Jason Dufner two-putted from 60 feet for a birdie on the second playoff hole to defeat Ernie Els on Sunday and win his first PGA title in 163 attempts by capturing the Zurich Classic.
There was heartache for South African icon Els, a three-time major champion whose win drought of more than two years continues.
But there was elation for the usually stoic American at taking home the $1.15 million top prize from the $6.4 million event and snapping a career win drought that including squandering a late lead at the 2011 PGA Championship.
"It was a tough day. Ernie put up a good number," Dufner said. "It has been tough getting that first win out here. Six years now. It feels good getting the monkey off my back."
England's Luke Donald fired a 67 to finsh third on 271, two strokes out of the playoff but well enough to return him to the World No. 1 ranking, having lost it to reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy two weeks ago.
Els and Dufner each finished 72 holes deadlocked atop the leaderboard at 19-under par 269. Els fired a final-round 67 while Dufner, who led by two when the day began, shot a 70.
Both men parred the 18th to close the final round, Dufner missing a 10-footer for victory in regulation. They played the 18th again to start the playoff and Els missed an eight-footer that would have given him the victory.
When they played 18 again for the second hole of sudden death, Els found a bunker off the tee and left himself 18 feet for birdie only to watch Dufner roll his 60-foot eagle bid just two feet past the cup.
Els missed to the right and tapped in for par, then Dufner tapped in for a birdie and his long-sought victory, which comes only six days before he is to be married in Auburn, Alabama.
Dufner's most amazing shot was one that was largely forgotten after the closing drama, coming when he and Els were trading clutch pars on the back nine while sharing the lead.
After nearly hitting his tee shot at 16 into water, leaving it on mud with an alligator nearby, he hit his approach 45 feet from the pin and rolled a putt over a ridge and into the cup for an astonishing par that left him tied with Els.
Dufner, 35, has struggled to hold 54-hole leads in the past. He led heading into the final round of last year's PGA Championship but lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.
This time, Els was a playoff loser as he tried to capture his first title since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The drought kept Els from qualifying to play at the Masters earlier this month even as he battled for a victory in March.
The 42-year-old South African nicknamed "Big Easy" found the late going difficult in a city also nicknamed "Big Easy" but he battled a sore right hip and nagging tightness in his back to fight for the title.
Els birdied the par-5 second and par-4 fifth and eagled the par-5 seventh to share the lead at the turn. After Dufner began the back nine with a birdie, Els matched Dufner at the top at 19-under with a birdie at the par-5 11th.
Each man parred his way to the finish from there, Els doing so with great drama, including making a 10-footer at 12, a 12-footer at 14 and a 14-footer at 17.