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Shane Lowry releases emotions and silences critics in win with Sepp Straka at the Ryder Cup

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Shane Lowry was punching the air in celebration before he’d even taken his first shot at the Ryder Cup.

Standing beside the first tee with partner Sepp Straka, Lowry watched on the big screen as Viktor Hovland — playing in the match ahead — chipped in for birdie from the fringe to get the Europeans rolling in what wound up being a record-breaking morning foursomes on Friday.

Lowry threw his right arm into the air and whipped up the European fans who were cheering in the giant grandstand around him.

This was always going to be an emotional day for the big Irishman, who was reduced to tears this week in a European team room bedecked in blue and gold with images of the late Seve Ballesteros everywhere.

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Lowry, the British Open champion in 2019, was not only carrying the baggage of a disappointing Ryder Cup debut in the Americans’ 19-9 thrashing in Whistling Straits two years ago. He also was out to prove a point following criticism in some quarters of his selection as a captain’s pick by Luke Donald.

Winning 2 and 1 with Straka could hardly have been a sweeter start, then, in a session the European team swept 4-0 for its best ever start to a Ryder Cup.

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“I was trying to stay calm,” Lowry said, “and started losing my mind on the first tee.”

It didn’t stop there.

He and Straka hung around after their match was over to cheer on teammates Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood in the anchor match at Marco Simone. Lowry almost ran onto the green at No. 17 when McIlroy stuffed his tee shot to 2 feet to ultimately clinch a win for Europe and a blowout in the session.

“It’s my first home Ryder Cup and obviously last time at Whistling Straits wasn’t the best experience,” Lowry said. “Out there today was just incredible.”

Lowry grew up playing team sports — he gets his competitiveness from his father and uncles and was with his family at an Ireland match at the Rugby World Cup last weekend — and enjoyed the role of being the experienced player alongside a rookie in Straka.

They knew for a couple of weeks that they’d probably be playing together in the foursomes and were never behind against Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa, going 2 up after four holes and 4 up after nine.

Lowry even enjoyed some luck of the Irish on the 16th when he pushed his tee shot so far right that he missed the water around the green.

The European pairing ended up losing that hole but Straka took advantage of Morikawa hitting into a bunker off the tee at No. 17 by finding the green himself. Lowry left his birdie attempt short, leaving Straka with the honor of rolling in the winning putt.

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“I wanted to give Sepp his moment in the Ryder Cup to hole the winning putt,” Lowry said. “It’s huge. We are off to a great start.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf