For all the big moments in Graeme McDowell’s career, his résumé was short on PGA Tour victories.
McDowell relished what he called his first authentic tour win, defeating fellow US Open champ Webb Simpson in a playoff at the RBC Heritage Sunday at Hilton Head Island, S.C.
McDowell’s been at the center of some of golf’s biggest moments, from his rousing triumph at Pebble Beach in 2010 to capturing the winning point for Europe in that year’s Ryder Cup matches. He has six European PGA victories, too, but he hadn’t triumphed in the weekly grind of the world’s top tour.
‘‘This game kicks you more often than it gives you a pat on the back,’’ McDowell said. ‘‘It’s hard to win.’’
Not on Sunday for McDowell, who pushed forward on wind-blown Harbour Golf Links when his rivals were moving backward, unnerved by the 20-to-30-mile-per-hour winds that rattled the course.
He rallied from four strokes down when the day began to take a one-shot lead into the 72d hole. Then after he made his only bogey of the round to fall into tie with Simpson, he two-putted from about 15 feet to make a par on the extra hole that Simpson couldn’t match.
‘‘I guess the weather was what the doctor ordered. I needed that to get close to the leaders,’’ said McDowell, who earned $1,044,000 for the victory.
Blowers were heard throughout the day, trying to push off leaves, twigs, and other tree parts falling everywhere on the course. The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the area, warning of gusts up to 45 m.p.h.
McDowell, from Northern Ireland, had a 2-under-par 69, one of only three scores in the 60s among the 70 who teed off Sunday.
Simpson shot 71. He had a chance to win in regulation, but his 22-footer for birdie went 3 feet past and set up the additional hole.
McDowell acknowledged he was frustrated and disappointed after missing the weekend at the Masters by a shot. If he had made the cut, McDowell wondered if he’d have had the motivation to break through at Harbour Town. ‘‘It’s funny the way things happen,’’ he said. ‘‘I wouldn’t swap this for a top 10 last week.’’
Luke Donald shot a 69 to tie for third with Kevin Streelman (72). Jerry Kelly rounded out the top five after his 71.
Charley Hoffman, the 54-hole leader, ballooned to a 77 and fell into a tie for sixth.
Champions — Bernhard Langer added to his impressive start to the season by shooting a 5-under 67 in Duluth, Ga., to win the inaugural Greater Gwinnett Championship by three strokes. Langer (10-under 206) carded six birdies for his fifth top-three finish in six events, including two wins.
‘‘I've had very good starts before but this is exceptional so far. I don’t think I've ever had anything like this,” said Langer, who took control Sunday with a 40-foot chip-in for birdie on No. 10.
Tom Lehman, whose 67 included birdies on 17 and 18, tied for second at 7 under with Tom Pernice Jr. Pernice made a move with an eagle on No. 15 and added a birdie on 18 for a 70.
European — Raphael Jacquelin of France won a record-tying playoff at the Spanish Open, edging Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer on their ninth try at the 18th hole in Valencia.
Jacquelin made a 5-foot birdie putt to end the back-and-forth battle with Kieffer in what started as a three-way playoff including Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.
The only other European Tour event decided by a nine-hole playoff was the 1989 Dutch Open.