A LACK of accuracy with the putter meant David Howell experienced a difficult first round at the Volvo Golf Champions yesterday.

In his first 18 tournament holes of the year, the Swindonian carded a four-over-par 76 at Durban Country Club in South Africa.

That meant he placed tied-34th out of 36 and the Broome Manor pro admitted that his usual talents with the putter had evaded him.

“It was a really frustrating, miserable day,” said Howell.

“I certainly didn’t play great and I felt it was the very worst score I could have had.

“It was windy and around the greens I was poor.

“The greens are flat but very grainy and I didn’t get to grips with them whatsoever.

“Tee to green I played level-par-ish but I couldn’t back it up around the greens which is very unlike me.

“It’s normally my forte.

“Certainly I wouldn’t expect to be that poor around the greens again. I really didn’t hole anything.

“What was frustrating was I got through the first seven holes nicely and even missed a short birdie putt, but from then onwards I was four-over and that’s the easiest part of the course.”

There is no cut at the $4,000,000 event – which Howell qualified for by virtue of his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship triumph in September – meaning he is guaranteed four rounds of golf.

The 38-year-old is maintaining his customary level-headed approach despite a less-than-satisfying opening 18 and feels he can climb the leaderboard.

“It’s the first round of a very long year and there’s a lot of golf left in the tournament,” said Howell.

“Hopefully I’ll get out early (on Friday morning) before all the wind gets up and if I hit something around level-par then I’ll still be in with a chance of a decent finish.

“It’s a strong field here and a challenge, and for that reason you want to make the most of it.

“There’s no doubt today was frustrating and not what I wanted, but hopefully I can push on and the first round will end up being the worst of the week.”

Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin was at the top of the leaderboard following the first round after firing an error-free round of five-under.

One shot back was South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen while Tommy Fleetwood was England’s leading player on two-under.