The Englishman arrived at this week’s Joburg Open having made only one halfway cut in four starts on the European Tour this season, but he will start the final round just two shots behind 54-hole leader Wallie Coetsee.
Howell fired a five-birdie 68 to get to 12 under par and has now broken 70 in all three rounds at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, and he feels he is reaping the benefits of travelling to South Africa to work on his game shortly after missing the cut at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
“The season’s got off to a slow start so I came down here for three weeks and so far so good,” said the 39-year-old, who is bidding for his seventh career European Tour win and his first since the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“I’ve had a couple of bad swings each day but apart from that it’s been pretty good. You have to keep your foot down and keep making the birdies and obviously stay away from the mistakes. I’ve had one big score with a seven in the second round, but played some good golf between that.
“I started with a new coach, Justin Parsons, a few weeks ago, just working on my rhythm. I am trying to swing the club as slowly as I have in my whole life and that’s a real challenge to bring that to the course.
“I am delighted with how I’ve done that so far this week, it’s getting better by the day and hopefully that bodes well for tomorrow and future weeks coming up.”
Howell shares second place with fellow English veteran Steve Webster, who soared up the leaderboard with a flawless seven-under 65 featuring five birdies over the first eight holes.
Webster missed the cut in this event last year and then missed the next four months of the season after being forced to undergo wrist surgery, and he has also made only one cut so far this year.
“I made a good birdie at the first and a good save at the second and just got on a bit of a roll,” said Webster, who was frustrated at being unable to convert several excellent approaches after the turn before finally getting further birdie putts to drop at two of the last three holes.
“I missed three or four 12-footers which was frustrating but there was a lot of really good golf today. I gave myself a lot of chances and that’s what my game is all about.”