David Howell showed himself to be a fearless front runner for the second time in three months when he captured the Dubai Desert Classic at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
The 23-year-old from Swindon, who won the Australian PGA by a runaway seven strokes in November, claimed his first European Tour title with an emphatic four shot victory in Dubai.
A closing five under par 67 ensured that the title was in Howell’s safe keeping a long way from home, and he was permitted the luxury of bogeying the last hole to win in style with a 13 under par total of 275.
Victory was worth 198,324 euro to the tall, slender Howell, who edged his more famous stablemate, Lee Westwood, into second place on 279. Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, and Irishman, Paul McGinley, shared third place a further stroke behind on 280.
Howell, who played in the 1995 Walker Cup and later that year graduated from the Tour Qualifying School, has made consistent progress in the Volvo Order of Merit since, finishing 54th, 47th and 32nd in 1996, 1997 and 1998 respectively.
His win in Dubai propelled him to the top of the 1999 Volvo Order of Merit, and to 6th place in the Ryder Cup Points Table, and he said: "This is a big day for me. Hopefully I can now play in the majors, although my ultimate aspirations are to be No1 and play in the Ryder Cup. I’ve promised myself that it comes this year, in two years time or in 10 years time I want to make it."
Westwood, who missed the cut on his first outing of the year last week, shot rounds of 69 and 67 over the weekend to hint at a return to form. He was full of praise for his friend and commented: "It’s a fantastic performance by David. He played nicely in the Taiheiyo Masters at the end of the year in Japan and that gave him a clue that he was a better player than he gave himself credit for."
McGinley, who is also in the same management company as Howell, was eqully effusive. He said: "He’s a streaky player but solid. I’m delighted for him. He’s a lovely guy, very composed and to lead the tournament and play that aggressive is fantastic."
McGinley, like Westwood and Howell, finished with a 67 to shared third spot with James, whose 69 surprised even the normally placid Ryder Cup skipper. He said: "I played better than I expected."
Colin Montgomerie fired his third 70 out of four rounds to tie for fifth. He claimed his putting was just a little off but declared himself happy with his week’s work before heading to America for the Andersen Consulting World Match Play.