THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- In news that can't be too pleasing to European Tour officials, David Howell of England says an ailing back will force him to reduce his schedule next year -- and that means fewer tournaments on home soil.
Howell opened the '06 European season by beating Tiger Woods in Shanghai, and when he won Europe's flagship event, the BMW Championship at Wentworth in May, he seemed to be on his way to capturing the Order of Merit. But his back let him down, and he was noticeably stiff playing the Target World Challenge.
"I need to cut my schedule down, and Europe is going to take the hit," Howell said. "I'll cut four or five events out from Europe. I can't do that in America because I already play my minimum here [15 events]."
Howell played 30 times in 2006 and then finished off his long year at the World Cup and the Target World Challenge.
He averaged nearly 28 starts a year in Europe alone his first nine years but cut that down to 19 in 2005 when he joined the PGA Tour. After leaving California, he said he planned to take seven weeks off, skipping the Middle East swing on the European Tour.
"I haven't got much choice. My body is breaking down," Howell said. "It's hard to watch guys playing in the sun when you're sitting in the cold and rain. But this year proved it -- my body let me down the second half of the year, and I have to do the best thing by my body."
Howell plans to make his '07 debut at either the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Nissan Open, working his way toward the Accenture Match Play Championship and eventually The Masters.
As for Europe?
"I don't think I'll play again until the BMW, which is unheard of for me," he said.