DAVID Howell qualified for the weekend at the Abu Dhabi Championship with a second round of 72 to back up an encouraging first day in the United Arab Emirates.

Following a sparkling front-nine performance at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club during Thursday’s opening day – in which Howell posted a trio of birdies – the Swindon man repeated the trick during the opening 10 holes on Friday to leave himself inside the tournament’s top 20 players.

Yet, an unfortunate double bogey and a further dropped shot late on dropped the 44-year-old to a tie for 51st at the end of day two.

Once again, Howell teed off on the front nine with a spring in his step and wasted little time in recording his first red number of the day.

On the first par five – the second hole – the two-time Ryder Cup winner posted a four to take another shot from the course.

Four consecutive pars followed while Howell was unable to shoot a birdie on the fourth or fifth as he had done on the previous day.

A superb tee shot on the par-three seventh left the former Broome Manor pro with a simple tap in for birdie – Howell consequently reached the turn two under for his round.

The back nine started in promising fashion too as another par-five was taken on and beaten by Howell, though a birdie on 10 was to be his last of the day.

Three more pars came and went on 11, 12 and 13 before an ill-timed six on the par-four 14th undid a large percentage of the Swindon man’s good work.

Another bogey was to come on the 16th as Howell missed a par-saving putt, but the five-time European Tour event winner escaped with no further punishment to set himself up for a genuine top-30 chance over the weekend.