DAVID Howell recorded an opening round level par at the Sicilian Open in Verdura yesterday.

The Broome Manor professional holed the opening 13 in regulation at the Verdura Golf Resort & Spa, before making his first and only birdie at the par-five 14th.

But Howell’s hopes of returning to the clubhouseunder-par were dented at the 16th, with a bogey four at the par three seeing him fall back level.

The 36-year-old holed out both the 17th and 18th in par to end level, but currently lies eight shots off the pace after Peter Lawrie stormed to an eight under par 64 to lead after the opening round to take the lead over night.

The 38 year old Irishman, whose only European Tour victory to date came four years ago in Spain, came into the event having made only two cuts in six starts this season.

But Lawrie turned the form book on its head with nine birdies and a single bogey to establish a new course record.

Dane Søren Kjeldsen had held the course record after a 65 in the morning session, and the three-time European Tour winner was joined in a tie for second by Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

“I played great,” said Kjeldsen, who finished fifth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on his last European Tour start.

“I haven’t played an official event since Dubai, so it’s been a while, but fortunately the weather’s been good in London, so I’ve been able to practice a lot.

“My practice has been great and I played well enough on my comeback at the Tavistock Cup last week. So I’m really pleased to have played as well as I did.”