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Owen puts Bay Hill behind him with gutsy 68

Written by: Staff

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida, Mar 25 (Reuters) Five days after a nightmare finish at the Bay Hill Invitational, Britain's Greg Owen showed great character to climb into contention for the Players Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass.

Owen fired a four-under-par 68 in yesterday's second round on the Stadium Course, finishing in a tie for seventh place at five-under 139, three strokes behind leader Jim Furyk.

He double-bogeyed the par-four first but recovered with six birdies over the next 15 holes to keep alive his hopes of qualifying for next month's US Masters.

''I started really rough but I played pretty well after that,'' the 33-year-old Englishman told reporters. ''The par-fives treated me well today.'' Owen, who threw away a golden opportunity to win his maiden PGA Tour title at Bay Hill, launched his recovery with a birdie at the par-five second.

Despite increasingly blustery conditions at Sawgrass, he picked up further shots on seven, nine, 12, 14 and 16.

''I played pretty steady all the way,'' he said. ''I hit fairways and greens and took advantage of my opportunities. I played very well.'' Owen believes he has overcome the disappointment of Bay Hill, where he led by one with two holes to play before three-putting from three feet for a double-bogey on 17.

''It still pops back, but I'm proud of myself to play well this week because it was tough last week,'' he said.

''I don't think I'll ever forget it. It was a great chance to win a tournament on the PGA Tour and you've got to learn from it.

''I knew I was playing well and I was hoping to keep up the same form this week. You still wake up and think of the worst things that have happened, but I've also remembered a lot of good things.'' Owen, whose only European Tour victory came at the 2003 British Masters, has been overwhelmed by the response he has received from his peers this week.

''Nearly every player here has said to me 'well played', it's been unbelievable,'' he said.

''Tiger (Woods) came up to me this morning, shook my hand and said: 'Well played last week.' That's all he said.

''I appreciate that from all the players. It's been great, especially being a foreigner here. They have treated me well.'' Owen needs a top-20 finish this week to have a chance of playing in the April 6-9 Masters at Augusta National.

Reuters DH VP0655

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