DAVID Howell admitted he was frustrated not to make the most of perfect conditions on the first day of the Open, conceding he needed to be more aggressive at a sun-drenched Royal Liverpool.
Wiltshire ace Howell hit the first tee shot of the 143rd Open at 6:25am and recovered from a bogey on the opening hole to birdie the third, fourth and fifth to briefly lead the championship.
However, the 39-year-old former Ryder Cup star from Swindon then ran up a double-bogey six on the seventh - and was lucky it was not worse - before a run of 11 straight pars gave him an opening 72 as playing partner Robert Karlsson set the clubhouse target with a 69.
"It was a bit of a nervous start but that tee shot got the juices flowing a bit," said Howell, who had failed to qualify for the last four Opens. "I played conservatively, hit a poor tee shot and holed a great putt for bogey.
"A bit of a messy start, but three lovely birdies after and it was a bit of an up and down front nine. I very nearly lost the ball on seven. I hit a very poor tee shot right of the fairway and I think that must be the thickest bit of rough on the course. It took a spectator to find it after a few minutes' searching.
"Obviously there's no wind, but what air there is was in different directions and we got caught not hitting enough club off tees. It took us a while to be aggressive enough. You want to stay short of these bunkers but you don't want to be 40 yards short.
"It's still a course if you do stray off the straight and narrow, it's still got plenty of teeth to it. In the end I'm a little frustrated with level par. It's never terrible in a major championship, but there was an opportunity to put a number on the board."
Tiger Woods famously used his driver just once in 72 holes on his way to victory here in 2006, but Howell said he used his on the 10th, 16th, 17th and 18th.
Howell's day-glo shirt suggested he had got dressed in the dark, but the world number 149 insisted he preferred the one-tee start at the Open which means the last group does not start until 4:06pm.
"I set my alarm for 4:15 and I woke up naturally at 4:11, which was a right result," Howell added. "And I thought, shall I go for four more minutes sleep?
"But I got up and I think with it being the Open Championship, I think as soon as you wake up, you remember what you're doing and the adrenaline kicks in and you're off and running. And of course it was a gorgeous morning. I would have thought different about it if it was cold.
"It is fairer a two-tee start, no doubt about it. But there's something about the tradition I like."
MORE SPORTS NEWS & PICTURES IN THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES