DAVID Howell has ‘no expectations’ heading into this weekend’s Qatar Masters as he makes his return to the European Tour following a lengthy injury lay-off.

The Swindon golfer, who has potted more than €14,000,000 in prize money on tour since turning professional in 1995, was teeing off at 9.20am (UK time) today in the company of Lorenzo Gagli and Ahmed Marjan.

It will be just the second time Howell, 42, competes in 2018 after struggling with ongoing back and shoulder injuries.

Despite suffering from fatigue following two days on the course in the build-up to the event, Howell is open-minded about his chances.

“My body is tired and I’m looking forward to a night of rest,” said Howell, who has been competing in Qatar for 19 years.

“My back’s not perfect but it’s improving. My shoulder will need some TLC too but with the way I swung on Thursday, I have peace of mind that my body can cope with a golf swing.

“It’s hard to recreate the stresses of the tour. Being on tour is the best way to get back involved.

“I’m playing with an open mind. I have no expectations. Nothing about the way I practised was worrying. I’ve played no good golf recently to fill me with confidence but I’m taking a neutral view.

“If my game is good, it will be a bonus. This week is about preparing for the month ahead.

“The course this year is a bit shorter and the greens are good. It’s a slightly different test.

“Driving straight will be key, the fairways are running very quickly, as will controlling the ball in the rough.”

Ultimately, the two-times Ryder Cup winner is looking forward to returning to action following what he described as a frustrating Christmas period.

He said: “Injuries are part of sport. The last two years have been frustrating - one thing on top of another.

“Last year was one to forget with the bad back. I was looking forward to making a good start this year but it hasn’t happened.

“I hurt my shoulder and took a break over Christmas.

“I relaxed assuming the shoulder was good. But it wasn’t, and that’s the stressful thing.

“It’s tough mentally, but on the flip side, I have three kids and a lovely wife to spend time with.”

Howell will fly to South Africa following this week’s tournament to compete in the Tshwane Open in Pretoria at the start of March before jetting off to the Indian Open in New Delhi.

He said: “Pretoria is a nice course and a venue I look forward to playing at. It’s a short course and a small tournament. But any tournament to play in right now is good for me.

“I haven’t played at New Delhi before but on the whole, I’m looking forward to getting back on it.”