Unlocking secrets key to Masters glory

For the rookies in the Masters’ field, like our own Shane Lowry, these past few days have been all about the realisation of one of their golfing dreams.

Unlocking secrets key to Masters glory

For others in the field, Magnolia Lane simply represents the entry point to Augusta National and Amen Corner the most crucial point on the course to launch a charge or defend a lead in their pursuit of glory.

As they head out for their first round of the 79th Masters today, their preparation for a very stern test of golf will be complete. They will have studied the weather forecast and know that despite an expectation of warm and humid weather there is also the possibility of heavy winds, storms and lightning which could lead to delays.

Augusta has its little secrets, so analysing the wind and accurately reading the grain on the fast greens is essential. Knowing that the course will play soft and long will be an advantage to the likes of Rory McIlroy but just like everyone else he will need to control the bounce and spin of his approach shots while understanding when to attack the course and when to be patient.

McIlroy hasn’t played the first or the 10th holes well at any time in his career so a good start will undoubtedly relax the early nerves while also giving him the platform to build a score.

Tiger Woods has all the experience in the world but he too needs a solid start if he is to have any chance. Winning this week is a very big ask from an undercooked and out-of-form Tiger but when studying a number of his practice swings I noticed that he is now more upright when swinging the club and using his wrists more – much like he did in the Butch Harmon days.

Woods is talking confidently and he is a great addition to the field. But can he consistently get his alignment right and hole enough putts though?

Adam Scott has gone back to the anchored putter in an effort to become more competitive but it remains to be seen how missing 18 times on putts 10 feet in length or shorter in his last eight rounds with the short putter has dented his confidence.

Phil Mickelson too needs some inspiration and the three-time champion may just find it at his favourite course. In recent years the Masters has heavily favoured both himself and his fellow left-hander Bubba Watson. Will that trend continue?

And what of the other Irish competing this week? Shane Lowry has both the length and short game to excel around Augusta but he has no experience of this corner of Georgia. If I could have offered him one piece of advice, it would have been to employ a local caddy if not for the tournament then for his entire practice sessions around Augusta. If he can enjoy his experience and express himself then a top 15 position would reflect very favourably on his maiden trip.

Pádraig Harrington is a dark horse. His inconsistency worries me but he has both the experience and confidence now in his game to be a factor this week. Can he keep anything worse than a bogey off his card and hole enough putts though to get himself into contention?

It is fair to say that Augusta is not one of Graeme McDowell’s favourite venues given its length and the fact that he doesn’t hit the ball high enough. That said, he has continually proven himself as one of the world’s best tacticians and he will want to prove himself this week.

Darren Clarke’s most competitive days at the top of the golfing ladder have almost certainly gone, but the European Ryder Cup captain can still play. He is still a wonderful striker of the ball but needs a great putting week to figure at the weekend.

And so the scene is set for what promises to be great drama. My hope is that all the main contenders are in the mix on Sunday evening. If McIlroy can stay disciplined and focused then he will be amongst them. Once there then I expect him to fulfil his destiny.

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