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Hadley in contention, 'appreciative' to be at Bay Hill

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ORLANDO, Fla. – After winning the Rex Hospital Open on the Tour last summer, Chesson Hadley received a letter of congratulations.

It happened to be signed by this week’s tournament host – Arnold Palmer.

Nine months later, the gesture still resonates with Hadley, who shot a 4-under 68 Friday at Bay Hill to move to 7 under, firmly in contention heading into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“That just was so classy, and it really meant a lot to me,” said Hadley. “I came into this week just so appreciative to be here.”

After winning for the first time on the PGA Tour earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Open, the 26-year-old again finds his name on the leaderboard after making just one bogey through 36 holes in Orlando. While he would like to return to the winner’s circle, another prize could be on the line this week – a spot in the field at the Masters.

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Hadley, a Georgia Tech graduate, entered this week at No. 59 in the world rankings. Any player ranked in the top 50 following next week’s Valero Texas Open will earn a trip to Augusta National, a prospect that Hadley thinks about “a lot.”

“It gives me something to work for,” Hadley said. “I know a win gets me in both ways … Augusta is a thought, but it’s about winning more than getting to Augusta.”

Just halfway through his rookie campaign, Hadley has now secured playing privileges through the 2015-16 season thanks to his win in Puerto Rico. He’s able to keep a positive outlook as a result, regardless of whether or not he earns a trip down Magnolia Lane next month.

“It’s still hard to believe. We’re just playing with house money.”