Superb final-round form by Peebles golfer Craig
The talented Challenge Tour player from the Borders, who had begun with a 68, hit an excellent late surge of form to finish 12 under par, just two strokes behind the winner, Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard, who squeezed out South African Justin Walters at the second extra hole of a play-off.
European Tour rookie Howie (26), who was joint fourth in the Austrian Open last month, was ineligible for this week’s Andalucia Masters – but his finish at Sutton Coldfield secured him a tee time on a third straight former Ryder Cup venue at Valderrama in Spain.
His scorecard from the Midlands event – 68, 72, 71, 65 – takes him a step nearer to securing a main Tour card for 2021 and considerably enhances his standing on the Race to Dubai money list.
Howie has been coached by 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie and has been managed by Lawrie’s 5-Star Sports agency since turning professional in late 2018.
He said: “It was pretty cool, first time I’ve really been in contention on the European Tour.
“An exciting day. I haven’t played a lot with quarantine and, with Challenge Tour having very few events, I’ve been limited to one or two events.
“To get some time on the golf course is much appreciated, to be honest.I probably would have taken the score before I teed off. The course is playing quite tricky, with the wind. It’s tough to get a good score going at the start of the round.
“I would have snapped your hand off even for a 69, if it meant a top ten and getting to play next week. I definitely would have taken it.
“I think my strengths are that I don’t have too many weaknesses. I think my all-round game is pretty solid.
“I don’t do one thing particularly amazingly, but I do it all fairly decently..”
Howie recalled: “I hit the driver (on the 10th), it was a really good wind for me. I like to hold it up left to right. I could have done with it being five yards further and it would have been the perfect driver.
“I just took a wee bit off the driver with a fade and it was straight in the middle of the green. Made three, worked out pretty well for me. I wish I could have had that putt back on 18. I would like to hit that again and get that in the hole.
“It looked pretty good to me for most of the way, but not to be.
“I feel great, that was brilliant. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, I was just going out there to have a bit of fun, and to go round in 65 with no bogies was pretty cool.
“From where I was on the 17th – the pin was so far away, it was such a bad second shot. I actually thought the ball went past the flag but, when I walked up, I saw it was just short. It would have been pretty cool to hole that one.
“I saw leaderboards but there were no camera crews around following me. Because it’s two balls and I knew the guys we were playing with, it felt a bit like a bounce game, to be honest.
“Up until 16, there were no camera crews, no real pressure at all, so I was just free wheeling.
“I’m just processing it all now, I haven’t really thought ahead. At the start of the day, I was just hoping for a good day to give myself a chance. It would be exciting to play another Ryder Cup venue (in Valderrama next week).”