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Owen's pain-free quest for debut tour victory

Greg Owen of England had his sights set on a maiden European Tour victory after enjoying a rare pain-free opening round at the South African Open yesterday.</p>Owen has been plagued by back pain for eight years. However, a visit to a physiotherapist in a tournament last week revealed that his right leg was 7 millimetres shorter than his left. It was temporarily rectified for the final two rounds by taping a few pages of the Yellow Pages</i> together inside his shoe. He rallied to finish joint 10th.</p>A foam insert is in place for this week and it seems to be working. The 28-year-old from Mansfield, who has yet to win after four years on tour, carded a five-under-par 67 at East London to lie just two shots off the pace set by South African Hennie Otto, with Spain's Ignacio Garrido alone in second after a 66.</p>Now free of pain, Owen feels it is time he made the leap from consistent performer to tournament winner and better his previous best finishes of third in Brazil last year and third in the Lancÿme Trophy in 1999. He even has one eye on qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team to face the Americans at The Belfry in September.</p>"There is one obvious aim, the Ryder Cup," admitted Owen, who finished 39th on the Order of Merit last year. "It's got to be on the mind of everyone out here. To get in I have to win at least one tournament and I feel this is a year for me to break through.</p>"I hope the insert really does make a difference," he said. "It explains a lot about some of my swing faults and I felt the benefit straight away in the third round last week."</p>Wales' Bradley Dredge joined Owen and Switzerland's Paolo Quirici on five under shortly before play was abandoned for the day as darkness fell. The pre-tournament favourite Darren Clarke finished five over, with Justin Rose at one over.</p>