HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- Jim Furyk's preparation for the Verizon Heritage began earlier than he might have hoped. But his schedule might be why the steady pro is in front starting today's third round.

Furyk, Charles Howell III and Greg Owen share the 36-hole lead at Harbour Town Golf Links. The group is 7 under and a shot clear of a pack that includes two-time champion Boo Weekley.

Furyk missed the cut at the year's first major but used the extra time to unwind. He dropped in on a sponsor's party that Friday night, intending only to make an appearance but staying hours. He spent Saturday practicing at Augusta National before traveling to Myrtle Beach for an appearance at the Hootie and the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Pro-Am and attending the concert that followed.

"I got my practice in but also blew off some steam," Furyk said. "And when I got here I was in a great frame of mind and ready to go to work."

First-round leader K.J. Choi slid back with a 74 and none of the others around the first-round lead made a significant move.

Howell said he was surprised the 36-hole total wasn't lower.

Owen was less shocked scores weren't better Friday. The 38-year-old Englishman and his caddie felt the number wouldn't fluctuate much as they watched conditions change during the afternoon.

Owen thought his tee shot on the par-3 14th was solid, but the wind swirled in the trees, the shot fell in a bunker and he made bogey.

"That's what happens on this golf course, and that's what we'll have to contend with on the weekend," Owen said.

Weekley remained in contention with a birdie at No. 18 for a 68. He is in a group of five at 6 under.

Furyk, in his past five starts here, has three top fives and two missed cuts. He said Friday there has been a correlation between his finish in Augusta and how he plays here. In 2009, Furyk was in contention heading into Sunday at the Masters. He played a mediocre final round, by his acknowledgment, and finished tied for 10th. The disappointment carried over throughout the following week at Harbour Town, where Furyk missed the cut.

"A couple of years where I had opportunities to win at Augusta, last year being one of them, I probably came here a little bit head down, shoulders slumped, kicking myself," Furyk said. "So I was a little bit -- my attitude probably had a lot to do with it."

Furyk, who started on the back nine in the morning, birdied Nos. 13, 15 and 16 to get to 7 under. He added two birdies and two bogeys on the front.

Howell rolled in a 20-foot putt from off the green at No. 18 to finish. The Augusta native has skipped this stop during years he has played his hometown major, but he wasn't in the Masters last week. This is the first of four consecutive tournaments Howell will play.

Howell said, in general, his game tends to improve in the latter stages of a tournament. With his teacher here this week, he said he feels comfortable and that he expects an interesting weekend. Thirty-two players start the weekend within three shots of the lead.

"It's supposed to be breezy (today), which is good," Howell said. "It looks, based on the leaderboard, to be a shootout come Sunday."

Missing the cut

After defending Heritage champion Brian Gay finished his round of 70, the agonizing wait began. Would his two-day score of even-par 142 be good enough to make the cut?

Just barely.

The field of 132 golfers was cut at even par. Because 82 players made the cut, the field will be sliced to low 70 and ties after today's third round.

Notable golfers who missed the cut included Sergio Garcia, Lucas Glover, Robert Allenby and Brad Faxon.