Palm Beach Gardens - South Africa's Rory Sabbatini held off fast-closing Yang Yong-Eun of South Korea on Sunday to win the $5.7 million Honda Classic and capture his sixth career PGA Tour title.
Sabbatini, who had not won since the 2009 Byron Nelson Championship, began the final round with a five-stroke lead and fired a par 70 to finish on nine-under par 271 and defeat Yang, who fired a closing 66, by one stroke.
"I'm just beside myself. It's fantastic," Sabbatini said of the triumph, which came after a battle with skin cancer. "An awful lot has happened since the last time I won. It's great being here again."
Sabbatini birdied the par-5 third hole for the first time this week but ended the front nine with a bogey that trimmed his lead to four strokes.
"You can't get too complacent," Sabbatini said. "You have to really still commit to what you're doing out there and focus in on what you're doing."
Yang and American Jerry Kelly each birdied the par-4 13th to close the gap to three strokes with five holes remaining and when Sabbatini took a bogey at 14, Yang was within two strokes but Kelly missed his chance with a bogey at 14.
"Y.E. played a fantastic round. He did what he had to do to put the pressure on me," Sabbatini said. "Lucky I had enough of a cushion that I didn't get too concerned about it."
That set the stage for a showdown in the "Bear Trap", the deadly 15th, 16th and 17th holes at PGA National.
"When I was behind by two strokes entering the Bear Trap, I thought that that was the area that I had a better chance, actually, to force a playoff," Yang said. "And that's why I focused on every shot. I was more intense on those last few holes.
"But I think Rory had the upper hand psychologically, also technically. He played an outstanding game and there's only so much that I could do. I give him all the credit, and that last birdie by him, that was huge."
Yang birdied the par-3 15th to climb within a stroke, but Sabbatini birdied the par-4 16th to boost his lead to two strokes
"There's a pretty good reason they call it the Bear Trap because if it doesn't get you one way, it's going to get you another," Sabbatini said. "It definitely caused some stress for me."
After a 28-minute rain delay on the 17th, Sabbatini parred the penultimate hole to lead by two heading to the tee at the par-5 18th.
"In Rory's case, apart from 14, he seemed really calm. Everything was perfect from tee shot, second shot, putting," Yang said.
"The pursuer, myself, was actually a bit more nervous. I commend him for being I guess so emotionally stable. I wasn't."
Yang, the 2009 Honda Classic winner, went for an eagle but settled for a birdie to pull within a stroke of Sabbatini.
"I did go for broke again," Yang said. "Unfortunately it didn't work out."
That's because the 34-year-old South African handled the pressure by sinking an 18-inch par putt for the victory and a top prize of $1,008,000.
Yang sought his first title since the 2009 PGA Championship, when he became the first Asian man to capture a major crown by becoming the first player to beat Tiger Woods when the US star led a major after 54 holes.
"I feel quite confident about everything when I go on the course," Yang said. "Overall, it was a very good week and it has been a very good early part of the season. If I can capitalize on this I'll have a better year than last year."
Kelly was third on 273 with countryman Ricky Barnes fourth on 276, one stroke ahead of American Tommy Gainey and two better than Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Americans Jeff Overton, Matt Bettencourt and Gary Woodland.
England's Lee Westwood, who would have retaken the world number one ranking by finishing alone in third or better this week, fired a 70 with five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey at the par-3 17th to share 29th on 284.
Leading scores on Sunday after the final round of the $5.7 million PGA Tour Honda Classic (USA unless noted):
271 - Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 71-64-66-70
272 - Yang Yong-Eun (KOR) 68-71-67-66
273 - Jerry Kelly 71-67-68-67
276 - Ricky Barnes 70-68-71-67
277 - Tommy Gainey 71-67-71-68
278 - Graeme McDowell (NIR) 73-71-70-64, Jeff Overton 69-72-69-68, Matt Bettencourt 70-70-69-69, Gary Woodland 71-68-68-71
279 - Luke Donald (GBR) 73-68-72-66, Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN) 72-71-69-67, Stuart Appleby (AUS) 68-70-72-69, Charles Howell 71-71-69-70
280 - Spencer Levin 67-72-73-68, Hunter Haas 70-71-71-68, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 68-69-74-69
281 - Justin Hicks 73-68-73-67, Marc Leishman (AUS) 72-72-69-68, Justin Leonard 70-71-70-70, Matt Kuchar 69-70-72-70
282 - Robert Allenby (AUS) 71-73-71-67, Richard S. Johnson (SWE) 72-71-72-67
283 - Nathan Green (AUS) 73-67-73-70
284 - Lee Westwood (GBR) 70-69-75-70, Fredrik Jacobson (SWE) 74-68-71-71
285 - John Senden (AUS) 70-71-74-70, Alex Cejka (GER) 71-74-71-69, Carl Pettersson (SWE) 70-71-75-69, Ian Poulter (GBR) 74-71-73-67
287 - Greg Chalmers (AUS) 68-72-76-71, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 74-70-76-67
288 - Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 73-73-72-70, Stephen Ames (CAN) 73-72-74-69
289 - Nick Price (ZIM) 70-74-73-72
290 - Andres Romero (ARG) 72-74-75-69
296 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 73-71-77-75, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 76-70-77-73, Ernie Els (RSA) 75-71-78-72
298 - Trevor Immelman (RSA) 74-71-77-76
WD - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 75-70-75