The forecast calls for rain – perhaps heavy – Wednesday and carrying over into Thursday’s first round of the Masters Tournament.
Contrary to popular assumption, Shane Lowry is not rooting for those conditions.
“Playing golf in the rain is just hard. It's not nice. No one likes doing it,” said Lowry, who prevailed in the wet of Royal Portrush last summer for his crowning achievement securing the Claret Jug.
“Everyone jokes that I love it, but I don't. I hate it. But I'm able to deal with it because I've done it before.”
Not by choice, mind you. Growing up playing golf in Co Offaly, Lowry didn’t choose to roll out of the house and head to the course in the rain.
“No, never,” he said. “Look out the window and stay where I was.”
Of course, he didn’t always have the choice, and that experience serves him well should the circumstances arise this week. He understands the little tricks of coping with the dreck, such as hitting tee shots a little quicker so the ball and driver is not as wet.
But in his fifth Masters start and first as a major winner, Lowry just hopes he can figure out the trick to playing Augusta National well enough to finally contend on what he calls “my favorite place in the world to play without a doubt.”
He’s missed three prior cuts and his only weekend appearance ended in a distant tie for 39th in 2016.
Returning for a one-off November Masters might be just what Lowry needs to turn the “Amen Corner,” if you will, coming off encouraging performances at Wentworth last month (T13) and in the Houston Open last week (T11).
“I don't think I've ever shot too many great rounds around here,” he said Tuesday. “I'm hoping the time of year kind of changes my look around here and like probably coming in with a bit more form than I ever really have.
"So yeah, I'm hopeful for the week ahead. I do feel like my game is in a good place.”
Lowry will start the Masters off the 10th tee at 12.55pm Irish time on Thursday with defending champion Tiger Woods and 2019 U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree. Friday’s second round tee time is 5pm off the first hole.
That Lowry has shot under par only once (opening-round 68 in 2016) in 10 Masters rounds has been a combination of struggles off the tee and on the greens – a combination for failure. Of particular concern to him has been his play on the par 5s, where he has yet to collect a single crystal goblet for making eagle (his lone eagle at Augusta was an ace on No. 16 in 2016, earning a crystal bowl).
“Like I've never played the par 5s well around here, and everybody knows, Augusta, you need to play the par 5s well to shoot a decent score,” he said. “I kind of have my eye a little bit on those this week, and hopefully I can get out there Thursday and get off to a good start. And look, you never know what can happen then.”
Introduced at the dais by Augusta member John Carr – the son of Joe Carr, the first Irishman to compete in the Masters – Lowry spoke of his success at Royal Portrush as a moment that hasn’t dimmed in the intervening 16 months.
Could he ever top it? That’s a question that gave Lowry brief pause.
“I'll struggle (to top it), but if I have a chance, it will be around here,” he said. “You know what I mean. Like to be the first Irishman to ever wear the green jacket would be pretty special. That's probably one of the only things that could top it.
“Obviously, look, I've worked very hard all my life and I've, you know, really put my mind down to it, and I achieved something very, very special last year. Yes, I probably won't ever top that, but if it is, it will maybe be around here.
Along with Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and 2019 Amateur champion James Sugrue, Lowry and company seek to win the only golf major that has thus far eluded Irish golfers.
McIlroy tees of the first hole Thursday afternoon at 5pm Irish time with Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay.
McDowell goes off 10 Thursday at 1.17pm Irish time with Si Woo Kim and Nate Lashley. Sugrue is in the last group of the first round off 10 (5.11 pm) with two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and Andrew Putnam.
“Pádraig (Harrington) had a chance one year and obviously Rory in 2011,” Lowry said. “Back in the day, Christy (O’Connor) Snr didn't come over and play because it was too hard to get over.
"Maybe he would have had a good chance. Only one Irishman had won a major up until 2007, Fred Daly. So we've punched above our weight over the last 12 to 13 years, but before that we didn't really.
"You never know, hopefully this year is our time.”
If it comes without patrons or roars, Lowry is unconcerned. His only guest this week in Augusta is his coach, and he dearly misses to celebration of the Par 3 Contest with his daughter as caddie that he calls his “best time ever” at the Masters.
But if Sunday comes – rain or shine – and he has a chance to make history, it will not be diminished by the consequences of Covid.
“I'm certainly going to miss all the patrons around the place, the roar and the buzz,” he said. “But I do think that this is going to be a special Masters. I do think that this is going to be pretty cool in itself, with no ropes out there, no grandstands. The visuals are a little bit different on some holes.
“Look, everyone thinks 2020 is a year that everybody is going to be happy to see the back of. But it's going to be a very special year for someone come the end of this week. Hopefully that's me."