Howells of Delight at Celtic Manor
England’s David Howell made a flying start to the Celtic Manor Wales Open when he shot an opening seven under par 65 to lead Italian Emanuele Canonica and Germany’s Marcel Siem by a stroke with Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie in the group a further shot adrift.
Howell, second to Dane Steen Tinning in the inaugural Celtic Manor Wales Open in 2000, missed only one fairway on the Wentwood Hills course at the Celtic Manor Resort, a wayward drive on the sixth costing him his only shot of the round, as he raced to the top of the leaderboard with eight birdies.
Three birdies in the first five holes got the ball rolling before the momentum was lost with the dropped shot on the sixth. But three successive birdies after turn proved timely and got the round back on track before he finished with another two birdies on the short 16th and the par five 18th to head the field.
Although without a victory since the 1999 Dubai Desert Classic, Howell feels his game has reached a new level over the past 18 months thanks to the hard work he has put into his game with new coach, Clive Tucker, and more attention to fitness. So far this season the hard work has brought him three top tens, including joint third in the Dubai Desert Classic.
“Hit one bad drive on the sixth but other than that it was pretty much down the middle and on the green with birdie chances on most holes,” said the 28 year old. “I’m delighted to get off to a fast start and fell I am right in there for the tournament.
“Over the last 18 months I have moved up a gear in my own game. I haven’t won in that time but the consistency is on a completely different level.”
Big-hitting Canonica, who seems to have a driver laced with gunpowder, blasted his way to a six under par 66, the highlight of his round being a massive 400 yard drive on the second which left him with just a six iron approach, as opposed to the three wood of playing partner Gary Orr. He duly converted his eagle putt which, following a birdie on the first, gave him the perfect start. A hat-trick of birdies from the fifth helped him to an outward half of 30 but by the eighth the birdies had dried up and he had to be content with 11 pars to finish.
“I played well and my game is a lot better than the last couple of weeks,” said Canonica. “I missed just the one green but almost a perfect day. With my length, I do have chances on the par fives.”
Siem, who won his maiden title when he captured the dunhill championship in January, bounced back from a disappointing weekend at Wentworth Club, where he closed with rounds of 75-73 after starting 69-67, with a seven birdie 66, his only bogey coming at the par three ninth.
“I felt a bit of pressure today as my last weekend’s play was not good,” said Siem. “I also had a good start the previous week in Germany but didn’t play well at the weekend so I wanted to give myself another chance at the weekend this week.”
Montgomerie got his competitive juices flowing once again ehen produced his lowest round since winning the Caltex Masters presented by Carlsberg Singapore 2004, shooting a bogey-free five under par 67 to lie just two strokes off the pace.
“This is the first round that I haven’t had a bogey in while so I was delighted with that,” said the seven-time Volvo Order of Merit winner. “I have always prided myself that it was the mistakes I didn’t make that won tournaments and not the birdies I made, so that was the key and I actually felt quite competitive out there which was a good sign.
“I have an early tee time tomorrow so I want to try and build on what we’ve started. One round doesn’t make a summer but at the same time it is the best I have done for a while and I am reasonably happy with that.”
Joining Montgomerie on five under par was Frenchman Christian Cévaër, winner of the Canarias Open de Espańa in April, who started his round birdie, eagle, birdie, par, birdie to lie five under par after the first five holes. He had extended that to six under par with a birdie on the 16th but with thoughts of the 65 he shot here last year, Cévaër went for broke on the last and pushed his drive in the thick rough on his way to dropping a shot.
Scot Steven O’Hara, benefiting from a more positive outlook since teaming up with psychologist John Pates, also carded a five under par 67.
Courtesy of www.europeantour.com