Shane Lowry opens with a 78 on an unhappy return to Augusta
‘You shoot 78 in the first round and you wonder what’s the point of being here?’
Shane Lowry struggled to a 78 in his opening round at Augusta National. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
The handshakes on the first tee, one green-jacketed member after another pressing the flesh with him, didn’t predict the tortured journey that lay ahead for Shane Lowry.
All of those niceties, his name announced to a gallery that included a potpourri of GAA jerseys, the ubiquitous Kerry ones, along with those of Kilkenny and Dublin, brought a swift mood shift to the darker side as Lowry’s opening tee shot down the first hole veered right of the fairway bunker, clipped a branch from one of the towering pine trees and ricocheted inwards where it nestled down on the straw.
Welcome back to Augusta National, Mr Lowry!
Or not so welcome. “It was kind of like a comedy of errors around the middle of the round. I just kept on making mistake after mistake,” Lowry would later testify, after an opening round 78, six-over-par.
A missed fairway with the opening tee shot hardly represented the end of the world. And, upon reaching his ball, Lowry - the colourful shark of his new Greg Norman apparel moving with his breath as he contemplated what to do next - wondered which option was the right one. To play a low shooter through a small gap in the trees and try to make the front of the green; or to take the safer option of pitching back out onto the fairway.
“Stand real still, statue time,” bellowed a marshal as Lowry, arms folded across his chest, assessed his option. Those spectators gathered in a horseshoe behind him did what they were told, afraid to move for fear of a cold stare or worse from the enforcer.
The temptation for the player was to make the brave, aggressive play through the gap. Reality, though, was brought to him a voice just above a whisper from his caddie, Brian “Bo” Martin. “Take your medicine, you know what I mean?” said the bagman, and Lowry nodded and switched clubs and pitched back out to the fairway.
He was off and running in this, his fourth appearance at the Masters, but it was a stuttering start. Hitting a speed bump straight away can stall things before you can ever getting going and Lowry’s subsequent pitch spun back to 18 feet, his par save putt then refusing to drop. A bogey for starters, and the fare afterwards wasn’t altogether appetising either.
Lowry’s round featured just one birdie - an 18-footer on the third - to go with an unpalatable seven bogeys. A failure to get up and down from the fringe of the ninth green left a sour taste in his mouth as he headed to the 10th tee and there would be no comfort found in the homeward journey of 40 strokes that included a three-putt (for par) on the 15th where he’d found the green in two and then a water ball on the Par 3 16th that seemed to sum up his difficult day.
“It is the hardest course in the world when it is getting away from you because you can’t see yourself, hitting good shots to 30 feet and you have a putt with 10 feet of break. Look, I tried my best. I can’t put my finger on it right now but I just have to go out tomorrow and shoot a good score and see what happens,” said Lowry who, in fairness, provided some mature reflection on his round after signing his scorecard.
He added: “I felt I was going great in practice when I was going out there it just didn’t happen. Everyone talks about the Masters to you . . . it almost gets annoying when you are on the border of getting in and people annoying you about it.
“Then you come here and shoot 78 in the first round and you wonder, ‘what’s the point of being here?’ I think I put too much pressure on myself to get here and then I put too much pressure on myself when I get here to try and do well. It is all internal in my own head, so I just need to relax and let the golf take care of itself.”