Shane Lowry reckons he can tough out the brutal weather expected at St Andrews and answer the big questions with The Open on the line.
The Clara ace, 28, is fancied to sneak up on favourites like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler and potentially steal the Claret Jug from under their noses.
It might be a big ask but he admitted that he’s not afraid of the bad weather forecast or the pressure as he prepares to tee it up in his second Open Championship at the Home of Golf today.
Lowry said: “I can understand why people are backing me with the form I've shown of late — even two 66s at the start of last week, I'm sure people were heading into the bookies to back me for this week.
“That makes me feel good about myself but what I can say, it doesn't mean anything to me. Does it put me under any more pressure? No. Its good to be up there, I suppose, with that mantle.”
Lowry was 10th in the Open last year and tied ninth in the US Open at Chambers Bay.
That’s two top 10s from his last four majors which makes him a clear player to fear, especially in tough conditions following his sensational 2009 Irish Open win as an amateur.
He said: “The winds we played in last weekend helped us to get used to that so I'm feeling okay and I feel I can deal with whatever the conditions throw at us.
"A lot of us have played this course a lot of times in tough conditions so it's not just me who has that advantage.
“But the one thing was when it started to get windy last weekend I felt like I started to struggle with the crosswinds a little bit but as the week went on I started to better shots, so that was nice that I started to get some practice then.
“I feel like I'm hitting any shot that I really have to hit, that will help me do well around here.
“I know I can play in any conditions, I know I can play in 30 miles an hour crosswinds. I know I can cope with stuff like that.
“Do I think other players would struggle in that? Yeah I think there are a certain amount of players that when the conditions are bad.
“But there is a few players when the conditions start to get bad that are going to struggle in that and I am able to cope in those conditions and hopefully I can cope with them this week.
“But no matter what the conditions, if you're not hitting the ball solid and hitting the ball well, not holing a few putts...I mean, it doesn't matter who you are...but I do feel that I can cope in any conditions.
“So I don't necessarily like playing in wind and rain but if it comes along on Thursday or Friday, or whenever it comes along, I'll be going out there with my head down and battling through it.
“There is a big mental challenge when you're sitting in the clubhouse and it's a 30 miles per hour wind and it looks like it's going to rain and you're about to go out there.
“You know you're going out there to battle and to hole six footers for pars and to get up and down from different places but I do feel like I can do that and cope with that.”
Lowry knows he is still a novice when it comes to majors but he’s not afraid to put his neck one the line.
Asked if he felt like one of the best players in the world without a major, he said: “I think we're getting ahead of ourselves there again!“
But he then said: "Do I feel like I can compete this week? Yeah, sure why not? If I give myself a chance to win it on Sunday afternoon I know I've got what it takes to win it down the stretch.
“There's no more I can say. Do I feel like I'm one of the best players in the world? At the minute, yeah, my game feels good. I feel like I've never played as well and I've never been as good mentally.”
Off at 7.49 am with Kevin Streelman and Retief Goosen, Lowry added: “It’s nice to get out early.
“Sometimes when you're late on a Thursday and you see what people are doing, it kind of changes your mindset.
“It’s just nice to get out there and do my own thing early doors, and hopefully shoot a score.”
Padraig Harrington is out late today with Liang Wen-chong and Marc Warren and excited about his “stress-free” build up to his 19th Open.
“I hear it’s going to be a bad day on Friday but I’m just hoping it’s bad in the afternoon rather than the morning,” Harrington said. “You’ve got to think scoring is going to be low as it has been in previous years. But you never know.”
Graeme McDowell reckons his local knowledge will help him compete despite his lack of length.
He said: “Knowing how this course plays in various wind directions is quite important. Looking at the forecast tomorrow, it’s going to blow hard out of the East and then switch to southerly on Friday.
“These past three days are not going to make for great preparation as we’re going to see a different test tomorrow. The Dunhill Links and previous Opens will stand guys in good stead.
“The key holes are from the seventh to the 12th — that’s where you make your score. From 13th tee in, it’s going to play tough especially with blowing in the next few days.”