Paul Casey came through what he called "one of the toughest battles I've ever had" on Sunday to end 20 months without a victory.
The man controversially left out of Europe's Ryder Cup side by Colin Montgomerie last year sank a closing six-foot par putt to take the European Tour’s inaugural Volvo Golf Champions on the Montgomerie-designed Royal Golf Club course.
2011 VOLVO GOLF CHAMPIONS
The European Tour's new Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain is being played for the first time this week.
After an amazing 23 changes at the top of the leaderboard on the final day, Casey came to the 429-yard last hole level with Sweden’s Peter Hanson.
Montgomerie had tipped Hanson -- "probably Europe's most improved player" -- to lift the trophy, but he went from rough to sand, then missed from 10 feet and with a bogey 5 dropped into a tie for second with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
"It feels fantastic -- the most important thing to me is winning and that was huge,” said Casey, at ninth in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, who finished at 4-under 68 on the day and with a 20-under total of 268. "The goal is obviously the majors, but how are you going to win major championships if you can't win regular events?"
Third in the world rankings before he tore a rib muscle practicing for the 2009 British Open, Casey moves back into the top six and will be fifth if Phil Mickelson finishes worse than second in San Diego later in the day.
"I'm going in the right direction," he added.
Course-record rounds of 63 from Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and England's Richard Finch flattered to deceive in the desert, because by the time the leaders came to the back nine a strong wind had picked up.
"We thought it was going to be benign, but we faced a course that was treacherous," said Casey.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Hanson's compatriot Johan Edfors and South African James Kingston all slipped up after holding at least a share of the lead, Clarke having bogey 6s on both the ninth and 13th and finishing with a double bogey.
Casey got his nose in front with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 15th, but had his only bogey of the last two rounds on the next.
Jimenez's chances were alive again when he birdied the last and Hanson bogeyed it, but Casey kept his nerve and got up and down from the rough by the green to squeeze home.
"I was lucky to have a putt to win,” Casey said. “Peter was phenomenal and didn't make any mistakes really until the last."
Not quite true. Hanson was also left to rue a missed three-footer on the long 14th.
Scotland's Stephen Gallacher took fourth place and Swede Robert Karlsson, the defending champion in Qatar this coming week, came in fifth.
Clarke tied for eighth in the end, with Ian Poulter 24th, Sergio Garcia 30th, Padraig Harrington 58th and Montgomerie 59th.
“It was just Peter and I coming down the last,” Casey said. “He opened the door slightly and I still had a very difficult up-and-down. I’m just happy I had that opportunity and I took it. I’ve played some very, very good golf the latter half of last year, and I was disappointed not to win,” he said. “I just wanted to put that right as soon as possible.”
Hanson was disappointed by a run of bad luck on the last hole.
“I was a bit upset with the lie on the last one really bad lie in the rough there off the tee and then in the bunker where someone didn’t rake it properly and it was sitting in a footprint.
“Tough day when you catch a couple of bad breaks. What can you do? It was just one of those days,” he said.