DAVID Howell could celebrate his first cut made since July after a steady level-par round of 71 at the Italian Open today.

The Swindon ace, whose 2017 campaign has been plagued by injury, enjoyed his best opening two rounds of the season as he reached the halfway point at four under par overall at Parco Reale di Monza.

The 42-year-old made an excellent start to the tournament on Thursday when he shot a four-under 67 at Golf Club Milano and day two could have been even better but for three dropped shots in his final four holes.

While the two-time Ryder Cup winner recognised a step in the right direction, he admitted there was still a long way to go. 

“My confidence is obviously low. Every step I take now is just replenishing the confidence,” he said. 

“If 100 was to be as confident as anyone, then I would probably be less than 10. 

“It’s been a terrible year, a tough two years with the injury and I am falling back on former glories. 

“There were a few decent shots. The game seems a little bit easier and I had a slightly clearer picture. 

“Bit by bit I am trying to piece it back together and making the cut here is a big step, although in some ways it is a small step the right way.”  

The two-time Ryder Cup winner got off to an ideal start with a birdie four on the opening hole, before backing that up with four straight pars.

His first bogey of the day came on the par-four sixth, but Howell soon returned to one-under on the day with a birdie three on the eighth.

His second bogey of the day on the 10th was immediately erased back-to-birdies on the 11th and the 12th and another on the 14th briefly got him to seven under par for the tournament.

However, Howell's progress slowed from there with a trio of bogey fives on the 15th, 16th and 18th seeing him finish level par for the day.

Fellow Wiltshire player Jordan Smith provided a scintillating finish to put himself in a decent position to challenge this weekend.

Teeing off on the 10th, Smith made a steady start with four straight pars, before upping the ante with an eagle three on the 14th.

That work was undone later with a double bogey on the par four 16th as the European Open winner entered the second half of his round.

A birdie four on the first hole went some way to repair the damage, before Smith finished the day with a birdie three and an eagle three on his final two holes, to card a four-under round of 67 and lie five under overall.