IMPROVEMENTS in the short game will be key for David Howell this week as the Swindon golfer attempts to make his first cut of the European Tour season at the Hero Indian Open in Delhi.

Following five previous failed attempts at playing a full week of golf – two of which have been missed by a couple of shots or less – Howell has got one more attempt before he takes a three-week break from action to take on TV duties.

After missing the cut at last week’s Maybank Championship in Malaysia due to, in Howell’s own words, ‘a poor short game’, the 43-year-old has been hard at work in the intermediate days trying to rectify those issues as well as looking to add a little more distance off the tee.

Playing a course that Howell described as ‘quite incredible’, the former Ryder Cup player was brutally honest in his assessment of his own form.

He said: “In essence, I just need to hit it a little bit better.

“My short game was poor last week – that was why I missed the cut – but sure, my long irons and my driving of the ball could have been better too.

“I’ve changed the driver shaft this week – that’s looking really promising and I think I’ve gained a few yards, which is really important because I’m one of the shorter hitters nowadays.

“That has given me a boost of confidence, I’m definitely swinging a bit faster and in essence I’m just trying to lengthen my swing a little bit, trying to make sure I swing as fully as I can.

“So far, that has allowed me to hit the ball a bit further this week, and I’ve been striking it beautifully on the range, which is exciting.”

With the average winning score being just a shade below 11-under in the past four years, Howell will need to avoid the slow start that has often cost him so far this year.

The experienced player will hope having a familiar face back on the bag will help him play a full four days, as will maintaining his happy-go-lucky playing mentality.

Howell said: “I’ve got my old caddy back on the bag, Steve Brotherhood, and it’s great to have him back with me.

“We’re enjoying that, and my body is feeling good, so there’s lots of positives.

“I just need to keep a fresh, open mind and not bring any of the difficulties of the previous couple of months – or years if you want to look a bit deeper – with me into the tournament.

“I need to keep an optimistic view and go out there and play some better golf.”