Lowry loving true Augusta test after rock-solid 71

John Craven
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Shane Lowry plays a stroke from the No. 2 tee during Round 1 of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Thursday, April 8, 2021.

Shane Lowry looked like a child on Christmas morning after coming through a devilishly difficult opening round of the 85th Masters before signing for a highly-encouraging one-under par 71 that leaves him tied 8th.

Playing in the company of first round runaway leader Justin Rose, who fired a seven-under par 65 to lead the field by four, Lowry’s 71 might look ordinary by comparison but you only had to see the beaming smile on the Clara man’s face post-round to know it was anything but.

“I feel like I played good,” Lowry said, struggling to keep the smile from his face. “I made a couple of bad errors on 10 and 15. They were a bit silly. But I was very proud of myself for the way I hung on.

“The golf course, oh my God, I have never seen it like that which was great – I loved it. I have always wanted to play Augusta like this in the Masters, you know, firm and fast with putts getting away from you. Even the chance on 18 there, a 15 footer for birdie and you’re just trying to lag it down to the hole! It’s not very enjoyable when you’re doing it but when you look back on it you think, ‘yeah, that was pretty cool’.”

You could’ve been forgiven for thinking Lowry enjoyed his opening 18 holes around Augusta plenty, despite a couple of glaring errors denying him what could’ve been a comfortable round in the 60’s. Of course, golf doesn’t work like that but those following the Open Champion’s progress on the official Masters app would’ve seen Lowry play much like he described pre-tournament, confident with putter in hand and rarely in trouble off the tee.

Two good chances slipped by the hole for birdie at one and two before Lowry used the slope on the third to his advantage on his approach, rolling in a downhill six-footer with confidence to get into the red. He dropped his first shot of the day with a three-putt from some 50-feet on the sixth before two fine shots to the seventh saw him rattle in a 15-footer to get back to minus-one.

He stole one on the field at nine after a wild hook managed to shirk the trees down the left and find the adjacent fairway, Lowry sending his recovery approach over the flag before holing his birdie putt at pace from some 20 feet. However, the same erratic shot that he got away with on the ninth reared its ugly head on 10 and with no room for error, Lowry’s ball went out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey ‘6’.

He made four straight pars to the 15th before hitting two great shots just over the back of the gettable par-5, yet even Lowry’s wizardry around the greens came unstuck as his chip shot left his club-face with a little too much fire before trickling on, and on, and into the water guarding the front of the 15th green.

“I messed up myself,” Lowry admitted. “I knew it was a delicate chip, but it was straightforward enough. I didn’t even strike it bad, I just hit it a fraction too hard and that’s just the way it is. That’s just this golf course.

“That’s one of the easier pins from over the back of the green so it will be interesting to see what it’s like for the rest of the week! But it was a mistake – I did well to get the next one up and down and make six and I finished nicely so I was very happy with that.”

It would’ve been a crime for Lowry to sign for a score of anything other than red figures given how he played and his rewards eventually came over the closing three holes where he arrowed his approach below the hole on 16 to set-up a routine birdie before two great shots to the last saw him land a final blow with a treacherous 15 footer down the hill that fell into the cup for a satisfying finish.

“I was surprised when I came in and seen I was lying tied eighth because, well, playing with Rosey and what he was doing,” Lowry laughed, realising he was one of just 12 players to break par on Thursday.

And given the silly mistakes he described on 10 and 15, it could’ve been even better for Lowry who, despite only needing 27 putts to get home, played the par-5’s over par on Thursday. He’ll hope Friday is different. Out in the morning half of the draw in round two, with little wind forecast and a bit of moisture in the greens, was there anything he could learn playing in the company of Rose to take with him into his second round assault on Augusta National?

“He was two-over through seven and to be honest I must’ve been in a world of my own,” Lowry said. “I knew he was going well but obviously he took care of the holes he should’ve taken care of and birdied a couple of other ones.

“But that’s kind of the way it is around here. I am disappointed today myself that I play the par fives one over when I should’ve shot one under. I need to play them better the rest of the week if I am to have a chance of doing something special here this weekend.”

Lowry returns to action at 2.36pm (Irish time) today. If you download the official Masters app, you won’t miss a shot.

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