Matt Kuchar (Getty Images)
Matt Kuchar won The Players Championship at Sawgrass as Luke Donald narrowly missed out on returning to the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Kuchar headed into the day a shot off the lead, but played typically solid golf to hand in 70 and seal the biggest victory of his career.
The American’s effort was typified by excellence around the greens as he registered his highest score of the week following 68, 68 and 69.
Even when he did make mistakes, the 33 year old made amends, epitomised on the 13th, when a nine footer was holed for par following a brilliant first putt.
What followed was even better as, just after hearing the roar for Rickie Fowler moving to 11 under, Kuchar rolled in a 15 footer on 16 to move three shots ahead.
Zach Johnson showed similar resolve to par the 18th and tie Martin Laird, who had earlier shone in striking 67, in the clubhouse.
Their efforts - and those of Fowler and Ben Curtis, who finished on the same score - proved in vain as Kuchar held his nerve.
Having bogeyed 17, he was made to wait for a second shot after Kevin Na hit his first right.
That seemed to have little impact on Kuchar, however, as he delivered a par to seal the title and €1.32million to boot.
“It is such an amazing feeling,” he said. “It is really magical and special.”
Laird, ahead after the first round following a 65, was six under heading into today, but made his move with a hat-trick of birdies just after the turn.
The Scot had already picked up shots at two, seven and nine, yet it was a magical run in the middle that left him level with Kuchar on 12 under.
He went on to bogey the 14th, but responded with a birdie two holes later courtesy of a fine two putt.
Laird narrowly avoided the water after a poor second shot on the last, eventually bogeying to finish 11 under.
A frustrating finish did not detract from an outstanding round that was only bettered by David Toms and Donald, who struck 65 and 66 respectively.
Donald’s was the more important as he gave himself the opportunity to overhaul Rory McIlroy as World Number One by equalling the course record with a scintillating 30 on the back nine.
The Englishman required a top four finish to go past his 2010 Ryder Cup team-mate but ended up in sixth - though he can still take great pride from a simply outstanding performance today.
Donald started in solid fashion; a birdie and bogey ensured he remained three under par through the front nine.
However, a charge was to come; the 34 year old birdied six of the last nine holes, with his fine play being illustrated by an outstanding first shot on the tricky par three 17th.
“Suddenly the putts clicked and I got on a nice little run,” he said. “The wind direction was favourable and the greens were holding.”
Donald’s eventual disappointment means the battle with McIlroy and Lee Westwood, who hit a disappointing 77 today, will re-commence at the BMW PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club on Thursday week.
Further back, Peter Hanson, so impressive in the Masters Tournament, made 68 to finish five under alongside Germany’s Martin Kaymer.