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David Howell top draw at French Open

David Howell looks to extend his European money list lead when he tees up in this week's French Open, which is marking its centennial.

Howell returns to competition for the first time since finishing 16th in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

The 31-year-old Englishman won twice on this year's European Tour international schedule -- at the inaugural HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, China, and at the BMW Championship at Wentworth, England.

He arrived in Versailles $609,325 ahead of compatriot Paul Casey, his nearest rival on the money list. The tournament starts Thursday.

Casey and third-place Colin Montgomerie are taking the week off to rest.

Montgomerie finished fourth at the Johnnie Walker Championship last week. The Scot finished one stroke behind Australian Geoff Ogilvy after he double-bogeyed the final hole at the U.S. Open.

Montgomerie had been scheduled for his eighth straight week of play.

In the absence of Montgomerie and Casey, Howell can strengthen his grip on a first European No. 1 title by claiming the $837,990 first prize.

"Winning the European Order of Merit is definitely a goal for me, though strangely last year just before the U.S. Open I was second in the Order of Merit," Howell said. "Almost as soon as I decided that was to be my goal, I got injured and was out for two months.

"This year things have gone slightly better than that, and I am still No. 1 midway through the season," he said.

Several former French Open winners will tee up at the National Club course, including two-time defending champion Jean-Francois Remesy of France, Phillip Golding of England (2003), Malcolm Mackenzie of England (2002) and Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (2001).

Seve Ballesteros of Spain (1982, 1985-86 winner) will play in a European Tour event for the first time since missing the cut in last October's Madrid Open.



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