DAVID Howell shot his joint-lowest round on the European Tour this season today after opening up the Portugal Masters with a brilliant 66, featuring seven birdies.

That leaves the Swindon star on five-under after the opening round and in a tie for sixth place on the early leaderboard in Vilamoura.

Howell also shot 66 in the second round at both the Open de Espana and Italian Open, the most recent of those coming in Brescia back in June.

It also made for a hat-trick of under-par first rounds for the Wiltshire players in action at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, with Bowood pro Jordan Smith shooting a three-under 68, and Laurie Canter, who plays out of Cumberwell Park in Bradford on Avon, opening up with a one-under 70.

Australia Lucas Herbert currently leads the way by a single shot after an eight-under first round of 63.

Teeing off at the 10th hole, Howell got off to an excellent start and birdies at numbers 12 and 14 meant he was two-under through five holes.

Another shot was gained at number 17, however, a double bogey immediately followed that to mean the Broome Manor man was only able to turn in one-under.

However, Howell quickly got back to form with another birdie at the second – his 11th – and a fifth for the day at his 14th hole got him back to three-under.

And even better was to come for the 43-year-old as he rounded off his round with back-to-back birdies to make it seven for the day overall and cap a fine round of five-under.

Howell tees off his second round at 9.10am tomorrow.