'Augusta is a very unforgiving place' - Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry (pictured above) has been grouped with the legendary Tiger Woods in the first two rounds of the US Masters.
The Offaly golfing ace and 2019 Open Championship winner will tee off at 12.55pm Irish time (7.55am local time) tomorrow (Thursday) at the famed Augusta National course in Georgia.
Alongside the Clara native will be reigning Masters champion Woods (who won his 15th Major last year) and US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree.
The trio will start from the 10th tee due to the lack of daylight at their allotted starting time.
See below for Lowry's views on this year's Masters, as expressed in his Paddy Power column.
"It was great to get back in the hunt at Texas last weekend as the last thing I wanted was to arrive at Augusta second-guessing my game. I got to take a run up the leader board and it got the competitive juices flowing again. That‘s a nice bit of form to bring into the Masters," said Shane.
"This will be my fifth time playing Augusta and I know the place well enough by now, so hopefully all aspects of my game knit together over the four days. Augusta National is a course you’re always learning at, but the memories of it come back pretty quickly. You’re soon aware what holes suit your game best, where to be aggressive and where to have some patience. You’ve got to express yourself through your own game and not anyone else’s to master Augusta," he continued.
Bryson DeChambeau is attracting considerable attention ahead of this year's Masters and asked about him, Lowry said: "There’s always a story coming into the Masters and this year it’s whether the big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau will ‘tame’ the course. But there’s nothing Augusta can do to make the course any longer or harder for him, he’ll just have to face it like the rest of us. He’ll be the main focus as he’s chasing back-to-back Major wins after his US Open triumph at Winged Foot, but everything needs to go your way before you get to pull on the Green Jacket come Sunday night."
"There’s plenty of other guys who are well capable of wearing it and you could argue that it actually takes the pressure off some of them as they are coming into Thursday’s tee-off a little under the radar.
"You need to chip and putt very well and know the right places to ‘miss’ to conquer Augusta. If you don’t get that right, Augusta is a very unforgiving place.
"Tiger Woods has played in more than 20 US Masters and won it for a fifth time last year. And he was the best player in the world. You just don’t turn up and win a Masters!"
Practice makes perfect
This year's Masters takes place in November rather than April, but Lowry feels players will adapt to the challenge.
"I’ve had a couple of nine-hole practice rounds and to be honest it doesn’t feel or play any different to previous years – despite the fact it’s a November, rather than an April Masters this time. The fairways may be a little softer – and there’s rain forecast for the tournament – but you can get that in April too," he said.
"Personally, I don’t think it will make a huge difference. The course will play that bit longer, but the bigger issue is the greens. The sub-air system that Augusta National uses means they can suck the moisture out of the greens pretty quickly. Hopefully we can avoid a deluge though. I’m not the biggest fan of playing in the rain.
"There’s a two-tee start this year, and some will be starting at Amen Corner. It can work for you or against you, but you’re going to have to play the holes at some stage, so whatever side of the draw I end up on, I’ll just get on with it.
"I drove the ball well and putted nicely last weekend so that was good as I’ll need to do that at Augusta this week. It’s nice not to have to worry about where your game is at before a big tournament and now it’s just a question of playing Augusta to my strengths. I had a couple of bogeys on the back nine in Texas and that halted the momentum a little, but overall, I was happy with how I played.
"It’s a different feel this time for sure – no family or friends for support as there’s no crowd. That’s the same for everyone so we’ll just crack on with it. I texted my dad the other day and he’s disappointed not to be here as he hadn’t missed any of the other US Masters I played in.
"I had great craic at the par 3 competition last year with my daughter, Iris, when I got the hole in one, but even that has been cancelled this year. They’re amazing memories and hopefully we’ll back to normal next time.
"I don’t feel any different to the person or golfer I was the last time I drove up Magnolia Lane to play here. I just happened to do something very special in July 2019 when winning the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
"Obviously if I’m in contention over the weekend you draw from that experience, but I don’t feel it changed me in any way. It would be great to get the chance to see this weekend!" Lowry added.
*Shane Lowry was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com