Four Irishmen left Firestone with a spring in their step and the man heading east instead of west was arguably the happiest of them all.

As Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy folded tents and set off for Chaska in Minnesota and this week’s US PGA at Hazeltine National, Shane Lowry was contemplating a New York stop-off before returning home with new hope his heart.

The Irish Open champion picked up the biggest cheque of his career in just his seventh start as a professional when he earned $36,000 (around €25,400) for finishing 77th of the 79 finishers on 20 over par.

The 22-year old Clara followed his opening 78s with pair of two over par 72s at the weekend but walked away knowing what he has to do to compete at the highest level.

“I had a decent weekend and overall it was a great week. I really enjoyed it,” Lowry said after rifling a 180-yard seven iron to a few inches for a closing birdie. “It was a nice way to finish but I know my good shots are good enough. It’s my bad shots that need to improve.

“I suppose I just put too much pressure on myself for the first couple of rounds. I wasn’t playing great and I have a little bit to work on when I get home.

“I just didn’t make enough birdies or hit enough greens. My good shots are very good but my bad shots are very poor - leaving yourself very difficult up and downs.

“I’d like to feel I am a better player from it. I will see (my coach) Neil (Manchip) a couple of times this week because my bad shot is going high and right and I don’t know where it is coming from. So we will work that out.

“Tiger and Padraig, when they are not playing great, they still know how to get the ball around the golf course. That’s what I need to learn to do. I have never putted on greens as quick as that before in my life. That’s what happened me over the first couple of days. I was just afraid of hitting the putts.”

Clarke, who turns 41 on Thursday, finished inside the top 30 on level par after a closing 69 and headed to the US PGA feeling positive about his chances.

“There is a lot of encouragement in there for me. I didn’t play my absolute best out there but shot one under,” the Ulsterman said. “Although my game is not quite where I want it to be, I am really looking forward to going to Hazeltine. The fact I have a little bit of form going to it means I am very much looking forward to it.”

McDowell equalled his lowest ever round at Firestone with a level par 70 and also headed to the season's final major in positive mood despite finishing in the pack on five over.

“I’ve made some good steps forward in my game this week – the full swing also, so I am looking forward to seeing Hazeltine," McDowell said. “I’ve heard its long and the rough is similar to here. I enjoy the tough tests. That’s what you want to measure yourself by. I’m feeling fresh and ready to go, really.”

McIlroy threw caution to the wind and shot 74 to finish tied 68th on 10 over, explaining: “I would have liked to have played a bit better but I thought it was great preparation for next week. I got a lot of good practice in and I felt as though I am playing okay though I still have to sharpen up on a couple of things.

“I need to hit a lot more fairways but I was also going for a few too many pins the last nine and that was because I wasn’t in contention so I thought ‘what the hell with it’, so I made a few bogeys.

“I feel I can go out there next week. It’s a big golf course, as well which should suit me, and probably a little wider than this place so that should suit me. So I should be able to hit a few more fairways and a few more greens.”