Mixed fortunes for Howell and Westwood
Golf:David Howell had what he described as “the perfect Saturday” at the French Open, but it was anything but for his fellow Englishman Lee Westwood.
While Howell, down at 350th in the world, charged into a share of the lead with a 67 at Le Golf National near Paris, Westwood had an injury scare just 12 days before the start of the British Open at Royal Lytham.
The world number three tweaked a knee and strained a groin when he slipped walking to the first tee for his third round.
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 two under.
“I was talking to Richard Sterne’s caddie and not looking where I was going,” said Westwood after a 76, his worst score in Europe for over 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.
“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.
“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, but in a good way.
His approach to the last only just carried the lake, landing on the sleepers and bounding forward on to the green.
After parring the hole to remain six under par, a total which only Dane 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. The seven-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.
“Obviously I don’t measure success on cuts made, but it’s good for the confidence.”
Howell, out in a two-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.
He is alone in third place only one behind, while halfway leader Marcel Siem shot 73 to fall back to joint fourth with French hope Raphael Jacquelin.
Ian Poulter stayed in the hint with a 69. It moved him up from 14th to sixth alongside Swede 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.
Graeme McDowell parred the first 11 holes before a roller-coaster last seven holes saw him card three bogeys and three birdies, including the final two holes, to card a level-par 71 to remain on one under and a tie for 13th spot.
Shane Lowry could only manage a 74 that leaves him on one over going into the final round, while Peter Lawrie had two double-bogeys, two bogeys and five birdies in his round of 72 to finish on four over.