With his 39 million Facebook friends and 24.4 million Twitter followers, pop superstar and golf nut Niall Horan will be one of the most popular people in the grounds during his second trip to Augusta National this year.
The One Direction star is big mates with lots of the players, notably Rory McIlroy, whom he caddied for in last year’s Par-3 Tournament (even hitting a shot, which found the water). We caught up with him ahead of his trip back up Magnolia Lane, to find out what it’s like.
Did Augusta live up to the hype?
It far exceeded expectations! It really is the most magical and special place and I enjoyed every second of the week. What were your first impressions? I was amazed by the place. I love the traditions of the tournament and Augusta itself. I was fortunate to meet members Tripp Rackley and John Carr, who have since become friends and every time you speak to them they have different stories and tales to tell. It’s hard to really put into words the aura Augusta National has. The course has a lot more undulations than it appears on television, too.
How scary was that shot in the Par 3?
It was intense. I wasn’t expecting to hit a shot, but Rory made me! I’ll get my payback on him at some point…
What was the highlight of the week?
Impossible to say. From driving up Magnolia Lane, to caddying in the Par 3 to meeting Arnold Palmer. Too many great memories.
Did you get much stick for your little slipup in front of the Sky cameras?
I did – but I’m not the first guy to fall at the feet of Kirsty Gallacher!
Did you walk the main course with Rory?
I walked with both Rory and Justin Rose, who is also a close friend. I also tried to see all the Irish boys to show my support.
Where was the best spot to watch from?
The course has many areas, but nothing beats Augusta Sunday when the closing groups walk up the 18th.
What was your favourite hole?
I loved seeing Amen Corner. You hear so much about it so was fantastic seeing that.
Did you get any souvenirs?
I think I went to the shop most days. I still use the Masters phone cover now.
What’s your favourite Masters memory?
Just watching it back home in Mullingar with my father when I was growing up. It brings back amazing memories.
Who’s your money on this year?
It’s so unpredictable now as the game has so many strong players and you saw that last year with how the No.1 spot kept changing. European golf is in a great place and hopefully these players will continue to inspire young kids to take the game up. That’s why I love what the Masters do alongside the USGA and PGA of America with the Drive Chip Putt Championship. To get more seven to 15-year-olds into such a cool sport will ensure we continue to have amazing talent coming through the ranks.
Check out his interview on Sky Sports!