Rory McIlroy left frustrated after giving himself 13 birdie putts in his first 13 holes but he made just one... from 11 inches
Rory McIlroy was left feeling blue on the greens as Justin Rose became world number one despite losing out to Keegan Bradley in a play-off for the rain-delayed BMW Championship at Aronimink.
The Englishman (38) went into the final round one stroke clear of McIlroy and Xander Schauffele on 17-under par and looked set to claim the title when he birdied the 16th and 17th to go the last needing a par for victory.
Bradley bogeyed the 18th and signed for a six-under 64 to set the clubhouse target on 20-under.
But while Rose edged ahead of him with clutch birdies at the 16th and 17th, the former US Open and Olympic champion came up short at the last, chipped weakly and lipped out from 15 feet for victory.
Rose then bogeyed the 18th in sudden death to lose out to Bradley, whose fourth PGA Tour win was his first for six years and his first since the ban on anchored putting came into effect in January 2016.
"It's so hard (to win)," Bradley said. "This is just incredible. It's been a hard road back, and this is just... I just can't believe it. It's so great."
Solo second was enough to see Rose edge ahead of Dustin Johnson and become just the 22nd player to reach world number one.
"That's obviously boyhood-dream stuff," Rose said of achieving a rare treble - a Major win, an Olympic gold medal and the number-one ranking.
"That is something I am incredibly proud of. When you talk about your career those are the three highlights and I now have another string to the bow."
Disappointed not to win despite moving to second behind Bryson DeChambeau in the FedEx Cup standings, he added: "I've been to the top of the game. That's definitely some consolation. I just wish I could have enjoyed the moment maybe.
"This just slightly dampens it. But tomorrow or the next day, the week after, I'll look back at this and think it was an amazing moment in my career."
Bradley and Rose finished a shot ahead of Schauffele, who shot 67, and former FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel, who signed for a 64.
But McIlroy was left to wonder what might have been as he played in a final group for the fifth time this season and had 32 putts in a 68 to finish solo fifth, two shots outside the play-off on 18-under.
The Co Down man gave himself 13 birdie putts in his first 13 holes, including seven inside 15 feet.
But he made just one of them - from 11 inches after a stunning wedge to the 10th.
Rory's day so far:— Brian Keogh (@IrishGolfDesk) September 10, 2018
1 15ft MISS
2 15ft MISS
3 19ft MISS
4 12ft MISS
5 20ft MISS
6 12ft MISS
7 17ft MISS
8 34ft MISS
9 7ft MISS
10 11inches MAKE
12 9ft MISS
13 8ft MISS
Still just 2 strokes behind.
His longest successful putt was an eight-footer for par at the 15th and while he birdied the par-five 16th, zipping a wedge back to just five feet, he simply ran out of holes and will go into the Tour Championship ranked 17th in the FedEx Cup standings after failing to get the win he needed to make the top five. McIlroy had the consolation of moving up two spots to world No 6.
A resurgent Tiger Woods also made it to Atlanta in 20th spot after a closing 65 left him tied for sixth, a shot behind McIlroy on 17-under.
Bradley's move from 52nd to sixth in the FedEx Cup standings was bad news for Jordan Spieth, who fell from 27th to 31st and failed to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
"I was in control of my own destiny and didn't have it this week," Spieth said after a closing 73 left him tied 55th on three-under.
As for falling foul of a PGA Tour policy that requires players to play at least 25 events in a season or to add a new event that they haven't played in the last four, he sounded unconcerned.
"I assume it will either be a fine or I'm adding some in the fall," Spieth said. "I don't know if that counts. I'm not sure."
He added: "I will obviously accept whatever fine it is and move on and try and add one every year but it's kind of tough."