McIlroy recovered from an early double bogey to card a closing 70 and finish 16 under par, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who had threatened to become the oldest winner in tournament history.
Furyk set the clubhouse target after a 67 that included two birdies in the last three holes, the 48-year-old – who is less than a month older than 2005 champion Fred Funk – hitting a brilliant approach to just three feet at the last. However, McIlroy bounced back from a bogey on the 14th with birdies at the next two holes to move back into the lead and safely negotiated the treacherous 17th and 18th to secure a 15th PGA Tour title after starting the season with five consecutive top-six finishes.
On his tournament debut, England’s Eddie Pepperell shared third place with Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas on 14 under, both players holing improbable birdie putts on the 17th.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who began the day in joint second with McIlroy, gave himself an outside chance of forcing a play-off with an eagle on the 16th, only to promptly hit his tee shot on the 17th into the water.
McIlroy said: “It’s very special. I’m playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep going with it.”