CROMWELL, Conn. — Ken Duke needed 187 starts on the PGA Tour to get his first win, securing it at a tournament that is building a reputation for such breakthroughs.
The 44-year-old journeyman made a 21/2; foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to beat Chris Stroud at the Travelers Championship.
Stroud, who also was looking for his first title, had chipped in from 51 feet on the 18th hole, to get to 12-under par and force the playoff.
But Duke made the better approach shot on the second extra hole, bouncing his ball in front of the flag and rolling it close.
"Yeah, it's been a long time," said Duke, who turned pro in 1994." I've been on the Canadian tour, the mini tours, Asian Tour, South American Tour, all of them; Web.com, and it's just great to be a part of this big family on the PGA Tour."
Duke, who came in ranked 144th in the world, is the sixth golfer in eight years to get his first PGA Tour win here, joining J.J. Henry (2006), Hunter Mahan (2007), Bubba Watson (2010), Fredrik Jacobsen (2011) and Marc Leishman last year.
Canadian Graham DeLaet finished a stroke back in third place with a 269. Watson finished fourth, two shots behind, after making a six on the par-3 16th hole.
"You gotta believe in yourself in everything you do," Duke said. "That's why those guys at the top are winning week in, week out because they believe they can do it. It's kind of one of those things once you finally do it it might come easier the next time. That's kind of the way I feel."
Duke wouldn't have been in position to win at all had luck not intervened on the 10th hole, when his ball ricocheted off a tree and onto the green to about 5 feet from the pin, allowing him to make birdie.
After a 17-foot birdie putt on the next hole, he made a 45-footer on the 13th hole, a shot that looked as though it might go past the hole to the right, before falling in.
He battled Watson for the lead down the back nine, until the former Masters champion found trouble on the 16th.
Watson put his drive into the water and put his next shot over the green.
He finished two strokes back in fourth place.
"The wind affected the first shot, and the wind didn't affect the next shot," Watson said. "I flew it three feet past the hole, which you can't do right now because the greens are so firm."
Duke looked as though he had the tournament sewn up after saving par on 18, despite a tee shot that went well right and onto a hill, and a second shot that went just over the green. He used a putter to put the ball within 2 feet, then sank the putt as the crowd roared for what they thought was a winning shot.
It looked even more secure when Stroud's second shot hit near the stick, but then rolled well off the green. That just set up the dramatic chip shot.
Stroud hit his tee shot over the cart path and 94 yards from the hole on the first playoff hole, while Duke's first shot jumped out of a fairway bunker and into the rough.
Duke bounced his second shot onto the green. Stroud's went into a greenside bunker.
Stroud chipped to 8 feet but had to watch as Green almost sank a long putt that would have ended it.
The two both struck the ball well on the second playoff hole, but Stroud missed a 25-foot birdie putt, and Duke made his short putt.
"I had three shots from 94 yards on 18, the exact same yardage, and I could not figure out a way to stop that ball," Stroud said. "Regulation, luckily, I chipped it in."
Watson, Charley Hoffman and DeLaet began the day tied for the lead, but 21 other players were within five strokes.
Webb Simpson shot a 65 to finish at 271, then headed home immediately after his round despite being just a stroke behind the leaders at the time. He said he knew the score wouldn't be good enough to win.
"I'm itching to get to my family, so I'm going to head to the airport," he said.
At Rogers, Ark., world No. 1 Inbee Park sank a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole against So Yeon Ryu, capping her final-round rally and winning the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.
The victory is the second straight for Park, who won the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, and the fifth of the year for the South Korean star. She now has seven wins in her last 23 starts.
Park began the day two shots back of a group of four leaders, but she vaulted to the top with three straight birdies on the front nine.
Park and Ryu finished the tournament tied at 12 under, one shot ahead of Mika Miyazato. It's the second straight year Miyazato has finished as the runner-up.
At Munich, Ernie Els won the BMW International Open by one shot for his 28th European Tour title. He closed with a third straight 3-under 69 to finish at 18-under 270 on the Eichenried Golf Club course. Els was in front after the first and second rounds and entered the last day as part of a three-way lead.
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark shot a 69 and finished a stroke back. Alexander Levy of France had a 71 and was another stroke off the pace for his best result.
Els is a two-time winner at both the U.S. Open and British Open. He is the first South African to win the BMW International in the competition's 25th edition.
At Glenview, Ill., Craig Stadler birdied four of the first six holes, then hung on to win the Encompass Championship by one stroke over Fred Couples by sinking a par-saving 12-foot putt on the final hole.
Stadler's eight years and almost nine months between victories is the longest stretch in Champions Tour history. J.C. Snead had gone almost seven years between titles from 1995 to 2002.
Stadler shot 1-under-par 71 at North Shore Country Club to finish at 13-under 203. Couples' final-round 66 put him at 12 under, but he bogeyed the final hole.
Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer, David Frost and Jeff Sluman were among seven players tied for third at 205.
Stadler hadn't scored an individual top-10 since tying for seventh in last year's 3M Championship. Working with teacher Billy Harmon beginning three months ago helped bring Stadler's game back to championship level.