DAVID Howell recorded two birdies in his final three holes to start the Omega European Masters under-par following a one-under opening round of 69.

Those two birdies made it four on the day for the Swindon star at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland, with Howell also posting one bogey and a double bogey.

Howell’s one-under total has him just outside the top 50 on the leaderboard and six shots off the early lead.

Austrian Matthias Schwab and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera are the first-round pace-setters after both posted seven-under rounds of 63.

However, Howell’s fellow Wiltshire player Jordan Smith is outside the top 100 after a two-over opening round of 72 and will need to improve in Friday’s second round to stand a chance of making the cut.

Teeing off at the 10th hole, Howell got his round off to a strong start as an opening par was followed by a first birdie of the day.

After another par on his third, the Broome Manor man then found himself over par for the day after a double bogey at the next.

Howell brought some calm to proceedings with a run of three pars in a row before a birdie at his eighth hole returned him to even for the day.

That was how it stayed as he made the turn as Howell closed his front nine out with another par.

The 44-year-old dropped back again as he began his second nine, recording a bogey at his 10th hole – the first on the traditional layout.

Things did not improve over the following five holes as Howell posted a run of pars, but he then galvanised himself with a grandstand finish.

Howell birdied hole seven – his 16th – and after another par at the next, one more shot was claimed at the final hole to leave the two-time Ryder Cup winner to return to the clubhouse at one-under.

Howell tees off his second round at 7.40am BST on Friday.