Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Kevin Sutherland were heading for a sudden-death shoot-out at The Barclays as the first FedEx Cup play-off of the year reached a tense climax at Ridgewood Country Club.
Singh, playing in the last group of the day alongside overnight leader Kevin Streelman, had a chance to win the tournament but missed a 17-foot putt to tie in regulation with Garcia and Sutherland at 276, eight over par for the tournament in New Jersey.
Streelman, Paul Casey, Ben Curtis and Mike Weir also had at least a share of the lead at one or more points on a nervy last day.
Garcia, Casey, Weir and Singh had begun the last day one stroke behind PGA Tour rookie Streelman at eight under par on the par-71 course.
Two weeks after his bid for a maiden major victory at the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills was thwarted over the final round by Padraig Harrington, the Spaniard birdied the third hole to take the lead as Streelman bogeyed his opener.
With 22 players starting the day within four shots of the lead, however, the tournament was wide open.
England’s Casey joined Garcia in the lead with a birdie at the third, only to three putt for the first time this week at the next hole and return to his starting point.
Then Weir birdied the fifth while Streelman did likewise at the sixth to create a three-way lead, only for Garcia to bogey the eighth.
The yo-yo nature of the events then saw Garcia birdie the 10th, Streelman bogey eight and Weir drop a shot at the ninth to leave the Spaniard back in front with eight holes to play at eight under, one shot ahead of six players.
Sutherland started his run from five under and birdied his first two holes, before his only bogey of the round at the par-three 10th. He recouped the shot at the 13th and joined leader Garcia at eight under with a birdie at the 16th.
Garcia, who won the tournament in 2001 and 2004 at Westchester Country Club, began to show all-too-familiar signs of the back-nine wobbles that were his undoing at Oakland Hills as his approach shot at 16 found a bunker and he missed a 12-foot birdie putt to leave Sutherland as outright leader.
The nerves, though, were contagious as Sutherland overshot the green on 17 but scrambled for par, while Garcia flirted with the greenside bunker on the left side of the 17th green before running out the back and salvaging his hopes with a chip out of the rough to within inches to also save par.
Sutherland again had go into rescue mode on 18 after driving wide right and then seeing his next shot land on an upward slope between the green and a bunker in the rough. But he chipped to four feet and finished with a 68 and a share of the lead.
A play-off came closer to fruition when Garcia followed him up 18 and parred for a closing 70.
Now it was a question of how many would join them in the play-off, Singh with a birdie at 17 to take co-leadership.
Streelman was not out of it either after a birdie at 17 to move to seven under with one to play.
Singh had a 16ft 7ins putt to win, Streelman a 16ft 3ins putt to make the play-off if the Fijian failed.
Streelman went first despite being closer to the hole and just missed left of the hole for a 72 and seven-under finish.
Curtis, who made a late run for the USA Ryder Cup team with his tie for second alongside Garcia at Oakland Hills, birdied the third, seventh and 11th holes at Ridgewood and joined Garcia at eight under with another birdie at the 14th before a bogey at the 16th sent him back to seven under on the way to a 68, tying with Australia’s Mathew Goggin who had made steady progress from three under with a 67 for his second bogey-free round of the weekend and a share of fourth place.
Early rounds of the day belonged to Scotland’s Martin Laird and Americans Justin Leonard and Nicholas Thompson, who each shot last-day 67s to move to six under and a tie for seventh place with Streelman, Weir and Casey, who ended with a flourish and a birdie at the last thanks to a 22-foot putt that gave him a closing, one-over 72 .