SWINDON pro David Howell believes getting in amongst the leaders is more important than usual as he goes into his second round at the Qatar Masters.

The 37-year-old carded a three-under-par 69 in round one in Doha to sit four shots behind leader Ricardo Santos, on what proved a calm day at the notoriously windy course.

With making the cut the first task, Howell is focused on forcing his way up the leaderboard to ensure a late tee-time on Saturday and Sunday, which he believes will help him avoid the worst of the weather.

“Friday is always important, and at this tournament it is quite important to get in amongst the leaders because the weather can do some funny things,” he said.

“It was the calmest day ever in Qatar during the first round, but it can be the case where it is very windy in the mornings and then dies down in the afternoon, so it would be nice to go out and shoot something in the 60s.

“You want to be in touch with the lead, and that is the plan so we will have to see what I can do.”

Howell started his opening round with a birdie and was pleased with the way he drove the ball, but admitted he has a little work to do with the putter.

“I played pretty well and drove the ball really well, but I just couldn’t make a putt it seems,” he said.

“I drove the ball to within four feet on the first and took two putts, and then got to the 16th in one and took another two, so there were two, two-putt birdies there which could have been even better.

“I hit it dead on the 15th as well, so I managed to get round in three under without really holing a putt of any length at all, so I suppose it is pretty pleasing stuff all in all.”

Despite struggling slightly on the greens, Howell insisted he has put the Abu Dhabi Championship firmly behind him where a four putt cost him the chance of victory.

“In golf you have to move on from every shot very quickly, let alone a tournament or a weekend, but of course is was good to go out there and get amongst it again and shoot a good round,” he said.

“Last week is history now, and this tournament is going to be a different story on the greens compared to last week.”

Howell begins his second round at 3.55 GMT (6.55am local time), alongside South African Jbe Kruger and Spaniard Jorge Campillo.