DAVID Howell began his 2019 European Tour with an opening round of 81 at the Dubai Desert Classic this afternoon.

The Swindon golfer ended his first round nine-over at the Emirates Golf Club, and is currently in last place, as he teed off at his first event since September’s Portugal Masters.

Starting on the 10th, Howell made two pars before a three-over seven saw him immediately drop down the field.

The 43-year-old responded well with birdies at 13 and 14 before a double bogey on 16 undid his embryonic fightback.

Howell’s third birdie of the day on 17 was the last time his scorecard featured any red as a seven-over back nine – featuring three double bogeys – looks to have shortened the former Desert Classic winner’s comeback tournament.

Howell begins his second round at 7:30am local time tomorrow morning as he continues his comeback from injury.

Meanwhile, fellow Wiltshire golfer Jordan Smith fared significantly better as he started his tournament with an opening round of 68.

Three birdies in his opening four holes got the Bowood golfer off to a storming start before a bogey on 18 created a small blemish on his front-nine.

An indifferent back-nine saw Smith card two birdies while two bogeys - either side of a hole-out eagle on five - helped the 25-year-old finish three shots back of current leader and fellow Englishman, Matt Fitzpatrick who finished his round on seven under.