02 Jan 2017

David Howell: Less practice to prolong my career ahead of new campaign

I’m really looking forward to the 2017 season. Last year was a difficult time for me. I was beset by injuries but now I’m hoping I can get through the coming campaign without too many problems. I’ve been having trouble with my foot recently and although I shot a third round 63 in the UBS Hong Kong Open I did well to play the four rounds.

It was good to shoot that course record 63, which shot me up the leaderboard 44 places and into the top five, having opened with two 70s, but I was struggling on the final day to score 72 and finished in a share of 14th place. The Hong Kong course seems to suit my game and my course management and I did have a little luck. Hong Kong is what I would call a good old-fashioned course.

Now, looking forward, the 2017 European Tour International Schedule feels like it’s a new dawn for the Tour. The Rolex Series events have been elevated through the increase in prizemoney and World Ranking points and I’d really like to be part of it. I have set my sights on being more successful in my forties than I have been in my thirties.

I would like to do a Miguel Angel Jiménez. He’s a great character and he’s had so much more success as an over-40 and as a Senior golfer on both the European Senior Tour and the US Tiur Champions than he had on the regular Tour. Many players have come to their prime after reaching 40, so why not me? Miguel, in particular, is a bit of a poster boy for players above my age. It’s not unusual, there are many others. If you can stay fit enough to compete and if you’ve still got the desire to win then you can continue to be successful well into your 50s.

The number of injuries I’ve had is mainly down to fair wear and tear so I’ve got to make allowances. To compensate for that I prefer to limit the amount of practice time when I’m at home to the minimum.  I now make sure I arrive at the course at least half a day early to practice on the course.

Years ago I used to practice almost as fanatically as Padraig Harrington. I would go to the Queenwood Club near where I lived and they’d leave the key to the gate with me so I could practice until I couldn’t see. That’s probably why I am often plagued by injuries. I’ve always putted nicely and as time goes on I don’t focus too much on the greens because it puts more pressure on me.

Being a successful Tour pro is all about getting the right balance between family time and professional time. I’ve got the utmost respect for the players who can get it right both on the course and at home. It’s a bit like a life tax.

All the travelling we do from event to event means we have less time to spend with the family and that is the toughest part of the job. It’s essential that we should do everything we can to get the balance right.

It’s been a fascinating 2016 and one person who deserves at pat on the back is Pete Cowen. He is undoubtedly the most successful golf coach ever in European Golf. I’ve had loads of golf lessons from Pete over the years and he really is out on his own.

Players frequently go off on a tangent, looking for the quick fix. Pete doesn’t believe in that theory. He’s there to install his beliefs and he sticks to his guns. He preaches consistency. He doesn’t allow his boys to go off on a tangent.

Pete always comes back to the basics and he doesn’t change from what he believes in. He’s got the right mindset and he insists his players also have the same thoughts. It’s a tricky balancing act. It’s like being a doctor. He prescribes the medicine but you need to know how much to take and when.

It’s tough to get it right but Pete has got it right better than anyone and the 2016 season has been his best year so far in a hugely successful career.

Tour pros are difficult to handle. We can hit a good shot one day and the next day you can hit the same shot and take another stroke. Players may focus on their shot in different ways. We’re like racing cars. Rory’s car goes faster than me so I’ve got to find an alternative route to get to the finishing line first.

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