David Howell is hoping that beating the world’s best player in the inaugural HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai is a launchpad to further success.
The 30-year-old Englishman kept Tiger Woods at arm’s length throughout a relatively trouble-free final round to shoot a 68 and win by three shots on 20 under par.
It was his second tournament triumph of the year after scooping the BMW International in Munich three months ago, a win which ended a winless streak stretching back to 1999.
Now, with a second Ryder Cup cap looking a certainty next September and nearly £476,000 (€706,000) in the bank after his week’s work in China, Howell is understandably upbeat.
He said: “Winning any tournament is fantastic, I came here looking for a good finish and end up with the leaders playing with the world’s number one.
“It’s going be a big day in your career and I’m quite pleased with the way I handled myself.
“Any time anyone plays against Tiger on the last day it’s almost like the FA Cup final for the underdogs.
“I was nervous all day but I’m not so sure it was because of Tiger, strangely. Don’t get me wrong, it was a big day because it was Tiger – but it was a big day anyway.
“It was a massive learning experience and hopefully it can really help me in the future as well.
“Playing in the Ryder Cup is the main thing for the upcoming year and this win is a giant leap towards that.
“Week by week, I’m coming to realise that I’m pretty good at this game and I’m able to compete with some of the best players in the world.
“It’s taken a while to realise this and my game hasn’t always been as good as it is now, but I’m in a great place at the moment.”
Howell is now the world’s top-ranked Briton in 13th place and only Sergio Garcia is above him in European terms.
But he stressed beating Woods took great focus, both on his game amid the pressure of the situation and the distractions from an enthusiastic Chinese crowd.
All week Woods had complained of disruptions from fans eager to capture their hero on their cameras and mobile phones and Howell got a taste of it in the final round.
“It was a bit more chaotic than I thought it was going to be,” he explained. “I’d heard about the noise from the other guys when they were playing with Tiger and it is fairly bad.
“It took me by surprise slightly, but the key thought was to concentrate on my own game.
“I set myself a target of 65, and though I came up short, the last few holes I played conservatively when I knew I was in a good position.
“The turning point for me was on the 12th. I didn’t hit my tee shot at all well but got a bit of luck when it bounced onto the green and then I holed another good putt.
“It kept Tiger that far back that he had to play really aggressively to try to catch me.
“But it wasn’t until the 17th green that I could think about winning. Once I landed on the fairway at the 18th I was pretty sure I would win.”