DAVID Howell says that he will have to use one of his ‘three lives’ to remain on the European Tour next season.

The Swindon star has endured a dreadful campaign on the course, while injury has also proved a major factor in seeing him tumble down the rankings in the Race To Dubai.

The 42-year-old, who is hoping to get back on the course at the Portugal Masters next week, currently sits 180th in the Order of Merit, with only the top 110 automatically earning their Tour card.

However, the two-time Ryder Cup winner can remain on the European Tour as he sits inside the top 40 of the 2017 Career Money list.

Howell, who has not played since the end of July where a back injury forced him out of the European Open in Germany, said: “Unless I have a remarkable tournament to close the season then I would lose my ranking in the category (players finishing within positions 1-111 on the final 2016 Race to Dubai Rankings) which I am in,” he said.

“But I have three years' grace, where I qualify under a different criteria (Category 12 - Top 40 from the 2017 Career Money list), I’ll drop to all the all-time money winners list.

“Next year I will only drop three spots from my ranking this year.

"I got the last card last year, so it isn’t a disaster but it is one of my three lives used up.

“If I have to use it then it will be a shame, I just need to get back to playing well and if I need to use all three I probably won’t want to get back to playing anyway.

“It is just a case of thank goodness I have that as a safety net and also brings home how fickle the game is.”

Howell also has more short-term problems as he continues to recover from a back injury, with no sign of recovery so far.

“I’m off golf at the moment because my back is rubbish.

"I actually had an injection for it last week,” he added.

“There isn’t too much to say other than it has been a funny couple of months.

Something gave way while I was in Germany and it’s been terrible ever since.

“Whatever I did in Germany the treatment I have had so far hasn’t really helped me, so when I was expecting to have three weeks off, (but it) has turned into five, six or god knows what.

“I won’t be playing this week so I am looking at Portugal Masters (September 17) at the very earliest.”