Howell back to form at French Open

England's David Howell showed a welcome return to form by firing a four-under 67 at Le Golf National near Versailles on Saturday to share the third round lead in the French Open.

The 37-year-old former Ryder Cup star has been beset by injuries and loss of form for the last few years after he was ranked in the world top 10 in 2006.

But he has been gradually working his way back to form last year and this and had made the cut in his last five European Tour events coming into Paris.

Howell ended the day at six-under-par 207, level with Anders Hansen of Denmark who had a 69 on a day when thunderstorms again forced a suspension of play in mid-afternoon.

The pair will go into Sunday's final round one stroke clear of South Africa's George Coetzee (70) with home hope Raphael Jacquelin and Marcel Siem of Germany level on four under after both had rounds of 68.

Ian Poulter of England and Henrik Stenson of Sweden were both still in contention a further stroke back after rounds of 69.

"It was a great round," said Howell, who tumbled from ninth in the world in 2006 to 569th two years ago.

"Setting off in the top 10 you don't want to go backward. You want to move yourself into contention and that's the perfect Saturday.

"I had a nice bit of luck at the last. The seven-iron was my one really poor shot, but it went my way today and it scrambled over the water.

"I'm a long way from where I once was, but I've made six cuts in a row and it's been a long time since I've been able to say that.

"Obviously I don't measure success on cuts made, but it's good for the confidence."

Fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, meanwhile, had a tough day, tweaking a knee and straining a groin when he slipped walking to the first tee which could hamper his prospects of finally winning a major title at the British Open later this month.

The world No.3 understandably shortly after made a horrendous start with a double bogey followed by five bogeys and he stood at seven over through six holes.

He did recover somewhat with two birdies down the back nine to come in with a 76 - his worst score in Europe for over three years - but at six over for the tournament his chances of mounting a challenge were quashed.

"I was talking to (playing partner) Richard Sterne's caddie and not looking where I was going," Westwood told Sky Sports.

"I slipped on wooden sleepers down the side of the cart path. My left foot went forward about two feet and my right foot stayed where it was.

"It felt like I strained something at the top of my right leg and tweaked my right knee as well.

"I didn't really have much confidence in it and as the round went on I just kept stretching my groin out. It seems to have eased off, but I am still a little bit wary of it.

"I don't know what I've done to it. Hopefully I've just tweaked it and not done anything more serious than that."

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