Some heavy-hitters have just vacated the veranda terrace close to the oak tree: Pádraig Harrington, the scar from his surgery worn like a war wound on his neck, JP McManus and AP McCoy. All have drifted away to escape the incoming thunderstorm; then, proving their wisdom, it starts with a roll of thunder and some flashes of lightning, followed by a merciless pounding of rain atop the wooden roof.
Then, keeping his appointment on time, Shane Lowry – oblivious to the psychedelic zigzagging in the skies – wanders around the corner.
A day after his 30th birthday, some of which was spent hurling sliotars outside his rented house where one burst open on the roadway and another was lost in the bushes, Lowry has a smile on his face. He'd managed 15 holes of practice, alongside Martin Kaymer and Alex Noren, before the weather system rolled in and, his day's work done, he's happy with his lot.
This is Lowry's third invite to the Masters. The progress has been decent, if not exactly earth-shattering: a missed cut in 2015 on his first visit was followed by a tie for 39th a year ago. Much has changed since then. The week after the Masters he slipped away with his fiancee Wendy to marry quietly in New York and, last month, the couple welcomed baby daughter Iris into the world. Now, he has golf on his mind again.
You just have to prepare as best you can and feel like you're doing the best you can
Given the build-up to the birth, Lowry’s schedule has been a select one. It can work one of two ways. Either he won’t be sufficiently tournament-sharp, or he’ll be fresh. Who knows? Not him.
“ I’d like to have played more but obviously I couldn’t. I possibly would have liked to have played last week as well [in Houston] but that’s just the way it is. Listen, I feel grand, I feel like I’m playing okay.
“I always am a firm believer that you can’t really peak for any tournament. I don’t think you can say, ‘This is exactly what I need to do leading up to the tournament and I’m going to play my best golf,’ because at the end of the day it’s golf and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“You just have to prepare as best you can and feel like you’re doing the best you can. If I prepare as good as I can and step up on the first tee on Thursday, smack it down the first and see what happens after that, sure it’s all that I can do.”
There’s an innate honesty about Lowry’s observations. He wears his emotions on his sleeves, but he also tells it as it is. What he knows is that he has prepared well since getting the bus down from Atlanta airport on Saturday, whiling away the time with a quiz, with his brother Alan as quizmaster, and focused on getting his game right in the time spent on the course.
You're going to make bogeys on weeks like this and you're just going to have to get on with it
On Sunday, his birthday, he played nine holes with only his coach Neil Manchip and caddie Dermot Byrne for company. On Monday, there were packed galleries and 15 holes – all they could manage before the weather warnings called them ashore – and a sense that the course was suiting his eye.
“It’s there now, there’s nothing new to it. You know where to go and where not to go . . . If you get out of position you just have to take your medicine. I find it hard to do that sometimes, but this is a week where you just have to do it. You have no choice . . . you’re going to make bogeys on weeks like this and you’re just going to have to get on with it.”
In the mix
Lowry has been in the mix in the Majors, most ably in finishing runner-up behind Dustin Johnson at last year's US Open.
“Yeah, I gave him the kick-start he wanted,” quipped Lowry of that final-day drama at Oakmont, outside Pittsburgh, adding: “He is possibly the most talented golfer in the world. He’s the best at the minute. He just makes it look so easy, and he’s obviously putting well at the minute as well. What he’s doing, he is dominating the game and he has done for the last few months. But the top players have all had spells of that. When Spieth was dominating, everyone was like, ‘Oh there’s no one will ever be as good.’ When Rory was dominating, everyone was, ‘Oh, Rory is going to be Tiger for the next 10 years.’”
Lowry isn’t here to watch and admire others, though. He’s here for himself. To be the best he can be. To play as well as he can.
The closer. Can you win this week?
“No reason why not. Yeah, no reason why not.”