DAVID Howell was left to rue a slack start on both his front and back nines at the Open de Espana after opening up the tournament with a four-over first round of 75.

Swindon star Howell shot bogey then double-bogey in his first two holes to immediately tumble down the leaderboard, a position from which he never recovered.

The 44-year-old is outside the top 100 on the early leaderboard in Spain and 12 shots off the lead held by Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen after he began the tournament with a superb eight-under 63.

Howell’s first round at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid got off to the worst possible start as he opened up proceedings with a bogey.

Worse was to follow at the very next hole as Howell took a double-bogey six to drop to three over after two holes.

After a par on the third, Howell’s round suddenly clicked up a few gears at the fourth as he shot a superb eagle three.

However, the Broome Manor man was unable to return to level par before he made the turn as he closed out his front nine with five pars in a row.

Again, Howell began the back nine in dreadful fashion as a second double-bogey of the day was recorded at number 10.

That began a miserable run for Howell as further shots were dropped at holes 11 and 12.

A birdie at the next saw the two-time Ryder Cup winner moving in the right direction again and he made it back-to-back claimed shots with another birdie at 14.

Three pars in a row followed after that but there was more frustration for Howell before the finish as he bogeyed the last to drop back to four-over and sign for an opening round of 75.

Howell begins his second round at 9am BST on Friday morning, teeing off at the 10th hole.