Gary Woodland missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole as Adam Scott won by one at The Barclays in Jersey City.
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Scott could only watch from the clubhouse during a dramatic finish as Kevin Chappell's challenge finished in a collapse, Justin Rose three-putted the 18th and Tiger Woods' late rally through the pain barrier fell one shot short.
But it was Woodland who had the best chances to win it only for his putting to let him down as he missed a string of birdie chances, the last coming on the 18th as he sought to force a play-off.
Scott kept his head while it appeared all around him were losing theirs, carding a bogey-free round of 66 as he moved up to second place in the FedExCup standings.
"I am really happy with my game," Scott said on CBS. "It was a positive to get back into the mix at the other majors and I am pushing hard to get another win - if not this week then I will try harder next week."
Rose had catapulted himself into contention with four birdies and made his way to the final green in the lead.
But it all went wrong as he three-putted and finished with a round of 68 to Scott's relief.
Woods had a round of mixed fortunes as he continued to battle back pain, at one point collapsing in agony after taking a shot on the 13th.
That hole was one of three he bogeyed on the back nine, appearing to end his chances, but back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th gave him a chance to tie it at the finish.
However, he could only make par as a 27-foot putt missed by around an inch.
"I had a chance," Woods said on the PGA Tour website. "I hit a good putt. I thought I made it. It was a little double-breaker and I thought I had it."
Graeme Delaet was the fourth man to claim a share of second place, having put together four birdies in the space of five holes at the start of the back nine as part of a round of 65.
Phil Mickelson had by far his best round of the tournament with a 65 giving him a share of sixth, but the final round was marked more by contenders losing ground than gaining it.
Matt Kuchar shared the overnight lead but a round of 78, featuring six bogeys including a seven on the par-four ninth, saw him drop all the way to a share of 19th.
Kevin Chappell dropped from third to 15th with a round of 76, while Jordan Spieth, David Lynn and Kevin Streelman also tumbled from promising positions.