DAVID Howell is facing a late fitness test ahead of his first European Tour event of the season after picking up a shoulder injury over the festive period.

The 42-year-old is due to tee off at the South Africa Open at 6.10 on Thursday morning, but could pull out if his shoulder shows no signs of improvement.

It isn’t the first injury Howell has had to deal with in recent times. Last season saw him blighted by a back injury, a year after he recovered from foot and wrist problems. Howell took part in the pro-am event earlier this week, but was forced to withdraw after five holes due to the discomfort and admits it is a less than ideal start to 2018.

“My shoulder is troublesome, very frustrating after a month off, (and I) had to withdraw from the Tuesday pro-am after five holes,” said the two-time Ryder Cup winner.

“It is now a race against time to feel okay for Thursday, so I will be putting ice on it and resting beforehand.

“It first came on six weeks ago and I wrongly assumed that a month of nearly no golf would clear it up, but sadly it hasn’t.

“I was looking forward to making a fresh start, but the shoulder problem has curtailed all preparations, which has been upsetting.

“If the inflammation calms down enough, then I am likely to tee off, but we will wait and see what happens. It’s not the way I was hoping to start the new year.

“Today I am just going to be doing my physio, resting and a bit of practice on my short game.”

While the 42-year-old may miss out, he was impressed with the Glendower Golf Club course in South Africa and says he has also tinkered with his clubs ahead of the new season.

“The course is immaculate and would be a really good test,” he added.

“I have a new set of irons which have different shafts, which is the first time I have changed them in 15 years.

“I also have a couple of new fairway woods which seem great too.”