Séamus Power interview: ‘I am not going to Augusta just to make up the numbers’

Waterford golfer feels his game is well suited to the unique challenge of the Masters

Séamus Power tells the story of one of his visits – as a spectator, or patron if you will (he's been there six times starting back in his university days) – to Augusta National to watch the Masters. A friend of his, Michael Newell, had come out of the public lottery for three one-day tickets to a practice round and Power, able to use his PGA Tour card status to avail of a ticket, joined them for the day out.

"One of the perks of being a member of the tour is what they call a limo service, it's a black SUV and the four of us jumped in the car and went to the Masters for a day and back home that evening. It was a bucket-list thing with Michael, who's a good buddy... It was a very, very wet practice day. It was that wet we actually left the course once or twice due to the rain, but it was still a great day out," recalled Power of that 2018 visit where they followed Shane Lowry around for a few holes and soaked it all in.

From being outside the ropes to being one of those elite players inside tells its own tale of how far Power has come in the meantime. He has jumped up the official world rankings like a kid let loose on a ladder at an indoor play zone. At the time of that busman’s holiday visit four years ago, he was ranked 340th.

My game does feel good, it is in good form. So, yes, I am going with very high hopes

This time last year, he was ranked 463rd and his next tournament would be the MGM Resorts Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour where a top-10 finish gave him a confidence boost and a month later, having qualified for the Byron Nelson on the PGA Tour, another top-10 bounced him into another event and onwards to a breakthrough win on the circuit at the Barbasol Championship. Career-changing; and life-changing.

The Waterford man's performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay (in firstly advancing out of the group phase and on to the quarter-finals) ensured he would remain inside the world's top 50 to earn an invitation to play the Masters, confirmation of which came via email on Monday and then followed up with the real deal by courier.

Heading into his first Masters – and, indeed, first appearance in any Major of his career – Power is riding high at a career best 41st in the world and going there to enjoy the experience as a first-time contestant but also with the ambition to impact.

“It is one of those ones you wait to see how the course is, but I have always thought the course would fit my game pretty well just from seeing it and hearing guys talking about it. My game does feel good, it is in good form. So, yes, I am going with very high hopes. It is obviously great to be a part of it but the real fun is going to be trying to get yourself in a good position going into Sunday.

“My goals are going to be high for the week. You never quite know about a course but I have always thought my game matches up well. I have always preferred to putt on quick greens. I have always putted well on slopier greens. I’ve a good short game and I hit it long enough to be okay. I can shape it both ways if I need to.

"Some of it is going to be waiting and seeing. I have never played a Major, never played Augusta, so this is something I guess that will play out itself. But inner confidence is high and I am definitely not going there to make up one of the 91 guys, it is going to be all business once I get there and looking forward to seeing how my game matches up against that course.”

Initially Power had planned to travel to Augusta from his Las Vegas home on the Sunday but, after getting some advice from Lowry, who suggested Sunday would be a good day to get in a quiet practice round, changed the arrangements to get to the course a day earlier.

I am getting to play with better and better players. I had played with Tyrrell Hatton a few weeks before (playing him in the matchplay). I played with Dustin (Johnson) weeks before

A few weeks back when Power was named as the new touring professional for The K Club, he took some timeout to play a few holes virtually at the resort’s K Golf World and, from also walking it as a spectator, and from watching for years on television, there is the sense that he already knows it, that it is about getting acquainted.

“I think it is like any tournament. Sometimes a course just fits your eye and fits you game, and I feel like it is going to do that for me. Obviously, it is a big ask to go there, an Irish person has never won it, but I have never going into a tournament not at least planning on having a chance to win on Sunday. I know it’s a Major. I know it’s Augusta. That (approach) is not going to change for next week.”

Such an approach has served Power especially well over the past year. One of the fringe benefits he discovered of his win in the Barbasol last July – where he beat JT Poston in a play-off – was that, apart from solidifying his tour status for two years, much better pairings came his way as a tournament winner.

"Yeah, one of the coolest things I didn't realise is that following my win last year, and with my improved draw at each tournament, I am getting to play with better and better players. I had played with Tyrrell Hatton a few weeks before (playing him in the matchplay). I played with Dustin (Johnson) weeks before.

"When you play alongside them, it kind of humanises them. Sometimes you see these guys and like, ‘he’s world number one’, and you think he is never going to hit a bad shot. But then you play with them, they are like the rest of us as they can make mistakes like the rest of us.

“The thing is, though, they recover better and don’t make as many mistakes. They’re still golfers and realising that helps a lot, and it has made me realise I do belong. I’ve been on tour long enough, and I’ve watched guys come and go, and the gaps aren’t that big, so it is just a matter of getting it together.”

That Power has managed to get it together over the past 12 months or so is beyond any doubt: he's had three top-10s (including a third in the Sony Open) so far this year to go with six such finishes in 2021. He's 35 years old now, probably sick of the late bloomer tag that has been thrown his way at times. It's just the journey took a little longer, involved more detours and recalibrating to get to the promised land.

Back in his East Tennessee State University days, there would be college matches against Augusta State and one of the fringe benefits that came the way of the young dreamers was a ticket to the Masters which is why Power has been there so frequently.

“When we went there in college, that’s all were were talking about, ‘when we would play there’, that kind of stuff. You obviously always dream that you’re going to be there when you turn pro. You realise how difficult it is to qualify for the Masters. You have to win a PGA Tour event or one of the 500 (FedEx Cup) points events or you have to get into the top 50 in the world and it’s tough to do. The teenage me would probably say to me, ‘What took you so long?’ But now that I’ve got there myself, it is tough to get there and the spots are hard to come by.

“I am just delighted to be part of next week. And hopefully it won’t be my last one or anything like that. It’s just something I am going to enjoy and, no matter what, I’m going to take a lot from it and I am going to really enjoy the week with a bunch of friends and family.”

Irish in the Masters

"There's something iconic about the Masters, it is huge... for Irish golf, I think it would be incredible to see an Irish person putting on that green jacket on the Sunday evening. It would be special, I am sure, and give an awful boost to junior golf in Ireland and golf in general. All four of us are hoping we can do it." On what it would mean for one of the four Irish players – Power, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington – in the field to win a green jacket

"I'm not superstitious at all. I would love to be the first person to win both. If I am in contention I will definitely try and win the par 3. If not, I will probably let my brother (Willie) hit a shot on one of the holes and make sure we get it on camera so he can have it forever." – On the so-called Par 3 winner's curse

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