Mixed fortunes for Howell and Westwood

David Howell fired a four-under 67 to grab a share of the lead at the French Open

David Howell fired a four-under 67 to grab a share of the lead at the French Open

First published in National Sport © by

David Howell had what he described as "the perfect Saturday" - but it was anything but for his stablemate Lee Westwood.

While Howell, down at 350th in the world, fired a 67 to grab a share of the lead with Anders Hansen at the Alstom French Open, Westwood had an injury scare just 12 days before the start of The 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 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 two 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 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."

The wooden sleepers around the course also played a part in Howell's round - 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 finish six under par, 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."

South African George Coetzee 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.

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