POTOMAC (Maryland) • Kyle Stanley wiped away tears while pondering five years of struggle and doubt that ended on Sunday with his play-off victory over fellow American golfer Charles Howell to win the PGA National.
After both fired four-under 66s at TPC Potomac to stand atop the leaderboard on 273 after 72 holes, Stanley parred the first extra hole to capture his second PGA crown, the first coming 135 starts ago at the 2012 Phoenix Open.
"There was some doubt there for a little bit," he said. "It's no fun. You question whether you are ever going to make it back."
Tears trickled down his cheek. His voice cracked, then halted, as he spoke, seeking the right words to sum up his perseverance to sustain his career the past few seasons.
"I wish I didn't cry so much," he said. "It just feels so good to put the work in and see the rewards. I think that's where most of the emotion is coming from."
In the dramatic play-off on the par-four 18th hole, both players missed the green with their second shot but after Howell misfired on a 10-foot par putt, Stanley calmly sank his attempt from four feet.
"I'm thrilled," Stanley, who won nearly US$1.3 million (S$1.8 million), said. "It's very special to get a second win. I knew it was just a matter of time."
Howell, coming off a 10-week layoff with a fractured rib, has not won in 293 PGA starts since taking a play-off win over Phil Mickelson at Riviera in 2007.
"I'm a bit shocked," Howell said.
"I can't believe how well I played. I started hitting balls eight or nine days ago. I came in here quite rusty. I'm glad to be back and hopefully I can stay healthy."
Ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler (65) made a career-high nine birdies but the American also made two bogeys and a double bogey to settle for a share of third place with Scot Martin Laird (67) on 275.
South Korean Kang Sung (70) was in a pack sharing fifth on 276 that included Sweden's David Lingmerth (73), Australians Curtis Luck (70) and Marc Leishman (66), and Americans Ben Martin (65), Keegan Bradley (67), Johnson Wagner (68) and Spencer Levin (71).
Howell had some consolation despite failing to end his decade-old win drought, joining Stanley, Laird and Kang in qualifying for the British Open - the season's next Major teeing off on July 20 at Royal Birkdale.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS