Michael Hoey was in seventh heaven as he ended months of “torture” with a brilliant finish in Killarney.
The Ulsterman, 31, was struck down by a mystery virus earlier this season and forced to take six weeks off.
But he confirmed his return to top form by closing with a 67 to take seventh place and pocket a cool €90,000 after a great week for the Irish.
Hoey beamed: “For me that’s massive. I’m just happy not to be tortured. The long game has been great for these last two weeks. I need a couple of weeks off now but I take a lot from this.”
Darren Clarke showed he’s close to doing something big despite finishing with a pair of bogeys for the second day in a row.
Tied 12th after a 69, he can’t wait to get back to Whistling Straits for the US PGA in two weeks.
Clarke said: “This was an important week for me. I played well enough but didn’t shoot the scores to match. But I have the US PGA coming up and hopefully I can go there and avoid the mistakes I made this week.
“I am really pleased with my golf. I left an awful lot of shots out there this week but I am happy and I can’t wait to get out and play again.
“I do feel something good coming. I am making the chances but just not taking them. All in all I have come a long way from where I was in Paris a month ago.”
Paul McGinley hit a 70 to share 14th and while he was disappointed not to grab his first top 10 for can’t wait for the Irish Open to come back to Killarney.
McGinley: “Overall it’s been a great week and a great Irish Open. Great crowds, terrific golf course and a great town to be in.
“I think the Irish Open is back where it belongs and it felt great to be in contention again.
“I’m a little bitter than I didn’t get a top 10 but there’s a lot to look forward to with the Ryder Cup coming up.”
Defending champion Shane Lowry went all out for glory but slipped to tied 21st after a 72.
Far from downbeat after a closing birdie, Lowry said: “I wasn’t going out there to finish top 10. I was going out there to try and win and I just went for a few pins, missed them in the wrong spots and made bogeys.
“That’s the way things go. It’s been a great week. I had chills walking up 18 with Michael Hoey. It was nearly as good as the Open in St Andrews.”
US Open Graeme McDowell confessed that he needs to sit down with Padraig Harrington next week to discuss how to deal with winning your first major.
Tied 31st after a level par 71, McDowell said: “I told Padraig I was struggling with it all a little bit, and it’s been tough to keep my focus, and he said, “Welcome to my world. We’ll have that conversation over dinner.”
“I’m looking forward to that. It’s difficult. You dream of achieving these things but dealing with them is another thing but it’s good problems to have and you know, frustrating, like I said.”