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England's Greg Owen bears no hard feelings after what happened last year when he was ruled out of the Open Championship by the R&A. (Photo: AP)
England's Greg Owen bears no hard feelings after what happened last year when he was ruled out of the Open Championship by the R&A. (Photo: AP)

Playing well heals hurt for Owen after 2005 Open snub

Greg Owen thought he could skip an international qualifier for the Open Championship last year because he knew his standing on the World Golf Ranking list would get him in. That's not the way the R&A saw it. On Thursday, he got sweet revenge.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

HOYLAKE, England -- For England's Greg Owen, getting his name to the top of the leader board during the early first round action of the 135th British Open at Royal Liverpool on Thursday was sweet redemption.

Just one year ago, Owen was snubbed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, for reasons he -- rightfully -- didn't understand.

Owen withdrew from an international British Open qualifier in New Jersey in order to support the European Tour by playing an event in Ireland and to avoid playing 12 days in a row. Shortly after that, Billy Mayfair declined an exemption into the British, which meant the void would be filled by the next player not otherwise exempt off the Official World Golf Ranking.

Arron Oberholser, Owen and Jeff Maggert were the next players in line for the exemption, but since none of them showed up at the qualifier, the R&A considered them withdrawn from the tournament and the spot went to Bob Tway.

Owen was most upset and vocal about the decision and noted that the entry form did not state that pulling out of a qualifier left a player ineligible for the Open. The R&A has since modified its entry forms.

In a way, justice was served this year as Owen got in off his world ranking when an international qualifier in Washington, D.C., was called off because of excessive rain.

"I think it's straightened itself out," he said after a sparkling 5-under-par 67 Thursday, his best round in five Open appearances. "The Open is fantastic. I haven't played it in a couple of years and I've missed it. I think it's good for me, I can plot the ball around the golf course and hit it pretty straight. I'm just glad to be here and play well. And after the injuries it's just nice to feel free and swinging it properly again."

Sitting on the world stage that comes along with leading golf's oldest championship, Owen could have taken his moment in the spotlight to blast the R&A and rehash his situation from a year ago. Instead, the 34-year-old Englishman, who is extremely approachable, thorough and gentlemanly, took the high road.

"You know, the R&A run this tournament. It's their tournament and what they say goes," he said. "They obviously recognized there's a little bit of a flaw in what happened because it's on the entry form this year. You have to respect what they say, it's their tournament."

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