Rose already was feeling the pressure from watching a five-shot lead over John Senden shrink to one. He hit another mediocre shot that came up short of the 17th green, and while he faced a relatively simple chip, Rose thought about using his putter because it would eliminate any chance of a mistake.
"I knew it was kind of coming down to me," Rose said. "Either I was going to fritter it away or make something happen to win the tournament. That's how it felt. I nearly took the 'chicken stick' out there and putted it on 17, and I had a little chat with myself. ... I said, 'These are the moments where tournaments are won.'
"It was an easy chip, it just needed committing to, just not wimping out."
It turned out to be the right move.
Rose chipped in for birdie to restore his lead, then played the 18th without fear to close out an even-par 71 and a two-shot victory that sends him to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.
"It was just nice to have made the right decision and then execute it," Rose said. "That's a great lesson to learn that down the stretch. It does come down to one moment sometimes, and you just need to be ready for it."
Rose's third career PGA Tour win came at just the right time. He was at No. 34 in the FedEx Cup when he arrived at the third playoff event — only the top 30 from the 70-man field at Cog Hill would advance — and he moved to No. 3 with the victory.
There were plenty of consolation prizes to go around.
Senden played bogey-free, an amazing feat in the rain on a tough course, and closed with a 70. He moved from No. 55 to No. 9 in the FedEx Cup, and his spot in the Tour Championship effectively assures him a spot in all four majors next year.
"That chip-in definitely turned things around for him," Senden said.
Geoff Ogilvy had a 69 to finish the week with four rounds in the 60s. He had a decent chance of winning on the back nine, although it didn't take long for the Australian to appreciate the benefits that came with third place.
At the previous playoff event, Ogilvy had to made birdie on the final hole just to advance to the BMW Championship at No. 69. Now, he is on his way to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, and he moved high enough in the world ranking to assure himself a spot in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, where he has a home off the 14th fairway.
"I'm glad I played well," Ogilvy said. "I just holed some putts for three days, and hit the ball well today on the hard day."
Indeed, there was more than one cup at stake on Sunday.
Rose captured the most important trophy. He finished at 13-under 271 for the biggest win of his career, worth $1.44 million. The BMW Championship also was the final event for the top 10 players to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
Despite all the possibilities for the U.S. team, there was no change except in the order.
David Toms went from No. 10 to No. 8 with his tie for 10th. The heartache belonged to Bill Haas, who was tied for third at the BMW going into the final round. He was poised to claim one of the 10 spots until he posted a 42 on the back nine and shot 78, when a score of 75 would have been just enough.
"I knew if I played well, something good would happen," Haas said. "And I knew if I played bad, nothing would happen."
It's the second straight year that Haas walked away from Cog Hill feeling empty. A year ago, he finished 31st in the FedEx Cup by a mere seven points.
Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk nailed down the last two spots for the United States. The other seven who had locked up spots were Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
Nothing but the order changed for the International team, too. Its list is based on the world ranking. Ogilvy, who was narrowly No. 10, moved ahead of Ryo Ishikawa to No. 9. The other eight players are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang.
For the FedEx Cup, Bo Van Pelt nailed down the 30th spot by a comfortable margin over Martin Laird. Even so, there were some tense moments. Despite difficult conditions, Camilo Villegas made nine birdies and had the best round of the day at 66. But he made bogey on the 18th hole, walked off the green to check a scoring terminal and slammed his fist onto the table. Turns out it didn't matter.
The final round proved relatively flat, with only three players having a serious chance throughout the day. Rose was headed for a runaway when he birdied the sixth and seventh holes to reach 14 under, giving him a five-shot lead over Senden.
Back-to-back birdies for Senden around the turn, along with a bogey by Rose at the par-5 ninth, made it tight at the top.
Rose did well to save par on the 13th and 14th holes — this after a two-putt par from 80 feet on the 12th — before running into trouble on the 15th by hitting his tee shot into the trees for bogey.
Senden kept the pressure on him with pars, and twice had putts to take the lead that just missed.
Ogilvy, playing in the group ahead of Rose, ran off birdies on the 13th and 14th to get in the hunt. Ogilvy had good looks at birdie on three of the last four holes and failed to convert.
"It was a slightly flat feeling when you look back because I might have had a chance to win the tournament," Ogilvy said. "But who am I kidding? It's my best tournament in months."
Donald, the world No. 1 who opened with a 75, closed with a 68 and finished alone in fourth.
The best part for Rose was walking to the 18th green without worry. After all that struggle, he reached the scariest hole at Cog Hill and put together his best two shots for a simple par.
"Wobbled a little bit but managed to get it done," Rose said. "And it was an amazing feeling making two great swings at the last and being able to enjoy the walk up there."