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hard and fast Shane Lowry on why this Masters will be very different compared to the last one

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Shane Lowry and Tiger Woods on the 15th hole during the continuation of the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Shane Lowry and Tiger Woods on the 15th hole during the continuation of the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Shane Lowry and Tiger Woods on the 15th hole during the continuation of the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Shane Lowry believes this week's US Masters will see a return to the traditional version of the event, as he predicts there will be no repeat of Dustin Johnson's winning score of 20 under-par from last November's tournament at Augusta.

The 2020 Masters was staged in the penultimate month of the year after the global pandemic forced tournament organisers to switch to a winter event, with the soft fairways and greens helping Johnson to post a record breaking winning total as he claimed his first green jacket.

Yet Augusta will be back to it's most threatening this week, with dry conditions allowing the course to offer a real test to the best in the game, with reigning Open champion Lowry relishing the challenge.

"It's hard to believe we're already back at Augusta, six months after Dustin Johnson strode away with the 2020 title. Two US Masters in six months," Paddy Power ambassador Lowry said in his online column.

"I actually travelled up to Augusta a few weeks ago with Lee Westwood and his son, who will caddy for him this week, for some practice rounds. That was the first time I've done that. A couple of members invited us up and it was nice to play Augusta outside the 'bubble' of tournament week. I'd never seen it like that before.

"The course was in unbelievable shape. It was firm, fast and ready for the this week's tee-off. Nobody's expecting -20 to be the winning score this time. It's going to play a lot more difficult.

"It was different playing Augusta in the autumn. The two-tee starts, the interruptions to play. I wouldn't use the lightning delay or the darkness creeping in earlier as excuses - that's part of the game - but 27 holes in one day at Augusta is a tough old slog. A different type of challenge.

"I have to remind myself that this is still just my sixth Masters appearance and it takes time to get to know how to play Augusta.

"Last November was a career-best for me (tied 25th) and the whole experience will stand to me. I was paired with Tiger Woods, made the cut for the second time and I feel like I'm figuring out how to play the place a little bit better than I used to."

Lowry was paired with Tiger Woods for the Masters in November and got a close up look at the great man putting his ball in the water three times on the 12th hole.

He admits the prospect of playing alongside Woods sent a shiver down his spine, but it was an experience he relished.

"I didn't have a sleepless night or anything but I’d be lying if I didn't say there wasn’t a little bit of first-tee nerves," he added, reflecting on his Augusta rounds with Woods.

"It was a pretty cool experience and something that I'll have as I grow older to show my kids and my grandkids. I'll look back on it with fond memories and hope he's back playing at some stage because competing with him was pretty incredible.

"The US Masters is one of the biggest tournaments in the world and it is such a big deal. It just seems to get way more attention than the other Majors.

"As a player, I'm just trying to produce my best form at it. My driving and how I tackle the par 5's will be key again this year.

"I wasn't in the best of form before the Players Championship at Sawgrass (finished eighth), but it's amazing what one good week does for your confidence! I went into that back nine at Sawgrass on Sunday and definitely thought I had the chance to win - and that was a nice place to be.

"The Honda Classic wasn't so good. I had a bad weekend, but was there or thereabouts for a lot of the tournament and despite being beaten twice at the WGC Match Play, I felt like I played quite well. Even from practicing last week in Florida, I'm pleased with where my game is at.

"There doesn't seem to be one stand-out contender going into the week. Dustin Johnson was in great form last year and justified it with an outstanding victory and there was also a lot of noise about Bryson DeChambeau. It seems more open this time. Obviously, Justin Thomas won the Players Championship at Sawgrass and played well here last season.

"The first page of the world rankings always contains plenty of players you're going to have to beat if you want to be crowned US Masters Champion. But that's the plan this week."

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