Shane Lowry promised to give himself a slap in the face when his mind inevitably turns to celebrating a Masters win on Sunday evening, writes Simon Lewis in Augusta.
The Irishman put himself in a position to dream big thanks to a first-round four-under-par 68 at Augusta National on Thursday night to leave him just two shots off the lead held by defending champion Jordan Spieth.
Yet while the world number 32 will strive to keep his feet firmly on the ground after his stellar opening day, Lowry, 29, admitted it would be difficult not to let his mind wander to thoughts of a glorious Sunday and a maiden major championship victory.
“I mean, it's hard not to. I'm sure I'm going to be sitting back tonight thinking at some stage about wearing a green jacket. I'm only human. I'm going to do that,” Lowry said.
“But I've just got to kind of give myself a slap in the face and get myself back into reality and try to get down to business and keep hitting good shots and see where that leaves me at the end of the week.”
Lowry, the reigning WGC-Bridgestone Invitational champion, has certainly given himself the ideal platform to at least improve on his previous best major performances, ties for ninth at the 2014 Open and 2015 US Open Championships. His second round tees off at 3:54pm Irish time on Friday.
Thursday's 68 to kick-start the 13th major appearance of his career followed on from a missed cut at Augusta National on his Masters debut 12 months ago and the foundations for it were laid with a blistering front nine of 31 on Thursday, one off the low first-nine record in the Masters held by five players and scored in a day of tricky wind conditions.
It began with an important par save at the first but four birdies in a row from the second hole to the fifth, plus another at the par-five eighth saw Lowry reach five under, one off Spieth's lead at the time.
His first blip of the day came at the par-three 12th when he overshot the green and bunkered, but the Clara, Offaly golfer kept his game together and parred his way home for a memorable round.
“It was a good day. I hit a nice iron to the first, but it just ran off and I left myself like a 15-footer for par. That was kind of a nice way to start the day. It's almost nicer than chipping it stiff.
“From there, I played great today. Didn't miss many shots. Didn't miss my targets by much. I managed to hole a few putts early doors. Really feel like it could have been one or two better at the end, but, I'll take it.”
Lowry's demeanour pointed to a golfer much more at ease with Augusta National than on his debut in 2015 and the Irishman is benefitting from 54 holes of practice at the classic course since arriving last Saturday following a missed cut at the Shell Houston Open.
“I've played a lot of golf here this week, and I do feel really comfortable around the place,” he said.
“It's a bit intimidating driving in the gates of Magnolia Lane to play the Masters. It was last year. And hopefully I'll be coming here for many years and hopefully I've got that out of the way now.
“It's the greatest players in the world, best golf course, best place. Yeah, that's the only way I can describe it, it's the best place in the world.”
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