist," he said. "And it hurts on the follow-through but the worst pain is on my backswing - if I'm too quick."

The promising Howell made it on to the European Tour through the qualifying school last November and has been joint eighth twice and joint 12th once in the eight tournaments he has competed in.

In the second round of the Welsh Women's Open in St Pierre, Chepstow, yesterday, Lisa Hackney showed the benefits of a winter spent training in Florida by taking an early lead.

Hackney, who ended last season with a Tour-best third place in the Spanish Open, added a 75 to her opening 73 and that was good enough to set the target for the rest of the field as blustery conditions caused problems.

The 28-year-old finished her round just as the overnight leaders, Lora Fairclough and Caroline Hall were setting out again.

Both resumed with bogey sixes to slip back to level par as Stephanie Dallongeville, of France, the only other player to break par yesterday, went to the turn in 40 and needed birdies at the 12th and 15th to recover to be just one over.