Shanghai, China (SportsNetwork.com) - David Howell carded a 4-under 68 in Thursday's opening round and grabbed a share of the lead at the China Open.

Howell, a five-time European Tour winner, was joined atop the leaderboard by Bradley Dredge and Michael Hendry. Dredge has two European Tour victories with the last coming in 2006, while Hendry is looking for his first tour title.

Defending champion Alexander Levy shot 3-under 69 and shares fourth place with Marcus Fraser and Julien Quesne at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.

Peter Uihlein headlines a group of eight players tied for fifth at minus-2. Uihlein led after two rounds last week before sharing fourth place at the Shenzhen International.

Howell, who played in the afternoon wave, birdied the first, but gave that shot back as he stumbled to a bogey at the par-3 third. Howell ran off five consecutive pars from the fourth before making birdie at the par-5 ninth.

The Englishman birdied the 11th from eight feet out, then got up and down for birdie at the par-5 13th. After three pars in a row, Howell poured in a 40- footer for birdie at the par-3 17th to grab a share of the lead.

"I'm delighted, it's a really different test this week. We knew it was firm in practice, but it was hard to work out how difficult it was going to be. The scoring showed people are finding it tricky," said Howell. "I drove the ball beautifully today, really found my rhythm on the range and took it out onto the course, so I kept the ball in play well and did a lot of things right."

Dredge opened with a birdie at second and followed with a trio of pars. After a birdie on the sixth, he parred the next three as well.

The 41-year-old birdied the 10th and moved to minus-4 thanks to a birdie at No. 13. The Welshman capped his bogey-free round with five consecutive pars.

"The greens were really firm so the big thing was if you were hitting fairways you had chances. It was never easy getting the ball close to the hole with slopes on the greens and the firmness," Dredge stated.

Hendry, who won on the Japan Golf Tour last week, got on the board quickly with a birdie at the first. He birdied the fourth and seventh to move to 3- under.

Around the turn, the Australian birdied the 10th to move to 4-under. Hendry closed his round with eight consecutive pars.

NOTES: Dredge and Hendry, who both played in the morning wave, had the only two bogey-free rounds ... Terry Pilkadaris had the only eagle of the day, and it came at the par-4 sixth where he holed his second shot ... Levy is trying to become the first two-time winner in event history.