Howell heads to the front
Westwood suffers injury on way to first tee, ends up shooting 76
Last Updated: 07/07/12 5:53pm
David Howell: managed birdies at the 14th and 16th to move to six under par
David Howell enjoyed a welcome return to form on another weather-hit day at the Alstom French Open, his 67 on Saturday moving him into a share of the lead after the third round.
Englishman Howell, who has dropped to 350 in the world rankings, managed birdies at the 14th and 16th to push himself firmly into contention shortly before play was halted by a thunderstorm for the second day running.
Third round leaderboard
(GB & Ire unless stated)
-6 D Howell
-6 A Hansen (Den)
-5 G Coetzee (SA)
-4 F Molinari (Ita)
-4 R Jacquelin (Fra)
Click here for collated scores
Anders Hansen and George Coetzee were leading the way at that stage, but both men struggled when they returned to the course.
Hansen of Denmark bogeyed the 16th and 17th to leave himself in a share for top spot with Howell on six under, while South African Coetzee three-putted both the 16th and 18th to sit one back.
Halfway leader Marcel Siem of Germany shot 73 to fall back to joint fourth with Raphael Jacquelin, who is the leading hope for a home winner of the event.
Lee Westwood, meanwhile, endured a day to forget, picking up an injury just before teeing off and then firing a 76, his worst score on the European Tour for over three years.
"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."
Lee Westwood Quotes of the week
The world No.3 tweaked a knee and strained a groin when he slipped walking to the first at Le Golf National. He double-bogeyed the opening hole and bogeyed the next five, but with the pain easing he managed to play the remaining 12 holes in two under.
"I was talking to Richard Sterne's caddie and not looking where I was going," Westwood, who now sits tied for 58th on five over, 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.
"It seems to have eased off, but I am still a little bit wary of it. I felt if it stopped it might make it worse by seizing up, so I thought it was better to keep it moving.
"I didn't try to overdo it over the first few holes, but lost everything to the right - I couldn't put any weight on it. I don't know what I've done to it."
Wooden sleepers also played a part in Howell's round, albeit in a beneficial way. His approach to the last only just carried the lake, landing on the sleepers and bounding forward on to the green.
He made the most of the lucky break to get a par and complete what he described afterwards as a "perfect Saturday".
"It was a great round," said the 37-year-old former Ryder Cup star. "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."
Meanwhile, a second successive 69 means Ian Poulter sits on two under, the same score as fellow Englishman David Lynn, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, American Brendan Steele and Swedes Henrik Stenson and Alexander Noren.
Justin Rose (68) and Graeme McDowell (71) are in a sizeble group a further shot back while European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal is on level par after signing for a 70.