SWINDON’S David Howell is in a frustratingly familiar position as he faces a race against time to be fit for next week’s US Open at Merion.

The former world number nine missed last week’s Nordea Masters due to an ingrown toenail and despite flying to Austria to take part in this week’s Lyoness Open, the soreness was such that Howell decided to turn straight round and head home.

Now Howell is hoping that a few days of rest and relaxation will help cure the problem and allow him to compete in the second of golf’s four major championships.

The timing of the injury bears a bizarre resemblance to the 37-year-old’s preparation to the 2011 US Open, when he struggled with toe problems in the lead-up before finishing tied for 128th at Congressional Country Club in Maryland.

Howell also pulled out of the 2007 event at Oakmont due to a wrist injury and two years previously, he tore muscles in his stomach in swinging one of Vijay Singh’s practice clubs after round one at Pinehurst, ending his campaign there and then.

“I flew to Austria on Tuesday morning as I had already paid for my flight and my caddy (Steve Brotherhood) was already there, but as soon as I got on the flight I thought, ‘this is a bad idea’, so I just turned round and came home,” said Howell.

“I had already had some work done to my toe on Monday to try and get rid of the problem and double-check it was OK, but that ended up making it worse rather than better.

“What I thought was something innocuous has proven worse and all of a sudden it’s a race against time to be ready for next week.

“It was quite lucky that I came home straight away because it meant I bumped into an old chiropodist of mine on Tuesday and I’m hoping he’s got to the crux of the problem.”

Howell has only played competitive golf twice since being disqualified from the China Open at the beginning of last month, featuring in the BMW PGA Championship and US Open qualifiers at Walton Heath.

And he is remaining positive that he will be able to take his place in the field in Pennsylvania in spite of his latest injury setback.

“I’m a lot more confident of playing now than I was on Tuesday, at that point I thought I was struggling,” said Howell.

“I wouldn’t want to be playing golf for the next 48 hours, but hopefully I’ll be able to hit some balls on Friday and Saturday and get on a plane on Sunday.

“It’s an amazing similarity with two years ago, but it’s the US Open and if there’s a chance to play then I will fly and hopefully I will be right by next Thursday.”