Howell is part of a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard
GB & Ire unless stated
-5 M Erlandsson (Swe), G Evans, G Houston, D Howell
-4 L Donald, B Dredge, D Drysdale, P Hedblom (Swe), J-F Lima (Por), M Millar (Aus), M Siem (Ger), L Westwood
-2 P Harrington (Den)
-1 T Bjorn (Den)
Level: J Edfors (Swe), P Broadhurst
+1 J Bickerton
David Howell, Gary Evans, Garry Houston and Martin Erlandsson share the lead at the BMW International on five under but the main focus is on Ryder Cup places.
Lee Westwood has stated his case for a wildcard with a four-under 68.
Jose Maria Olazabal is in danger with Colin Montgomerie (70) likely to overtake him in the world standings.
Olazabal would miss out if Thomas Bjorn (71) or John Bickerton (73) win, Johan Edfors (72) is in the top two or Paul Broadhurst (72) is in the top three.
Westwood's performance is all the more impressive as he is suffering from suspected tonsillitis and says he is feeling generally "rotten".
There's a long winter to be tired
Colin Montgomerie on Jose Maria Olazabal's decision not to play in Munich
"If it was not the last Ryder Cup event I would certainly be in bed," said Westwood.
"I spoke to Woosie on Tuesday and he said 'if you are really ill you should not come, but if you do I'll be pleased'.
"My legs started to go at the end of the round and my head's spinning, but I don't think my mental strength has ever been in doubt. You don't win 27 events without being mentally strong."
Luke Donald is tied with Westwood in a group of six at four under.
Montgomerie says he is amazed that Olazabal, who is not playing in Munich because of tiredness, is putting his place at risk.
"There's a long winter to be tired," said Montgomerie.
"I am very surprised not to see him here. If I was in his position I would be.
"I think the team's weaker without him and I feel for Ian (European captain Woosnam) in a way if he has another problem with picking."
Woosnam has two wildcards to hand out on Sunday evening and at the moment they appear earmarked for Darren Clarke and Westwood, especially after Ian Poulter's first-round 76 in Germany.
If two-time Masters champion Olazabal needs one as well, that makes the decision a whole lot tougher.
At the moment his position is safe, but none of his potential usurpers have played themselves totally out of contention on the first day.