Shane Lowry's bid is blown away as Augusta shows its bite
Shane Lowry suffered a walking nightmare in the second round at Augusta National. Lowry had a Jekyll and Hyde experience over the first 36 holes, and he never saw it coming.
A battling, disciplined 72 for level par in Thursday's first round positioned the Offaly man nicely for a good run in round two. Any player who managed a score at level par or under felt it was worth maybe two or three shots better under normal conditions.
More of the same would have been very acceptable for Lowry. Instead, he finished the first 36 holes on seven over par after adding a 79 to his 72.
Typical Masters. Typical Augusta National. So easy to have the door slammed in your face just when you expect to stride confidently across the threshold of excellence.
On Thursday, Lowry's driving distance and accuracy stats were impressive on a day when strong winds and near gale gusts made Augusta a severe test of nerve and concentration.
Jason Day had summed it up perfectly, saying: "I feel like I've played 36 holes out there." But Lowry had good reason to be satisfied with his day's work.
His driving distance was 286 yards; he hit nine of 14 fairways, reached 11 greens in regulation and he took 30 putts on notoriously tricky greens in the windy conditions.
Most importantly, he appreciated the requirement to stay patient, particularly in weather that had the feel of a chilly winter's day back home.
It's fair to say he has relatively little experience around Augusta. Yesterday was only Lowry's eighth round in the Masters, but he did break 70 when shooting a 68 in the first round last year.
The World No.65 came into this week with just five events played, due to a combination of factors, not least planning a schedule to take account of the birth of daughter Iris recently.
Yesterday, the Clara man started with a bogey on the first hole. Ironically, the driving which had been so good the day before landed him in the bunker on the right of the first fairway.
From there he went on to bogey the hole, but that was not such a huge problem, given that Masters champion Danny Willett racked up an eight on the first.
Bunkered again on the par-five second off the tee, he ended up with a three-putt on the green, but at least that was for par.
Another three putts on the 12th. Bogey again. And so it went. A real tough day at the office and nowhere to hide.
Lowry's battle to survive looked unlikely to succeed after the first nine which he completed without a birdie to make the turn in 42 blows.
A double-bogey six on the 10th pushed him to eight over with eight holes to go.
At that time of the day, Charley Hoffman was coming back to the field, and the cut was predicted to come at seven over.
With the top 50 and ties making it through to the weekend, Lowry could still extend his Masters participation if he could find some inspiration.
There's no doubt he has the stubborn fighting spirit of the Lowry clan as shown by his dad Brendan in his days as an Offaly All-Ireland-winning Gaelic footballer.
Pride came into the mix as well. He may be an everyday guy with no airs or graces, but Lowry junior expects much of himself, and on this stage he wants to perform at his best.
At last, he carved out a birdie. It came on the par-five 13th where he hit the green in two shots and got down in two putts from 41 feet.
A regulation par four on 14. Still chasing. Hole 15, the par five. A birdie chance?
In his previous seven rounds at this hole, Lowry had scored four pars, one birdie and two bogeys, including a six on Thursday. A gust of wind caught his ball in flight and it landed just wide of the putting surface, but Lowry got up and down for par. He went on to take par at the last two holes.
Meanwhile, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson had a dreadful second-round 78.
Watson won this Major in 2012 and 2014 but has struggled here the past three years. He finished 38th while trying to defend his title in 2015, then 37th a year ago.
Watson never got on track this time, shooting 74, 78.
He opened with five bogeys on his first six holes and could not recover. Watson had a brief flourish, with consecutive birdies on the eighth and ninth holes.
Yet three more bogeys on the back nine undid that work.