THE MASTERS

Masters 2021: Lowry is feeling good and riding high on confidence as he begins Masters quest

By Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry is not a man to make bold predictions, but he hugely fancies his chances of Masters glory, providing he can stay out of his own way and play his free-flowing natural game on what he hopes will be a tiger tough Augusta National.

The Clara man's Masters record is nothing to crow about, not even after clinching a career-best tie for 25th behind Dustin Johnson in November when he played for three days with the maestro, Tiger Woods.

But having played some of the best tee-to-green golf of his life in recent weeks and discovered a feel-based putting method that better reflects his natural game, the Open champion is decidedly upbeat.

A birdie-fest would not be in his best interests, but if the course plays as firm and fast as he expects and the winning score is single digits under par, Lowry (34) knows he has the imagination and the heart to become Ireland's first Masters champion.

"The biggest challenge for me is to stay out of my own way," Lowry said ahead of one of golf's most cerebral examinations. "Without sounding overly confident, I really feel like my game is in a great place.

"I really feel very happy with the way I am playing. We spoke about the struggles with my putting at the start of the season, but I really feel like I have that under control now and feel very happy with that, especially going somewhere like Augusta where you have to putt with a lot of vision and feel.

"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.

"The biggest thing is staying out of my own way and letting myself go out and be myself and perform to the best of my ability because I really think it's there, and it's waiting to come out."

Pádraig Harrington admits he's become "a walking ATM" for Lowry during practice rounds and fully expects his Offaly pal to hit the jackpot soon.

After finishing eighth in The Players at TPC Sawgrass with the left-below-right, conventional putting style, his newfound confidence on the greens will be an asset.

He's also at his best on golf's most demanding tests, and a firm Augusta could be right up his street.

"I love difficult golf courses, and I hope it plays difficult this week," said Lowry, who sees coach Neil Manchip as key to his hopes of success. "I hope it plays like we have seen it before where five, six, seven, eight under has a chance of winning. I'd like that.

Masters 2021 SCH_3012

Shane Lowry. Photo by Golffile


"If it is playing difficult, your short game comes into it a lot, and you are going to have to hole a lot of six and eight footers for par. So the next few days for me are going to be spent chipping and putting. I feel like my long game is in a good place, and once I get my chipping and putting as well, who knows what could happen."

The mental game is Lowry's most significant challenge but Manchip, who travelled out to the US last week, gives him peace of mind.

"Neil is just such a calming influence on me, and it's great to have him at any event," admitted Lowry, who credited his walks and morning coffees with Manchip as key to his Open triumph.

"Maybe I like having someone to lean on throughout the week and someone to talk to. Obviously, he helps my game as well, but anybody that knows my relationship with Neil knows that he is much more than just a golf coach to me, he is somebody I bounce everything off. He probably knows more about me than I do about myself, to be honest, and just having him there is a just huge calming influence on me."

Playing three rounds with Woods in November's Masters also gave him a blueprint to the ideal way to play the course, and given the state of his game, he sees nothing but good things ahead.

"I genuinely do," he said. "I am very happy with where my game is at and very comfortable and confident. 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 that."

As for the Woods blueprint to Masters glory — staying out of trouble, taking care of the par-fives and minimising risk — he hopes he needs it.

"It's way easier said than done," he said. "When you are in the heat of the battle out there, it's quite difficult to do certain things at certain times. But I did learn a bit from the way he went about his business.

"Hopefully, I get to use it and hopefully, I get to a stage where I need to pick from that this week when we are at the business end of the tournament, and I have a chance to do something good."

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