England’s David Howell ended seven years in the golfing wilderness with a sudden-death playoff victory over American Peter Uihlein in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrew’s, Scotland.
The 38-year-old Howell, a former world number nine and a member of two victorious European Ryder Cup teams, clinched victory with a birdie at the second extra hole.
“It’s incredible. The sun is shining and the crowd have come out,” said Howell, who had lost all four of his previous play-offs.
“I have never played in an Open Championship here, but to win a golf tournament as a professional at the home of golf is quite amazing and I am really thrilled.
“I was really nervous all week and strangely less nervous today. I can’t explain that at all. I stayed calm and smooth under pressure and that was really pleasing.”
Howell and Uihlein were tied at 23-under-par at the end of the tournament, a pro-am event in which players alternate between three courses over the first three days, before the top 60 pros and the top 20 teams compete in the final round.
Uihlein, 24, who carded a 60 in his second round, took a two-shot lead into the final day but Howell came home with a five-under par 67 to the American’s 69 to force the play-off.
England’s Tom Lewis put himself in contention with a final- round 64 but he fell just short on 22 under par for a share of third place with Ireland’s Shane Lowry.
Howell’s last victory came in the European Tour’s flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth seven years ago, several months after holding off Tiger Woods to clinch the HSBC Champions Tournament.
But injury and a loss of form sent him plummeting outside the top 500 in the world rankings in 2010 before beginning a climb back in which he will now re-enter the top 100.
“It has been a long, long road from the depths of despair,” he told Sky Sports. “I have had a lot of support from people around me and this is for them, too. It is sweet [to win] and a dream. “
Howell, whose wife Emily is expecting twins in December, added: “The downs were pretty low and I lost my way in life and on the Tour as well.
“Off-course I was not a happy camper and made some bad decisions around 2008 and took some time to sort through them. I owe Emily a debt of gratitude for having me back and showing me that we were always going to be a happy couple in the end.
“This is a sweet moment to be happy and settled with Emily and Freddie at home and the twins on the way and to win a massive championship seals the deal.”