DAVID Howell was pleased with his close, if little else, in the first round of the Qatar Masters.

The Broome Manor pro carded a one-over-par 73 at the Doha Golf Club, firing home two late birdies to salvage a deteriorating round.

Admitting he found himself under the cosh at three-over going into the last four holes, Howell told the Advertiser: “That’s the pressure of professional golf.

“It was important to finish with those couple of birdies, it was a good fighting finish.”

The Broome Manor professional was confident going into the first round at the Qatar tournament, where he has a good record and several top 20 finishes.

However, after bogeys at five and six on the front nine and another at the 10th, it was clear to Howell he was not on top form.

“To be honest everything was a little bit off today. It was a real sluggish morning, I played it like was an early morning round,” he said.

“I was missing the fairways, leaving myself with 20-foot putts for birdies, which isn’t ideal.

“I didn’t do anything good at all until the 15th where I chipped in.

“I played the par-fives one over, you need to take advantage of the par-fives at this level.”

The two late birdies did give Howell cause for optimism and the 38-year-old is still confident of playing his way above the cut line and making it to the weekend.

“Nothing was a million miles away, hopefully I can get going early tomorrow and put together a decent score.,” he said.

“I’m going to have to play better than I did today to try to get under par but something in the 60s should get me through to the weekend, and from there we’ll have to see.

“Though it would take a supreme effort to win this event now, if today was as bad as I can play and come in with a score that doesn’t leave me out of it then that’s not bad.”

Howell tees off again at 8.45am UK time and is hoping that playing in the afternoon when the fairways are a bit dryer will be to his advantange.

South Africa’s George Coetzee leads the field at eight-under after a bogey-free 64. Englishman Steve Webster is tied for second, getting into the clubhouse at seven-under and managng to card an albatross at the 10th.

For an update on Howell’s progress log on to www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/sport later today.