David Howell talks about the game of golf like a fresh-faced rookie directly out of college who is doing their best to soak in every wakeable moment during their very first season on tour.
Only, the two-time Ryder Cup winner with five DP World Tour victories to his name has been swinging a club for almost 30 years in the paid ranks and will this week set the record for most DP World Tour starts on 722. It is - in the truest sense of the word - extraordinary.
Born in Swindon, England, David Alexander Howell honed his game at the town’s central golf course, Broome Manor as a youngster before venturing out into the big, bad world of professional golf ready to smile his way to victory.
After turning pro in 1995 and then joining the European Tour 12 months later, Howell would have to wait three years before landing his first title - the Dubai Desert Classic - beating Lee Westwood by four strokes.
Following a six-year dry spell, which included defeat in a playoff at the British Masters, one of the nicest men in golf hit something of a purple patch. Although he twice lost out on silverware via extra holes in 2005, he also won twice that year too.
Howell landed the BMW International Open ahead of John Daly and Brett Rumford before comfortably holding off then World No.1 Tiger Woods by three strokes at the HSBC Champions event.
His crowning achievement arrived in 2006, though, when - months before his second stint as part of a victorious European team in the Ryder Cup - the Englishman scooped the BMW PGA Championship trophy, the DP World Tour’s flagship event.
While the future looked blindingly bright for Howell in the mid-2000s, he would only win once more in over 700 professional starts. And, coincidentally, the record-breaking 722nd appearance arrived at the same tournament he last won via a playoff in 2013 - this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Reflecting on his mammoth achievement, the 48-year-old acknowledged it was an honor to pass friend and fellow Ryder Cupper, Miguel Ángel Jiménez.
Howell said: “You start off trying to get on tour, you want to earn a living. You eventually realise you're going to do that, and you have big hopes of winning tournaments, eventually Ryder Cups.
“But I don't think you'd ever dream of being here this many years later and overtaking first, Sam [Torrance], and eventually, Miguel [Ángel Jiménez], who still goes strong, as we know. It's been a life's work and it's been amazing.”
Howell and Jiménez will continue to vye for the all-time appearances record for as long as both can still muster the energy to rock up each week.
The Spaniard - who turned pro in 1982 - has a remarkable 21 DP World Tour wins under his belt and became the Tour’s oldest winner, aged 50 years and 133 days, thanks to his victory at the Open de España in 2014.
Howell admitted he is likely to be passed at some point in the near future, though, as Jiménez continues to enjoy success on the Legends Tour.
The Englishman said: “I got a video message from [Miguel] when I hit 700. But no, we are not battling it out to be the last man standing. You know, I'm pretty sure Miguel will overtake me again unless I play exceedingly well this week.
“I'm getting very close to the end of my playing days on this tour, sadly, which will be a sad moment for me.”
Now working as a Sky Sports golf pundit, Howell has begun to turn his attention to something other than playing after struggling for success on the greens.
The 48-year-old’s last made cut arrived in October 2022 at the Portugal Masters, a stretch of form that would test even the most optimistic.
But that’s exactly what Howell is, optimistic. Describing why he still plays the game when most would have turned to the full-time comfort of a broadcast studio long ago, Howell admitted he has always seen every tee time as an incredible opportunity that anyone would be lucky to afford.
He said: “Mentally, I just love golf. I've always seen it as a privilege to be able to play in a European Tour event, whether it's the biggest ones or the smallest ones. I've always played a lot because of that. Played a few too many times with injuries, as well.
“I just thought the opportunity each week was always an immense one, whether you're playing Madeira in the early days or even St. Omer when we are co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour, and up to this championship and the BMW PGA.
“Each week is like a life-changing opportunity, and I always struggle to turn that down. As I've got older and you realise you're getting toward the end of your playing days, no matter what, it's going to come to an end at some point, I wanted to eek every last bit out of the career I'm privileged to have and got to 722.
“Yeah, the body is tired, but the mind, mentally, even though I haven't played well, is still filled with optimism and I'm happy to turn up and go for it again.”
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Jonny Leighfield is our Staff Writer, joining Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and has since spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. The self-proclaimed ‘worst golfer in the office’ still enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.
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