DAVID Howell is targeting a top 45 spot at this weekend’s European Tour Tshwane Open in Pretoria, South Africa.

The Swindon golfer, who returned to the tour last weekend after suffering with an ongoing back injury, shot four under par to finish in joint 61st place at the Qatar Masters.

But he faces a different challenge this week as he continues his drive to return to full fitness at the Pretoria Country Club, a course he’s competed at twice before.

“Once I made the cut and the other time I missed it,” said Howell.

“The course is a short one. It’s based on accuracy more than distance which should suit me.

“But saying that it’s another tricky course and you’ve still got to control your iron shots.

“Last week was all about the body, this weekend I want to balance that out and factor my results in.

“If by the end of the week I’m feeling better that would be mini progress.

“My focus is on getting fitter. It’s a case of making steady progress.

“My body is not where it needs to be and I’m not out of the woods yet.”

Howell’s efforts in Qatar potted him a cool 3,261 Euros after shooting rounds of 69, 70, 74 and 71.

The 42-year-old put Saturday’s performance down to recurring back issues, which ultimately saw him shoot two-over for the day.

He said: “It was a pleasing tournament.

“I played nicely the first few days, though had a bit of a wobble on the back nine for half-an-hour on the Friday.

“But to make the cut with some good shots was pleasing, from there I wanted to crack on and push higher up the table.

“Saturday was a poor day, my back felt worse than any other day. Sunday was better, a few mental errors crept in but I can’t be too harsh on myself.

“Finishing three rounds under par is a good result.”

And any thoughts of nerves were quickly put to the back of the two-time Ryder Cup winner’s mind.

“I wasn’t apprehensive or nervous,” said Howell.

“My putting went well and generally I committed well to my shots. There are lots of positives to take.

“I drove nicely, one criticism would be a few too many loose shots. But I definitely needed the game time, as experienced as I am.

“I still need to play more rounds and get in the thick of things to raise my level.

“It’s an interesting stage of my career.

“I wasn’t expecting two years of injury. But I’m keen and ambitious to do well.

“Realistically I can’t practice as much though.”