It’s a special week at the Nordea Masters for five-time European Tour winner David Howell as he marks his 600th appearance on Tour.
Over the past 24 years, the current European Tour Tournament Committee Chairman has become one of the most popular and respected figures on Tour, and he now joins an illustrious list as he becomes the tenth person to have made 600 appearances on the European Tour after Sam Torrance, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Barry Lane, Colin Montgomerie, Roger Chapman, Paul Lawrie, Eamonn Darcy, Peter Baker and Malcolm Mackenzie.
There have been numerous highlights over the course of those 600 appearances, from his breakthrough win at the Dubai Desert Classic, to outscoring his playing partner, a certain Tiger Woods, to lift the HSBC Champions trophy, as well as representing Team Europe in two victorious Ryder Cup appearances.
We take a look at just a few of the 43 year old Englishman’s most memorable moments.
A Classic Victory
In March 1999, the then 23 year old proved himself to be a fearless front runner when he sealed his first European Tour title at the Dubai Desert Classic.
The emphatic four-shot victory at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club was his second worldwide win in four months after he had claimed the Australian PGA title by a runaway seven strokes the previous November.
A closing five under par 67 in Dubai ensured that the title was Howell’s, and he even had the luxury of bogeying the last hole to finish on 13 under par, four shots ahead of countryman Lee Westwood.
The victory came in just his third full year on Tour, after he played in the 1995 Walker Cup and later that year secured his European Tour card through Qualifying School.
His win in Dubai propelled him to the top of the 1999 Volvo Order of Merit, and to sixth place in the Ryder Cup Points Table.
"This is a big day for me,” Howell said after his victory. “Hopefully I can now play in the Majors, although my ultimate aspirations are to be number one and play in The Ryder Cup. I’ve promised myself that if it comes this year, in two years’ time or in 10 years’ time I want to make it."
Ultimately it was five years after that first victory before Howell made his debut in The Ryder Cup, but it was certainly worth the wait as he went on to make back-to-back appearances in the biennial contest as Europe recorded two of their most convincing victories over the United States.
In 2004, the rookie sealed one point from two matches, contributing to a crushing 18½ – 9½ victory for Bernhard Langer’s team at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. It was the largest margin of victory by a European team in the history of the event, and the largest by either side since 1981, when Team USA defeated Team Europe by the same score. It was also the largest margin of defeat for the United States since the competition started in 1927.
Howell got his Ryder Cup career off to a dream start in the Saturday morning fourballs alongside Paul Casey, with the two Englishmen defeating Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell by one hole. His second outing did not have the same outcome as he was defeated 6 and 4 by Furyk in the Sunday singles, but there was much more to come two years later.
By the time he teed it up at the K Club in County Kildare in September 2006, Howell was one of the hottest players on the European Tour, with a further three wins under his belt including two that season.
He once again got off to a positive start as his Friday afternoon foursomes pairing with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson yielded half a point against Stewart Cink and David Toms, before he once again teamed up with countryman Casey in a 5 and 4 win over Cink and Zach Johnson on Saturday. He rounded off a 2½ point haul with a 5 and 4 victory over Brett Wetterich as Ian Woosnam’s team equalled the record 18½ – 9½ winning margin from two years earlier.
A Glorious Season
Howell’s second Ryder Cup victory rounded off his most successful year on the European Tour. After claiming his second title at the 2005 BMW International Open in Germany, he got the 2006 season off to a flying start with his biggest win yet at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November 2005.
It marked the Swindon man’s arrival on the international stage as he recorded a superb three-shot victory over then World Number One and his final round playing partner, Tiger Woods, at Sheshan Golf Club.
Howell carded a 68 to post a formidable winning total of 20 under par in what was a satisfying turn of fortunes seven months on from his last experience of playing alongside Woods in the third round of the Masters Tournament. Woods would shoot a 65 and win for the fourth time at Augusta National – while Howell carded a 76 and finished outside the top ten.In the heat of battle, Howell succeeded in closing his ears to the chaos around him and his eyes to the impressively familiar Woods style and never wavered as he converted his one-stroke overnight advantage into a three-shot victory in China.
Howell said: "This is something I dreamed of but probably didn't think was going to come true. You end up in the last group playing with the World's Number One and you know it's going to be a big day in your career.
"Obviously I am quite pleased with myself; the way I handled myself and was able to come out on top. It was a massive learning experience for me today and hopefully it can really help me in the future."
And yet the 2006 season had more in store, as Howell managed to top that victory with a glorious win on home soil.
He was calmness personified as he compiled a near faultless 69 to capture the BMW Championship at Wentworth Club. With his five-stroke win over Simon Khan he became the first English winner of the famous championship since Nick Faldo’s record-breaking fourth title in 1989.
Howell was imperious throughout. Starting the day with a three-stroke lead over Miguel Angel Jiménez, he birdied the second, fourth and fifth holes on the newly remodelled West Course. When his Spanish playing partner bogeyed the lengthened sixth hole, Howell had a six-shot cushion.
From that moment on he could ease off the accelerator and, in spite of the talented duo of Khan and Jiménez chasing, the back nine turned into a procession.
As modest as ever, Howell said: “I suppose I never think great things are going to happen to me, but they seem to keep happening at the moment. I am overwhelmed by winning the BMW Championship – it supersedes everything else I have done, even beating Tiger in China. This is as big as it gets on the European Tour. Outside the four Majors this is the one to win."