Shane Lowry ready for Masters mayhem

Shane Lowry has the game to come of age on his Masters debut today, both Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke agree, but for all the talents the newest Irish participant possesses, making them come alive at Augusta National is the biggest challenge of all.

Shane Lowry ready for Masters mayhem

For a man who admitted to having a lump in his throat as he was driven up Magnolia Lane for the first time last Sunday, Lowry will equally want to depart seven days later with head held high, having given a decent account of himself and, ideally, earned a ticket back to the Masters for 2016.

If winning a green jacket at the first attempt, done only three times and not since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, is the stuff of dreams, achieving a top-15 finish for an automatic invitation back 12 months from now is a much more realistic objective, and Lowry has the example set by four players who managed the feat last season to guide him.

Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker found themselves perfectly at home as they tied for eighth place while Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth excelled on their debuts, tying for second, just three shots behind champion Bubba Watson.

Clarke, too, has experienced a flying start to his Masters career, finishing tied for eighth in 1998 having shot the low score of the day in the third round, a Saturday 67 he followed with a closing 69. Now, 17 years on, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain will watch with interest as Lowry makes his debut.

“Shane’s short game is wonderful,” Clarke said. “He has wonderful touch with that lobber around the greens. And if anything, this place should suit him down to the ground because the short game here at Augusta National is massively important and Shane has got that.

“It will be interesting to see but he certainly has all the attributes needed to do well this week.”

Harrington, who played nine holes with the Offaly man on Monday and partnered the 28-year-old in yesterday’s Masters Par 3 Contest, finished in a respectable tie for 19th on his debut in 2000 but understands how difficult it is to put in a good performance at the first attempt.

“It’s hard being a rookie going in here,” Harrington said. “You can have a good performance but it is tough to go all the way at Augusta in your first appearance. I know he will be competitive and will want to get himself in there and I do believe he can have a very good finish there. And I am sure his goal, realistically, will be to try and get top 15 so he gets back the following year. But for sure, there won’t be as many rookies as good as him going in there.

“The golf course will suit him and once he gets a taste for it, he will never, ever not want to be there.”

Lowry, ranked 46th in the world, is confident his game will stand up around Augusta National and was hopeful the emotions of playing his first Masters would disappear by the time he reaches the first tee at 5.31pm Irish time today.

“By Thursday I’m going to be used to it and it’s going to be like coming to another event,” Lowry said. “I drive the ball quite well and quite long. I just hit a tee shot at nine there and I imagine the shorter hitters would struggle with it; I got it almost three-quarters of the way down the hill only hitting a short iron in. If I can keep driving it like that … It definitely favours the longer hitters and I’m not short, I’m a just above average hitter.”

Distance will not be Graeme McDowell’s friend around a fairly soft Augusta National track, the former US Open champion is reconciled with that, but equally, he will be keen to turn round a miserable record of only two made cuts – albeit 12th in 2012 and 17th in 2009 - in seven Masters appearances.

“Despite the fact that my record round here is not great, I do love this golf course,” McDowell said. “I could easily play it every day and be very content.

‘It’s such a great golf course, you learn something about it every year... I hope that some year I can come here and really compete. This could be the year.”

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