Potomac - Kyle Stanley wiped away tears while pondering five years of struggle and doubt that ended on Sunday with his playoff victory over fellow American Charles Howell to win the PGA National.
After both fired four-under par 66s at TPC Potomac to stand atop the leaderboard after 72 holes on seven-under 273, 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," Stanley 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," Stanley 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 playoff on the par-4 18th hole, Stanley was in the right rough off the tee in the playoff but found the greenside rough, chipped to four feet and made the putt after Howell had missed his par bid.
"I'm thrilled," Stanley 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 playoff 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 can stay healthy."
Ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler made a career-high nine birdies but the US star also made two bogeys and a double bogey to settle for a share of third with Scotsman Martin Laird on 275.
South Korean Kang Sung was in a pack sharing fifth on 276 that included Sweden's David Lingmerth, Australians Curtis Luck and Marc Leishman and Americans Ben Martin, Keegan Bradley, Johnson Wagner and Spencer Levin.
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 event teeing off July 20 at Royal Birkdale.
"Majors are really special so it will be really fun," Kang said. "I'll be fine with the wind, but I'm not really used to that links-style course."
"To play it anytime is special," Laird said. "It's my favourite tournament."
It'll be Howell's first major start since the 2015 PGA Championship and Stanley's first major since the 2013 PGA.
"British Opens are a lot of fun," Stanley said. "You have to get creative and play a non-technical style of golf I think I play really well."
Stanley, who lost his only other PGA playoff in 2012 at Torrey Pines, prevailed after a back-nine shootout that had 12 leaders within three strokes.
Stanley opened with a bogey but began a run of three birdies in four holes at the fifth, sinking 10-foot putts at six and eight. He added a three-foot birdie putt at the par-5 10th and a tap-in birdie at 14.
Howell grabbed a share of the lead by sinking a 27-foot eagle chip at 14, the 299-yard hole that surrendered the most eagles of any par-4 hole on tour this year.
Fowler was foiled by a botched chip and a poor putt to double bogey 14, the week's easiest hole.
"Making nine birdies is a really good thing because it's hard to give yourself those opportunities," Fowler said.
Nick Watney matched the course record of 64 set by US compatriot Russ Cochran in 2010.
"There was nothing groundbreaking, no ah ha moment," Watney said. "I was doing a lot of good things. Today it all came together."
Top scores after Sunday's final round of the US PGA National (par-70, USA unless noted, Stanley won with par on first playoff hole):
273 - Kyle Stanley 70-70-67-66, Charles Howell 71-69-67-66
275 - Rickie Fowler 70-72-68-65, Martin Laird (SCO) 67-72-69-67
276 - Ben Martin 68-73-70-65, Marc Leishman (AUS) 66-72-72-66, Keegan Bradley 71-68-70-67, Johnson Wagner 66-71-71-68, Kang Sung (KOR) 66-69-71-70, Curtis Luck (AUS) 68-71-67-70, Spencer Levin 70-70-65-71, David Lingmerth (SWE) 65-65-73-73
277 - Nick Watney 72-70-71-64, Bill Haas 69-70-71-67, Jason Gore 69-74-67-67, Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 67-65-74-71
278 - Bryson DeChambeau 67-71-74-66, Patrick Reed 67-72-72-67, Ricky Barnes 68-68-73-69, Kevin Streelman 68-72-69-69, Daniel Summerhays 66-68-70-74
279 - Kevin Na 75-69-68-67, Danny Lee (NZL) 70-68-72-69, Patrick Rodgers 71-73-66-69, Harris English 70-67-72-70
280 - Billy Horschel 70-73-70-67, Tyrone Van Aswegen (RSA) 72-66-74-68, Jason Kokrak 72-68-71-69