DAVID Howell made an underwhelming start to his Volvo China Open, shooting a two-over round of 74 in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The 43-year-old is looking to avoid missing his 11th cut in a row this week, but made a highly inconstant start as he began his round on the back nine.

Starting out with a birdie-three on the 10th, Howell then followed that up with a double-bogey six on the 325-yard 11th hole.

Two further bogeys on the next couple of holes pushed the Swindon-born golfer back to three over after only four holes.

Howell settled down on the remainder of the back nine, recording five-successive birdies as he remained at three over at the turn.

A birdie on the first moved Howell up to two-over par and threatened to act as the catalyst for a front-nine charge back towards level par, however, two further pars preceded the former Ryder Cup star’s fourth hole over par of the day.

Howell immediately responded with a birdie on the fifth, but made no further strides and finished the day nine shots back from the leaders on seven under.

Meanwhile, fellow Wiltshire golfer Jordan Smith continued on from where he left off last week with an excellent bogey-free first round of five under.

Smith finished tied 14th at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco last week – although a final round of 75 cost him a top-10 finish – and made an equally promising start in Genzon on Thursday morning.

Also teeing off on the tenth to start, Smith birdied his first and fourth holes before a string of tidy pars saw him reach the first hole at two under.

Two more pars, coming on the first and second holes, catapulted the Bowood player into the top 15 before his fifth and final birdie of the day four from home moved Smith up to a tie for sixth.

Both Howell and Smith begin their second rounds a little after a midday (local time) on Friday.

Howell will start on the first at 12:10, alongside Gavin Green and Yinong Yang while Smith is in the group behind, starting at 12:20 alongside Thongchai Jaidee and Julian Suri.