Former Ryder Cup player David Howell’s climb back up the rankings after a nightmare slump was continuing in Vilamoura today.
Third on the European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2006, Howell crashed all the way to 142nd last season, missing the halfway cut in six of his last seven events.
But the 33-year-old from Swindon lost a play-off in the Portuguese Open in April, was seventh in The Open in July and came third at the Johnnie Walker Championship in August.
After surviving the cut with nothing to spare at the Portugal Masters at the Oceanico Victoria course, Howell turned in a one-under 35 this morning and then birdied three of his next four holes.
At four under he was still seven adrift of Welshman Stuart Manley, the surprise pacesetter entering the weekend, but he had improved from 61st to 27th.
Stablemate Darren Clarke was among the players he had overtaken, resuming with two bogeys to slide to one under.
Manley, only 174th on the money list and 575th in the world, has still to record a top-10 finish on the circuit since turning professional in 2003.
But he was one ahead of Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, with Order of Merit leader Robert Karlsson three strokes back in joint fifth and Lee Westwood, third in the standings with £1.7million, tied for 18th on five under.