Notebook: Unlikely par keeps Owen in great position

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Greg Owen celebrates after making his 55-foot par putt Saturday on the 18th hole.

DAVIDSON, N.C. – Some pars are less routine than others.

Greg Owen finished off Saturday’s third round at the Chiquita Classic with one of the season’s better hard-way efforts, overcoming a rinsed approach at No.18 when his par attempt traversed the width of the green and dove into the cup.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Owen, who estimated the putt at 55 feet. “You need to have a bit of luck on these greens.”

The putt salvaged a 1-under 71 at River Run, coming after Owen yanked his approach shot into Wildcat Lake that separates fairway and No.18’s multi-tiered green. Following a penalty drop, he ripped a 4-iron that came to rest on the middle level -- pin-high but on the opposite side.

“I’ll go home thinking I made a par and not even worry about it,” quipped Owen, who fell from the 36-hole lead to one stroke behind leaders John Peterson and Andrew Svoboda.

The rest of Owen’s scorecard showed 16 other pars, plus a lone birdie at River Run’s par-3 fourth hole.

“It was a tough day,” said the English pro, who recorded just one top-20 finish during the PGA TOUR season. “I made a lot of pars when maybe I shouldn’t have. You miss fairways here, it’s going to be tough with these greens. But I made a couple of good two-putts from long distance.

“All in all, I was pretty happy with 71. I felt there was a little justice with that putt going in at the last.”

FALSE SECURITY: At the opposite end of the spectrum was Brendon Todd, whose clean sheet was blemished by a pulled second shot at No.18, leading to a double bogey.

“The 18th hole was penal,” said Todd, who went from one shot back to three. “I probably should have hit my tee shot in the water, because that one wasn’t good, either.”

A better tee shot might have left Todd with a better lie. The 18th fairway tilts significantly from left to right, creating a downhill lie for right-handed players trying to reach the green in two.

The Georgia grad admitted he might have been duped somewhat during practice rounds, when he reached the green easily and gave himself a look at eagle putts. In competition, though, he’s played No.18 in par, bogey and now double bogey.

“Every day in the tournament, I’ve hit a bad shot into the green,” he said. “That’s 3-over on one hole. If I lay up three times, I probably play it 2-under and I could be leading by two.”

For the record, No. 18 played its toughest yet on Saturday with a scoring average of 4.937. No one eagled the hole, and its 25 birdies were almost completely offset by 10 bogeys, four double bogeys and a triple.

“It’s an easy hole if you hit a good tee shot,” Todd said.

GOING LOW, BRIEFLY: Troy Matteson’s 67 matched Peterson for the day’s best round -- but the Austin pro had a glimpse of taking it even deeper.

Matteson was a bogey-free 6-under on the day, getting to 10-under and a share of the lead, before getting derailed by bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17. A birdie at the 18th regained one shot, leaving him one off the lead by day’s end.

Pars on those two holes would have matched Svoboda’s tournament best of 65, established on Friday.

“Those weren’t my best holes, for sure,” said Matteson. “But to get around here without making any bogeys is very, very difficult. We thought we were going to pull it off there for a while, but it just wasn’t to be. I’m still very happy with my round. This is a very tough golf course.”

It was Matteson’s best round since a pair of 67s at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he eventually tied for 17th. It was one of just two top-25 finishes this season.

SURPRISE GUEST: Moments after exiting the scoring trailer, Peter Malnati excitedly tossed his glove into the air and began sprinting toward the clubhouse.

Waiting by a partition: Fiancée Alicia Hatcher, who made the drive from their home in Knoxville, Tenn. “She told me she wasn’t coming,” Malnati said.

Instead, Hatcher saw her betrothed hold a share of the lead for much of the day before a pair of late bogeys left him with a 69 and one shot behind the pacesetters.

“A great round. I’m very happy,” Malnati said. “It’s not an easy golf course and I birdied four of my first six. … After that, I wasn’t super sharp. I don’t feel like I played great golf the rest of the day, but I was certainly good and solid.”

Malnati now has a shot at his second victory of the year -- an improbable concept as recently as June when he was futilely trying to Monday qualify. He didn’t get a Tour start until the Air Capital Classic, which he parlayed into three more starts with top-25 finishes each week.

Two more top-25s got Malnati into the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, where he made up a five-shot deficit with 16 holes left to claim victory.

“I’m actually getting good at not worrying about [deficits] too much,” he said. “I’ve been playing well, am playing well, and know I’m going to be in a position tomorrow to go out and get after it.”