HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- On a day when more players shot in the 80s than in the 60s, a player who grew up playing in the wind in Northern Ireland stood alone Sunday at the RBC Heritage.
Graeme McDowell beat Webb Simpson on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff between former U.S. Open champions at Harbour Town.
After McDowell bogeyed the final hole of regulation to let Simpson back in the picture, he made par on the same hole to defeat Simpson, who ran his 6-foot putt past.
The win is the first of the season for McDowell, who moves from 50th to sixth in the FedExCup standings, his highest ranking since January 2011.
Through the first 17 holes, it looked like there wouldn't be a need for a playoff.
Despite Harbour Town playing nearly three strokes over par on a windswept afternoon along Calibogue Sound, McDowell was flawless, making three birides and no bogeys to reach 10 under and a one-shot lead with one hole to play.
But McDowell's approach to the difficult 18th was slightly long, leaving him 44 feet to the hole.
The 2010 U.S. Open winner ran his first putt 12 feet by and missed the par save coming back.
That kept Simpson's hopes alive.
Playing two groups behind McDowell in the day's final pairing and standing on the tee, Simpson split the fairway and hit his approach to 20 feet.
His birdie attempt came up just short and he tapped in to force a playoff.
Both men found the fairway in the playoff, but Simpson missed the green right on his approach, while McDowell left himself 12 feet from underneath the hole.
Using his putter, Simpson nearly holed his next shot before the ball tumbled 6 feet past.
"I never thought a putt was in more than that one," Simpson said. "With a foot to go it was in."
McDowell's birdie try came up just short of the hole, leaving Simpson a chance to extend the playoff.
Simpson missed the putt, however, running it by the right edge.