Hunter Mahan produced a brilliant back nine surge to win The Barclays in New Jersey by two shots.
The American is hoping to catch the eye of team captain Tom Watson to become one his wildcard picks for next months Ryder Cup, and a back nine of 32 would have impressed the skipper. His 14-under for the tournament represented his first PGA Tour title since April 2012 during the first of four tournament for the FedEx Cup finale.
The chasing pack
Stuart Appleby, Cameron Tringale and Jason Day all finished in a tie of second with Ernie Els, William McGirt and Matt Kuchar a shot further back.
Mahan began the day a shot behind Day and Jim Furyk, but after a birdie on the first hole he had a share of the lead early.
Another birdie at hole five to reach 10-under par seemed to give Mahan the momentum to push on, but five consecutive pars saw him get caught by a large group of players as the tournament threatened to go beyond the 72-hole distance.
Els only took 23 putts during his 18 holes and was clubhouse leader on 11-under after a five-under par 66, but Appleby soon reached 12-under after his 18 holes with five birdies in six hole from the turn.
Tringale looked like he'd go one better with 13-under after he birdied 15, 16 and 17 but the young American, looking for his first PGA Tour win, bogeyed the final hole to leave him level with Appleby.
Day and Furyk were still on the course looking for victory but it was Mahan who produced the best golf.
He birdied 11, 13, 15, 16 and, after a magnificent 22 foot putt, 17. This gave him a three shot lead on the 18th hole but still had nervy moments. He drove his ball to the right before chipping back to the fairway and then his nine iron found the grass by a greenside bunker.
Mahan was booking at a double bogey and a six would have seen Day draw level with a birdie on the last. But Mahan held his nerve putting a seven footer to earn a bogey and seal his sixth PGA Tour title.
Furyk had lead by one shot with 10 holes to play but ensured a torrid time during the back nine eventually finishing in eighth, four shots adrift.
McIlroy off the pace
Rory McIlroy, who had won his last three tournaments including two major titles, finished with a 70 for a share of 22nd, nine strokes behind the winner.
Mahan revealed his delight at winning the first the event and was pleased with the way he played.
"This is a FedEx Cup play-off event, this is where all the best players are and this is where you need to peak your game and play some great golf," he told reporters afterwards.
"To do it on Sunday like I did and hit so many great shots and so many big putts near the end feels great."
Ryder Cup ambition
Mahan has twice represent United States in the Ryder Cup but missed out two years ago at Medinah, and he will be hoping Watson was impressed with this victory.
England's Lee Westwood was one of 25 players who failed to qualify for the second event - the Deutsche Bank Championship - after he finished level par for the tournament.
However, fellow Englishmen Paul Casey and Justin Rose will advance with Scotland's Russell Know and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.
Although England's Luke Donald and Ian Poulter missed the cut in New Jersey, they are still both in the top 100 and progressed to the second tournament.