TWO bogeys in the final three holes saw David Howell drop back to level par for his opening round at the BMW International Open.

Howell is a former winner having triumphed at the event’s spiritual home in Munich in 2005, and began his campaign at a new venue in Cologne with four straight pars.

The Broome Manor professional hit his first birdie of the day on the fifth hole of Golf Club Gut Larchenhof but dropped a shot at the eighth as he turned on level par.

Two birdies at 13 and 15 looked to have got him going, but Howell dropped shots at 16 and 18 to fall back level.

The Swindon player will start his second round at 6.50am UK time alongside Soren Kjeldsen and Shane Lowry.

Australian Marcus Fraser and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti lead the event on eight under, with Chris Wood part of a group one shot back.

Wood staged his own version of 'The Great Escape' before beginning with a seven-under-par 65 in Cologne today.

Among a number of golfers stuck in traffic and worried they might miss their tee-off times, the 24-year-old from Bristol led a breakaway movement through the fields.

"We finally decided to leg it when we had gone one kilometre in 20 minutes - it was that bad," Wood said.

"It was about 3.5 kilometres and I was a bit sweaty when I got here, but it was worth it."

The former England international, still seeking his maiden victory on the European Tour after three runner-up finishes, grabbed no fewer than nine birdies on the Gut Larchenhof course.

There were also two bogeys on his card, however, and with a seven-under-par 65 he finished the day one behind Fraser and Zanotti.

"It was the best I've putted all year," added Wood, perhaps best known for his fifth place in the 2008 Open when still an amateur and then his tie for third the following year at Turnberry.

Scoring was low following some heavy rain, but that did not help Paul Casey on his latest return from injury.

Ten years on from scoring a career-low 62 on the same lay-out, Casey - who missed last week's US Open to give his shoulder more rest - managed only a 76 to be down near the rear of the 156-strong field.