Lucas Herbert’s deep desire to return to Augusta guarantees a full-on tilt at winning his first big Australian tournament over the next fortnight.
The world No.55 is acutely aware that big results at the Fortinet Australian PGA and ISPS HANDA Australian Open can earn him a coveted Masters invitation based on an end-of-year top 50 ranking.
The laidback Victorian has few familiar feels about the Royal Queensland layout he will play, from Thursday. Afternoon winds are a big defence for the riverside course. If it blows daily, you’d definitely have Herbert among the fancies.
His breakthrough PGA TOUR victory at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in 2021 was a masterclass in dealing with a brutal wind that unravelled many more senior players.
Tricky winds of 20-25km per hour are predicted at various times for all four days of the tournament and they are always felt more on the holes running along the river in the afternoons.
He’ll get that taste in Round 1 going off at 11.10am AEST with former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Western Australia’s DP World Tour regular Jason Scrivener.
Herbert just feels excited to be back playing a big tournament in Australia.
“I love coming home and coming home to play. It’s a non-negotiable with me (regarding playing the Australian summer),” Herbert said.
“I enjoy seeing my family and mates and the courses are more of a strategic test than probably what we are used to overseas.
“The Aussie public don’t get to see much of us (live). Golfers are a bit of an enigma who pop up on the TV on a Sunday night or a Monday morning on Kayo or whatever. It’s good to see all the fans in the flesh.”
Sixteen months on from his wire-to-wire victory at the 2021 Irish Open, Herbert still has the confidence from that week in his bones.
“From there, I just felt like, all of a sudden, whenever I get into a chance to win a tournament I was going to get it done,” Herbert said.
“That was kind of what ended up happening with the Bermuda Championship from the experience I’d built from the 18 months before that.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t been in that position to convert one since but I feel like I know exactly what it takes to go on and win a tournament when I do get back in that position again.
“I’ve probably got the relaxation part of coming back home out of the way with the Tim Tams, parmas and beaches (with two recent trips) so I think this year I’m a bit more ready to go in Australia.
“I would definitely like to be playing the 17th party hole here late on Sunday.”
The par-3 17th is a flick of a wedge at 125 metres but with captivating possibilities. Short-siding yourself in the sand, flying long into the treacherous hollow beyond the green and the undulations of the putting surface all bring bogey into play.
The TaylorMade Party Hole has a million-dollar incentive for a group of lucky golfers on Saturday afternoon. By entering here you have a chance to take your place on the tee for a life-changing shot at the pot.
Herbert hasn’t played the Australian PGA since a visit to the Gold Coast in 2019 when he finished joint 64th when he was ranked 191st in the world.
So much has changed for a player now with coveted status on both the DP World Tour and the PGA TOUR thanks to three wins.
He knows how valuable these weeks at home can be, not just for him but for youngsters soaking in greatness up close as he was lucky to do. In 2017, he played the final two rounds of the Australian Open with Jason Day at The Australian.
“I think it’s a great kind of bridge (to tours abroad). You get some of the guys like Adam (Scott) and Cam (Smith) back to play these events and if you get paired you just learn a lot,” Herbert said.
“You don’t realise how good you have to be – or maybe how good you don’t have to be – until you see it with your own eyes in front of you.
“I know playing with Jason at the Aussie Open in 2017, my team said that I matured and got the experience of two years in two days. It was just that helpful for me.
“That kickstarted my journey a fair bit in terms of giving me belief because I felt I competed with a top 10 player in the world all weekend.”
Two strong tournaments in Australia can bump Herbert closer to what he craves: “Obviously, (world) top 50 at the end of the year will get Augusta.
“I feel like my game is trending in the right direction so whether it’s at Christmas or one of the next cut-offs I will be playing at Augusta in April. I’d like to think that.”