WILTSHIRE'S David Howell got the 143rd Open Championship under way in bright sunshine at Hoylake this morning.
The 39-year-old from Swindon had the honour of hitting the first tee shot at 6.25am in calm conditions but found the right rough and had to lay up short of the green which resulted in a bogey five.
Howell pulled back his dropped shot with a monster putt for birdie across the third green, but on the fourth tee the opening group - 2001 champion David Duval and Sweden's Robert Karlsson being Howell's playing partners - received a polite warning they were already a minute off the required pace although there was no move to put them on the clock at that stage.
It did not seem to affect Howell, who birdied the hole to move into the lead on one under.
Howell was briefly joined by American Brooks Koepka and Italy's Edoardo Molinari after the pair, in the same group, both birdied the first but the Englishman responded to the challenge by hitting two hybrids beyond the flag at the par-five fifth, chipped to two feet and holed for a third birdie in succession.
However, Howell's good early work was undone as he double bogeyed the par-four seventh to drop back to level par.
NEWS OF HOWELL'S FIRST ROUND LATER AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT AND WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT