Craig Howie in Dubai dreamland after 'humbling experience' on first visit to UAE
Seven years after suffering a nightmare in his first game of golf in the United Arab Emirates, Craig Howie is in dreamland in Dubai.
After opening with rounds of 64 and 68, the 26-year-old Borderer is sitting handily-placed in the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World.
England’s Andy Sullivan backed up his sensational opening 61 with a 66 to sit on 17-under-par, three shots clear of compatriots Ross Fisher and Matt Wallace.
But, on 12-under, Howie is lying in a tie for fourth, with fellow Scots Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest and Marc Warren all on 10-under and also in the top 15 at the halfway stage.
Howie, who lit up his second circuit with five birdies in a row to finish the front nine, is playing in Dubai for the first time and is certainly enjoying himself a lot more than he did when his debut outing in Abu Dhabi as an amateur saw him card a 94 at Yas Links in 2013.
“To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur at the time,” he said of that, speaking to Sky Sports Golf.
“I've tried pretty hard to erase it from my memory but, to be honest, it's probably one of the best things that has happened to me.
“At the time, I was a pretty good golfer and hadn't had too many setbacks, so it was quite a humbling experience.
“It reminded me that the game is not that easy and I need to keep working hard. I've learned a lot and it's stood me in good stead.”
Howie, who has his younger brother, Darren, on the bag, holds a Challenge Tour card and had only made one European Tour appearance before this season.
But, after getting some welcome opportunities since the Covid-19 lockdown, the 26-year-old Peebles man has recorded top-five finishes in both the Austrian Open and UK Championship.
“I think I've just been quite comfortable when I've been out here. Expectations are fairly low. It seems to be a good recipe,” he added.
MacIntyre was out in five-under 31 as he maintained the form that landed him a breakthrough win in the Cyprus Showdown last month.
“I played solid,” said the 24-year-old from Oban. “There’s a lot of positives, still a lot to work on, but I’m in a good position.”
Warren, who had matched Howie’s opening effort, signed for an eagle and two birdies while Forrest had five birdies on his card.
Two-time Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner Stephen Gallacher progressed on six-under, with Euan Walker and Ewen Ferguson making it seven Scots still standing as they squeezed in on three-under.
Sullivan, who carded an eagle and five birdies in his second round, came within a shot of matching the European Tour record for the lowest opening 36-hole score, set by Ernie Els in the 2004 Heineken Classic in Australia.
“If you’d told me I’d shoot 61-66 I’d have snapped your hand off,” said Sullivan, four-time European Tour winner, including the English Championship at Forest of Arden in August with a 27-under total.
"I feel like I’ve got the golf ball under some sort of control at the moment. It doesn’t happen too often in the season, so it’s nice to have that."
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