Owen in the hunt, Garcia struggling

Greg Owen has put himself firmly in contention at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but Sergio Garcia is in trouble.

A strong finish from Greg Owen has put the Englishman firmly in contention at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but sadly for embattled Sergio Garcia, the strugglng Spaniard is facing another fight to avoid a second missed cut in a row.
Owen, who was joint leader halfway through last week’s Verizon Heritage before falling down the leaderboard over the weekend, fired an opening five-under-par 67 at the TPC Louisiana on Thursday that was good enough to put him in a five-way tie for second, just two shots behind the first round leader Jason Bohn.
Florida resident Owen had been level par after nine holes having started at the 10th hole and having given back two early birdies with bogeys at the par-four 16th and par-five 18th holes.
But he stepped things up on his inward nine, rolling in five birdies and no bogeys for his 67.
Garcia, who as World number 23, had found himself teeing off as the highest-ranked player in the field after the withdrawals of world number three Steve Stricker, (painful right shoulder) and number six Ian Poulter, (left knee injury), was looking to bounce back from a missed cut at last week’s Verizon Heritage where, after an opening 67, he collapsed with a second-round 77.
Unfortunately, though, he did not get off to the best of starts on the 7,341-yard, par-72 course, his one-over 73 featuring three birdies, a bogey and two double bogeys.
With Bohn setting the early pace with a seven-under-par 65, Garcia’s 73 has put the struggling Spanish star in a tie for 87th and on the back foot heading into the second round.
Bohn went to the par-five 18th needing a birdie to give him a course-record 63, but instead he bogeyed the hole after finding the water with his second for the only blemish in a round that featured seven birdies.
“It’s funny,” Bohn said. “I’ve played well at the weekends, but I’ve started very poorly through Thursday and Friday rounds of my year so far.
“I’ve had some good finishes, but they’ve all kind of come on the weekend. I was looking to get off to a good start;a solid start here; so this is great for me.
“My horse has been running a little slow out of the gate. So it’s kind of nice to get a little jump and it builds a little confidence.”
Bohn’s two-stroke lead is over Owen, Australian John Senden and a trio of fellow Americans, 2006 winner Chris Couch, Jeff Overton and Jason Dufner.
Former world number one David Duval was three shots off the lead following an opening 68.
He is tied with three more Americans, Troy Merritt, Kevin Sutherland and Charles Howell III and in form Korean KJ Choi.
Duval, who came close to a first victory since the 2001 Open Championship at last year’s US Open, said he felt good about his game, despite missing the cut at The Masters earlier this month.
“I’m happy with most of the things I’ve been doing for most of this year,” Duval said. “I felt really good heading into The Masters. That is the last time I played.
“In general, I felt pretty good about what I was doing coming here. I spent a lot of time practising and working. I felt like I’ve been close for a long time, and just want to try to dial it in that much more.
“You can’t do it if you’re not hitting it solid, and I managed to do that today. Sweden’s Mathias Gronberg and former tournament winners Brad Faxon and Louisiana native David Toms were among those at three under while England’s Justin Rose posted an opening, two-under 70.
Defending champion Jerry Kelly finished at one under alongside a group including England’s Brian Davis, playing his first round since calling a two-stroke penalty on himself during last Sunday’s play-off with Jim Furyk.