Shane Lowry returns to Augusta National for what will be his sixth Masters appearance with no shortage of motivation in the locker for a big week amongst the pines.
Looking to go a few places better than his best ever Masters finish of tied-25th last November, the Clara star looks to be playing himself into form at just the right time, his Ryder Cup hopes buoyed by an eighth place finish at The Players Championship in March.
“I’m genuinely very happy with where my game is at, and very comfortable and confident,” Lowry said ahead of this week’s tournament.
“I feel like I just need to keep doing what I am doing and play the waiting game and not try to force it too much over the next while. I am hopeful it happens this week, but if it doesn’t then hopefully the coming weeks after. I am driving the ball pretty well now after putting the new Srixon driver in the bag at the start of the year that I am very, very happy with, and the rest of my game is pretty good too.
“I struggled on the greens at the start of the year, but I feel like I have got to a point now where I am happy with my putter. So, if everything comes together I really think I can do something special in the coming weeks, and I am very hopeful that that will be this week.”
Far from celebrating in the clubhouse that Sunday at Sawgrass having banked $468,000 for his Players finish, the 33-year old was straight onto a private jet alongside fellow Masters hopeful, Lee Westwood, the pair landing in Georgia ahead of a two-day reconnaissance mission to Augusta National.
“It’s the first time I have ever gone there before hand,” Lowry revealed last week. “So I have two practice rounds done in the last three weeks so when I go there, and get there on Monday, I will probably play less golf this year than I have done in the past.
“In the week leading up to it I will probably play just nine holes every day. The thing is when you are playing practice rounds at Augusta, they don’t feel like it. It is so nice strolling around playing golf it doesn’t feel like work, it doesn’t feel like practice round.
“It’s hard for me to say if I am the most prepared I have ever been because I don’t know what that is. I have always felt prepared going into it.”
Such a positive mental attitude should set Lowry in good stead as he aims to build on his four-under par 72-hole total from November where he played three rounds with five-time Masters champion, Tiger Woods.
“I can take positives away from it, I’d two pretty decent rounds,” Lowry recalled. “I played as good as I’ve ever really played there. Didn’t hit it in much trouble off the tee. I got off to a slow start on Thursday and came back very well. It was one of those weeks where I was pretty happy with what I got, even though I could’ve done better.”
And make no mistake, better for Lowry isn’t playing himself into a top-10 and a nice payday. Now a Major champion, expectations have changed for the reigning Open champ. It may have taken the Offaly man time to figure out the intricacies of Augusta National but when he returns to competition on Thursday, it won’t be to make up the numbers. Instead, he’ll drive up Magnolia Lane targeting his second Major win.
“I’m here to win,” he insisted after November’s tournament. “I’m not just here to learn, I’m here to compete. I don’t show up in tournaments just to finish 10th or fifth or whatever. I show up to put on my best performance and I’m hoping that brings me into contention. When you get back to Augusta, you want to kick on and try and win the tournament.”