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David Howell out with back injury

Holder David Howell has pulled out of this week's PGA Championship at Wentworth due to a recurrence of his long-standing back injury.

"I feel gutted," the 31-year-old Briton said in a news release on Monday.

"It is my first big event of the year back in Britain on a course where I have won and just half a mile from where I live."

Howell, who romped to a five-stroke victory in the European Tour's flagship event 12 months ago, said scans on a joint at the base of his spine had shown signs of strain.

"I wanted to give it a shot and I checked with the physio but we felt it was really too soon to play," said the Englishman.

"At the end of the day it was a commonsense decision. The scans had shown inflammation and I didn't want to endanger my health for other big events later in the season."

Howell said his appearance at the West Course in Surrey had always been in doubt.

"It was touch and go but in the end I felt I couldn't risk it," he said.

"I hit 50 shots today, just as I did two days ago to see how it felt. I decided if I was pain free I would play nine holes tomorrow (Tuesday) and then the pro-am on Wednesday but unfortunately I wasn't pain free."

Seven players from the top 15 of the world rankings will lead the quest for the first prize of 725,000 euros ($974,800) when the tournament gets underway on Thursday.

Irishman Padraig Harrington has the additional incentive of a special bonus of one million euros if he can complete back-to-back victories after the world number 11 landed the Irish Open title at Adare on Sunday.

May 22, 2007


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