ONE of the pivotal pairings of last year's Ryder Cup victory over the United States is aiming to turn the heroics of Oakland Hills into wonders at The Wynyard.

When David Howell and Paul Casey made their rookie appearances in golf's most coveted team prize in America last September they could not have wished for a better ending to their maiden voyage.

One down with two to play against US duo Chad Campbell and Jim Furyk in the morning fourballs, Howell and Casey somehow turned the result on its head by completing a remarkable revival.

Howell produced a stunning six-iron tee shot to within five feet before holing the birdie putt to win the hole, giving Casey the platform to win the 18th and earn Bernhard Langer's team a crucial point.

Last night Great Britain & Ireland team captain Colin Montgomerie opted to hand them another chance to shine together as the Scot aims to lead his side to their third Seve Trophy success in four at The Wynyard.

But as well as past successes, the Howell-Casey pairing also throws up an interesting opportunity for both men to show that no grudges will be held as they try to lead Montgomerie's team to glory.

Howell, from Weybridge, was recently selected to represent England in this year's World Cup at the Algarve at the expense of his team-mate, who actually led his country to success a year ago alongside Luke Donald.

And, as the highest ranked Englishman in the world rankings, Donald had the unenviable task of choosing his World Cup partner this time around, deciding Howell was the man for the job.

Howell - up against Continental Europe's Niclas Fasth and Peter Hanson today - is determined that decision will not sour this morning's fourball, with team spirit between himself and Casey in full flow.

"It came as a big surprise to be honest," said Howell, whose 19th place in the rankings is the highest he has occupied.

"Luke and Paul Casey managed to win last year and we all assumed Luke would pick Paul to defend the title. But Luke didn't think that would be necessary and thought the man in form would be the man to pick.

"Obviously I am pleased to have forced my way into Luke's thoughts and honoured that he has picked me. Luke is a great player and maybe there is a little pressure on me. Paul didn't let him down last year and hopefully I can hold my end up and have a shot at the title."

Few could argue about Donald's decision. After all, Howell, as he quite rightly states himself, is a man in form.

Last month he earned his long-awaited European Tour victory - the second of his career, six years after winning the Dubai Desert Classic - in the BMW International Open and that was just one of four top-ten finishes in as many tournaments in his recent outings.

"It was getting to the stage where I was happy to get the monkey off my back and finally win something," said Howell.

"I was confident it would come but it was getting to the stage where I played so many consistent tournaments over the years that questions were starting to be asked of me."

Quite why he was asking questions is surprising, considering the pedigree of a man who always seemed destined for success when he won the British Boys Championship in 1993.

Two years after that achievement he claimed two-and-a-half points out of three in the Walker Cup victory over Tiger Woods' Americans and he lifted his first trophy as a professional in November 1998.

But it has been his form since helping Great Britain and Ireland to glory in the Seve Trophy three years ago at Druid's Glen that has seen his career take massive strides into the world's top 20.

He feels many of the Trophy's rookies at The Wynyard can follow his lead.

"The Seve Trophy certainly helped me in the Ryder Cup. There is nowhere near the pressure in this but it still has the team aspect and served me well in America," said Howell.

"I have always been the rookie who has snuck into the team and that was a bit of the case with the Ryder Cup. It will be nice to have a bit more responsibility on my shoulders and see how I can handle it here.

"There is no guarantee for points and your ranking is largely irrelevant. You have to play well but I am looking forward to the challenge and hopefully I can come through with a few points for Colin."

Published: 22/09/2005