PORTRUSH native Graeme McDowell brilliantly eclipsed Webb Simpson in a gripping extra-time battle between two US Open Champions at Hilton Head to clinch his 10th victory as a pro.
McDowell's near-perfect two-under-par 69 left him tied on nine-under with Ryder Cup rival Simpson (71), two ahead of Luke Donald and Kevin Streelman.
The Ulsterman clinched victory at the RBC Heritage, his first win on the US PGA Tour since the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, with a solid par on the first tie hole, the 18th, as Simpson missed from six feet for a bogey.
McDowell missed the cut in the race for the Green Jacket in the pristine, wide-open spaces of Augusta National but few are better equipped than McDowell when the going gets as tough as it did at Hilton Head yesterday.
The plaid jacket awarded to the Heritage winner offered pleasing affirmation of a big summer ahead for McDowell (33), maybe in the US Open at Merion or The Open at Muirfield.
As the rest of the field grappled with gusts of up to 30 mph, McDowell plotted a masterful course around this tricky Pete Dye lay-out.
Starting the final round four shy of Charley Hoffman's lead on 11-under, McDowell was patience and precision personified as he loped into the lead on 10-under courtesy of his third birdie of the day at 16.
Hoffman had tempted fate on Saturday night by urging Mother Nature to deliver on the forecast of high winds. The Californian (36) was almost whipped to death by his long blond mane but that wasn't the full extent of his discomfort.
Leading Simpson by two overnight, Hoffman struggled to control his ball on the front nine and then foundered on the back as a closing 77 left him tied sixth.
McDowell had been foot-perfect until it came to the penultimate shot of his round from the back fringe of the final green in regulation. Leading Simpson by one, he fatefully chose to putt instead of chip, the Ulsterman thundered his ball 13 feet past, missed the one back for par and left the door open.
Yet he slammed it shut in extra time to claim his fourth win on US soil, the most recent being his second victory at Tiger's World Challenge in Thousand Oaks last winter.
* IT'S known as 'Sudden Death' but it took a record-equalling nine extra holes and well over two hours for Raphael Jacquelin to polish off rising German star Max Kieffer at the Open de Espana.
The European Tour hadn't witnessed a play-off this long since Jose Maria Olazabal needed nine tie holes to beat Roger Chapman and Ireland's Ronan Rafferty at the 1989 Dutch Open.
Jacquelin (38) brought proceedings at Parador de El Saler to a conclusion by holing a five-foot birdie putt after Kieffer (22) missed from 20 feet.
It was their ninth trip up 18 in extra-time. Jacquelin and Challenge Tour graduate Kieffer both closed with 71s to tie on five-under with Felipe Aguilar after the Chilean's 70. Aguilar was eliminated on the third play-off hole.
Gareth Maybin finished with a spectacular 67, the low round on a blustery Sunday, to share 16th with Peter Lawrie (70) on one-under, worth €19,470 each.
A closing 76 sent David Higgins tumbling into a tie for 51st on four-over (for €5,850). Shane Lowry finished as he started last Thursday with a 78, leaving him 69th on eight-over for €2,850.
* ANGEL Cabrera shot a seven-under 64 in his native Cordoba to reach his second play-off in seven days. Unlike the Masters, Cabrera prevailed. Kerryman Mark Murphy shared 17th in this Latin-America Tour event.