Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Only Shane Lowry would celebrate a Viktor Hovland birdie on 18 like he had won a free out in a Junior B hurling semi-final.
Lowry’s family ties with Offaly GAA means team sport has been ingrained in him and the Ryder Cup is the perfect stage for him to release his emotions.
Sitting in the hot and steamy press conference room in Marco Simone, Lowry doesn’t hear a reporter’s question as he is completely engrossed in the Ryder Cup afternoon fourballs on the TV monitor, giving a fist pump just because Justin Rose drove into the fairway.
Immediately after, Matt Fitzpatrick holes an early putt for a half before Lowry finally turns his attention to the press conference alongside Ludvig Aberg, Tommy Fleetwood and his morning foursomes partner, Sepp Straka.
“Sorry, I was watching Fitzy hole a putt for a half,” he chuckles.
While not a serial winner on either the DP World Tour or PGA Tour, Lowry has long been known as the man for the big occasion and they don’t come much bigger than the Ryder Cup. Lowry showed glimpses of what he could bring to a European team in Whistling Straits two years ago, providing a spark to a team who were essentially beaten before they had started.
The Offaly man’s enthusiasm and passion is infectious and in turn, the Ryder Cup has injected him with a pulse that beats throughout the entire 12-man team.
After dire straits in Chicago two years ago, Europe needed to embark on a period of transition and Lowry has taken the mantle from Ian Poulter as the heartbeat of European Ryder Cup teams.
The 2019 Open champion said that he would try and control his emotions this week in front of a packed and partizan home crowd. Before his foursomes match has even begun he has already lost the rag.
Waiting to tee off alongside Straka, Hovland’s chip in birdie to win the 1st hole up ahead appears on the big screen facing the first tee grandstand. That draws the largest cheer of the morning so far and Lowry, the ringleader, breaks out in wild celebration.
“First tee. I stood on the first tee trying to stay calm, and I’m watching Viktor on the big screen and he chipped in, and I lost it. That’s what the Ryder Cup does to me,” Lowry laughs.
There’s hardly a greater sight in Irish sport than seeing Lowry enjoy himself, the passion he shows in the stands at Irish rugby or Offaly GAA matches is only multiplied by a million when it comes to a Ryder Cup. Whether it’s holing putts, dropping his putter and cursing at the camera, or even bursting with pride and adrenaline for somebody else, Lowry is all Ryder Cup.
Lowry doesn’t hide the fact that he is a ticking time bomb when it comes to unleashing his bullish passion. Tasked with easing Austrian rookie Straka into his maiden Ryder Cup voyage, he admits he didn’t do a very good job of that. But at the same time he is the perfect player for a rookie to play with because he will lift your spirits and help you reach a level you didn’t think was possible. Very much like Ian Poulter did in his pomp.
“Luke spoke to me during the week about keeping Sepp, he is a very easygoing, laid-back type of fella, keeping him like the way he is. I’m not sure I did a great job of that, but I feel like we brought each other around the golf course well today. And look, like I said, that’s the stuff that the Ryder Cup does to you.”
While his reputation may be scarred, there is no doubt that Poulter will forever by synonymous with the Ryder Cup. Even the great Seve Ballesteros, a five-time major winner is better known for his Ryder Cup exploits – he even has his own spot in the European dressing room this week.
Lowry already has a Claret Jug and may win more major glory going forward but he admits he wants to be etched into Ryder Cup folklore and win multiple contests.
“Why wouldn’t I be invested in the Ryder Cup? I’m European. I play professional golf for a living. This is where you want to be.
“When I finish my career, I think obviously I’m very fortunate to have a Claret Jug in my house, but you know, I really want one, if not multiple, Ryder Cups under my belt as well. I just love it.”
Lowry had to fend off strong criticism of his inclusion in Luke Donald’s European team and while he admits his pairing with fellow Srixon staffer Straka was a late one having played together in Wentworth, it looks a match made in heaven with the Austrian a perfect harmony to Lowry’s beating drum.
Despite sitting out the afternoon session, the Clara man can still be seen rousing the European fans, waving at them to make more noise and punching the European crest – like a certain someone used to.