DAVID Howell says this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will present him with an opportunity to enjoy playing golf again.

The 44-year-old has struggled badly in 2019 and has only finished inside the top 30 at a European Tour event once – at the Czech Masters in late August.

The former Alfred Dunhill winner admits he has largely been free of injury this season, but a mental battle has been the primary hindrance to his game, especially in recent weeks.

Although he is battling both a cold and small shoulder problem entering Thursday’s opening round , Howell is determined to play free from stress and doubt as he aims for a successful weeks across the trio of Scotland’s most famous links courses – Kingsbarns, St Andrews and Carnoustie.

Howell said: "I’ve had nice preparation. My shoulder is a bit niggly, so that’s the downside, but on a positive note, practice has been really good.

“I’ve made a small adjustment to my set-up with the driver this week, which seems to have helped.

“My lessons from last week was that I’m just not playing freely enough in tournaments.

“I’ve got to let myself go out there and play, unencumbered by stress and doubt and just trust myself, and see what comes out.

“That’s the goal this week – to focus on the mental challenge that presents itself and just try and enjoy playing golf this week on three very famous and lovely golf courses.”

A winner back in 2013, Howell finished in a tie for 15th the following year but has since exited early on every occasion, whether it be through a lack of form or being struck down by injury.

This time, though, the former Broome Manor pro wants to use his favourable draw to put himself in a comfortable position going into Saturday’s difficult trip to Carnoustie.

Howell said: “I’ve always taken the approach to play this tournament with an emphasis on fun and enjoyment.

“I really try to have fun with the amateurs – of course it’s serious business – but I try and use that aspect to my own advantage.

“I’ve got a nice draw – Kingsbarns, St Andrews and Carnoustie is my rotation.

“Hopefully we can put a couple of good scores on the board by the time we get to Carnoustie, which is traditionally the hardest of the three, and hopefully be in a nice position ahead of the final round.”