Howell ties for French Open lead as Westwood injures knee in first-tee slip

David Howell at the Alstom French Open
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David Howell, down at 350th in the world, charged into a share of the third-round lead with a 67 at the Alstom French Open on Saturday.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, July 07, 2012 | 1:46 p.m.

PARIS -- David Howell had what he described as "the perfect Saturday" at the Alstom French Open, but it was anything but for his stablemate Lee Westwood.

While Howell, down at 350th in the world, charged into a share of the third-round lead with a 67, Westwood had an injury scare just 12 days before the start of the British Open at Royal Lytham.

The world No. 3 tweaked a knee and strained a groin when he slipped walking to the first tee for his third round at Le Golf National near Paris.

It looked serious as he double bogeyed the opening hole and bogeyed the next five, but with the pain easing he managed to play the remaining 12 holes in 2 under.

"I was talking to Richard Sterne's caddie and not looking where I was going," Westwood told Sky Sports after a 76, his worst score in Europe in more than three years. "I slipped on wooden sleepers down the side of the cart path. My left foot went forward about two feet and my right foot stayed where it was.

"It felt like I strained something at the top of my right leg and tweaked my right knee as well," he explained. "It seems to have eased off, but I am still a little bit wary of it.

"I felt if it stopped it might make it worse by seizing up, so I thought it was better to keep it moving," he added. "I didn't try to overdo it over the first few holes, but lost everything to the right -- I couldn't put any weight on it. I don't know what I've done to it."

Westwood planned to contact his trainer Steve McGregor for advice on whether to have treatment or just rest the injury.

The wooden sleepers around the course also played a part in Howell's round -- in a good way. His approach to the last green only just carried the lake, landing on the sleepers and bounding forward on to the green.

After parring the hole to remain 6 under par, a total that only Denmark’s Anders Hansen could match with a 69, Howell spoke of his delight.

"It was a great round," said the 37-year-old former Ryder Cup star, who tumbled from ninth in the world in 2006 to 569th two years ago. "Setting off in the top 10, you don't want to go backward. You want to move yourself into contention and that's the perfect Saturday.

"I had a nice bit of luck at the last," he admitted. "The 7-iron was my one really poor shot, but it went my way today and it scrambled over the water.

"I'm a long way from where I once was, but I've made six cuts in a row and it's been a long time since I've been able to say that," he said. "Obviously I don't measure success on cuts made, but it's good for the confidence."

Howell, out in a 2-under 34, added further birdies on the 14th and short 16th just before play was halted by a thunderstorm for the second day running. Hansen and South African George Coetzee were the players out in front at that point, but Hansen bogeyed the 16th and 17th and Coetzee three-putted the 16th and 18th.

Coetzee is alone in third place only one behind, while halfway leader Marcel Siem shot 73 to fall back into a tie for fourth with French hope Raphael Jacquelin.

Ian Poulter stayed in the hunt with a 69. It moved him up from 14th to sixth alongside Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and they are only three back.

There is also a British Open spot up for grabs and Howell, Siem and Stenson are all involved in the fight for that.