There is a leveller at the Masters for those outside the ropes, where even sporting superstars must mix with the great unwashed.
Take Luis Figo. The Portuguese maestro – once also of Barcelona and Real Madrid – was among those in the galleries, walking around and getting rather excited at times as he watched his friend, Sergio Garcia.
He also got to see Shane Lowry have a tough old day at the office.
A day after swinging the club with finesse and as if born to stroll the manicured fairways, Lowry’s challenge – certainly for the first 10 holes – was actually getting the ball to stick to the short grass. Instead, he found three fairway bunkers in his opening four holes, and then pulled a drive on the Par 10th hole.
“You just can’t do that around here,” admitted Lowry of finding bunker after bunker on the opening stretch. “I just kept on putting it in bad positions off the tee and you just can’t do that out there.”
That ball on the 10th was never found again, another one handed to him by caddie Dermot Byrne, and the resulting double-bogey six was scribbled onto the scorecard as if signing an exit clause to depart the premises.
“I feel like I played 26 holes like one of the best golfers in the world this week and I played 10 like one of the worst; that’s my week,” said Lowry, who – having started the round in tied-12th – slumped to a second round 79 that left him on seven-over par 151, and the resignation that the next time he would be hitting a ball in competition again would be at next week’s PGA Tour stop at Hilton Head in the Heritage Classic.
Lowry’s woes came early: a pushed tee shot on the first, which ploughed into one of the big, deep bunkers down the right from where he missed the green right and failed to get up and down. His tee shot on the Par 5 second also nestled into the pit of the bunker, his recovery a decent one down the fairway but a pitch to 10 feet finished with that putt rolling by, a par; then, on the third, another tee shot into a bunker (bogey) and, on the fifth, another tee shot into a bunker (bogey).
“Ah listen, it was just tough out there. It was hard. I mean it’s so hard there at the start, you’re just trying to make a few pars . . . . it’s not easy out there and the greens are starting to firm up as well. It’s very tough. It’s as tough as this course can play, I think.”
In covering the front nine in six-over 41 strokes, Lowry walked to the 10th tee knowing that the leakage had to be stopped. But it got worse, as a lost ball on the downhill Par 4 left him needing to perform the kind of surgery that approaches superhuman efforts.
But he tried, and tried.
He stopped the bleeding, and a birdie on the 13th provided a glimmer of light. He missed a birdie chance on 14. His birdie chip on the 15th somehow refused to drop. Further birdie putts on the 16th and 17th thwarted him. And on the last he managed to get up and down for a par, to get in on seven-over.
All the way around, himself and his caddie had felt seven-over would get them into the weekend for a fresh start.
But Garcia and Hoffman reached the midpoint at four-under to leave the safeguard of the 10 shot rule beyond them, and it was only on getting to the scorers’ cabin and seeing Lowry was in the 60s at that time that a weekend with no card in the back pocket was in prospect.
“I was pretty happy with that up and down at the last until I came in and saw the scoreboard inside and the scorers. I’m lying 60th at the minute. Now you never know, but the problem is with this tournament there are not enough golfers out there for the cut to go out that much.
It looks like a weekend off and on to Hilton Head next week.”
“Listen, I feel like I played the last eight holes as good as I can play. I’d like a run at the weekend to get a bit more experience around here as well, and another weekend at a Major. I’m not very optimistic, “ admitted Lowry who, in his mind, was already planning ahead to a regular tour stop rather than having the chance to contend at Augusta.