Friday, 19 March 2010

Not everyone is fortunate enough to own one sleek BMW. David Howell, by the end of this weekend, could be the lucky owner of two. As high performance goes, there was no-one to touch the current holder of the BMW International Open yesterday as he found top gear at Wentworth Club with a scintillating 65 to lead the BMW Championship 2006.

There is plenty of open road between Howell and the rest of a world class field after a stunning performance over the West Course which affords the English Ryder Cup player a three shot lead going into the third round which, due to early morning rain storms, means that the second round won’t be completed until this morning.

Howell won the BMW International Open last season to re-affirm his position as one of Europe’s most talented players, and reinforced that status at the end of the year when he won the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.

Now Howell has manoeuvred himself into a strong position to improve on his fourth placed finish behind Angel Cabrera of Argentina in the BMW Championship 12 months ago, As the weather improved, so did Howell’s poise and control as he conjured up an eight birdie round which, but for the inevitable preferred lies in operation on the sodden course, would have constituted a new course record.

Always a composed customer, Howell plotted a careful course around the Ernie Els re-designed West Course, closing with a pair of birdies, and ended an eventful day three clear of another Englishman, Nick Dougherty, handily placed on eight under par, with Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and defending champion, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, sharing fourth place on seven under par.

Howell confirmed his role as one of The European Tour’s most polished performers and said: “I am European Tour through and through. This is our flagship event and one that I would be very honoured to win and I will be trying very, very hard to do just that. This is the one which has the ‘wow’ factor.”

Since winning the BMW International Open, six years after his breakthrough win in the Dubai Desert Classic, Howell has grown in confidence and his Ryder Cup debut in 2004 showed he has the poise and courage to match his talent. Yet, through it all, he has remained modest and unaffected by success.

“I guess that’s one of the best rounds I’ve played he said – although I didn’t expect to be sitting here at 11 under par” he said. “There is a long way to go but hopefully I can give myself a chance over the weekend.”

While Howell has already gulped in the rarified air of  Ryder Cup action, Dougherty  has yet to reach that exalted status. However after a round of 69 for a total of 136, the Englishman took another impressive stride closer to that ambition.

Dougherty, in common with many of his peers, made his score over the back nine, striking the ball just 33 times to challenge Howell for supremacy at the top of the leaderboard.

“I’ve backed up a good start with another good round” said the Liverpudlian. “I am pleased because it’s tricky out there. Winning this would be the biggest thing I’ve ever achieved and would pretty much put me in The Ryder Cup Team. Of course it would also make me over £480,000 richer and open up a lot of doors.”

As Howell placed his foot on the accelerator, many of Europe’s brightest stars illuminated a strong and cosmopolitan  leaderboard going into the third round of the BMW Championship 2006. England’s Simon Khan, a past winner of The Celtic Manor Wales Open and another of the English contingent, muscled his way into contention in fifth place with a four under par 68 for a total of 138.

Right behind are three players with varying pedigrees, namely the experienced English Ryder Cup winners, Paul Casey and Luke Donald, and a young Frenchman with dreams of grandeur, in Francois Delamontagne. The trio are on five under par and in position to strike for glory over a weekend which promises further outstanding feats to thrill the crowds at Wentworth Club.

Donald, one of four co-leaders after the first round on five under par, was unable to take advantage of a glorious start to his second round. Donald aced the second hole with a seven iron from 146 yards to move to seven under par but finished the day with a level par 72.

By way of compensation, the Englishman walked off the 18th green to receive a magnum of Moët and Chandon champagne from BMW UK’s Managing Director, Jim O’Donnell.

The second round concluded early on Saturday morning and 66 players survived the cut, which fell at two over par.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1HOWELL, DavidENG18-17
2KHAN, SimonENG18-12
3JIMÉNEZ, Miguel AngelESP18-11
4RUMFORD, BrettAUS18-9
5BLAND, RichardENG18-8
T6ORR, GarySCO18-7
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