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Kent Gray
After a rough introduction to golf in the UAE seven years ago, Craig Howie is clearly warming to this desert golf lark. A self-decrepitating social media post, which has illustrated just how far his instantly rocky relationship has come, has a new legion of fans in Dubai playing the mutual appreciation game with the relatively unheralded Scot.

The 26-year-old from Peebles near Edinburgh will start the third round of the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship on Friday in a share of fourth on -12. That’s five strokes adrift of halfway leader Andy Sullivan but the way the European Tour field are carving up Fire, it’s not as far back as it sounds.

It’s also a giant leap forward for Howie’s first taste of golf in the UAE at an amateur event back in 2013 as he highlighted in a Tweet after his opening round of 64 at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

After signing for a 68 on Thursday, Howie revisited his Yas Links heartache. Well, sort of.

“To be honest it was all a bit of a blur at the time,” Howie said.

“I’ve tried pretty hard to erase it from my memory but to be honest it’s probably one of the best things that has happened to me. At the time I was a pretty good golfer and hadn’t had too many setbacks, so it was quite a humbling experience. It reminded me that the game is not that easy and I need to keep working hard. I’ve learned a lot and it’s stood me in good stead.”

This is just Howie’s 10th European Tour start, all of them in 2020. There has been four missed cuts but a T-5 at the ISPS Handa UK Championship, like this week a new event born out of COVID, highlighted his potential.

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Craig Howie lets it rip off the 10th tee on Fire during the second round Thursday.

“My playing experiences are pretty limited on the European Tour. Before lockdown, I had only ever played once [a missed cut at the South African Open in January]. This year it was more about gathering experience and trying to make the most of the opportunities that I do get.

“Thankfully, I’ve played well. I’m not really sure why that’s been the case. I think I’ve just been quite comfortable when I’ve been out here. Expectations are fairly low. It seems to be a good recipe.”

Having banked €88,816 in this season like no other, Howie is getting a taste for the lifestyle at the top level, especially here in Dubai.

“The hotels, the car, the golf is just an added bonus on top of all that. The food this week is incredible, the sunshine. There’s a lot to enjoy.”