DAVID Howell made a fine start to his Portugal Masters campaign on Thursday, carding a two-under par round of 69 to place himself inside the tournament's top 40.

Howell, 44, registered only two bogeys during his opening round – though he might even be a tad frustrated to end the day two-under having carded three-under on the front nine.

A trio of pars started Howell’s morning at the Dom Pedro Victoria course in Vilamoura.

Birdies on the par-four fourth, par-five fifth and par-three sixth followed – placing him three under after six holes.

The two-time Ryder Cup winner concluded his front nine with a further three pars.

The back nine wasn’t as successful, though still a marked improvement on his sub-standard 2019 form that has seen the Swindon talent make only four of 23 cuts.

Pars on holes 10, 12, 13 and 14 were sandwiched by a bogey on the par four 11th and a birdie on the 15th.

An additional bogey on hole 16 concluded Howell’s over or under-par holes with pars registered on the concluding two holes.

Elsewhere, Jordan Smith also finished on two-under par after a faultless front-nine, that featured three birdies, preceded an inconsistent back-nine.

Three bogeys bookended two more birdies for the Derry Hill man.