'Well, it's been a dream really,' said James. 'It's a good tour to be on, and then suddenly to win here is amazing. I played tremendous. I don't know where such good golf came from, but I certainly enjoyed it. It's a great feeling.'
Jose Maria Canizares battled back to grab a share of the lead Sunday at the TPC of Michigan, but some bad shots down the stretch cost the Spaniard the title. Canizares finished alone in second place at 12-under-par 276. Bruce Fleisher was one shot further back at 11-under-par 277, while Bruce Lietzke followed at 10-under-par 278.
James posted his second straight round of 67 on Saturday to take a three-shot lead into the final round. The former European Ryder Cup captain has plenty of experience as a frontrunner with a large collection of victories worldwide, but James had to grind it out on a difficult venue to hold of for the win.
'I knew as soon as we went out, I heard how the greens were faster and harder and everything,' said James.
He parred his first two holes, but found trouble with a bogey at the par-5 third. James then drained a 12-foot putt for a birdie at the fourth and ran home a 20-footer for a birdie at the sixth.
James faltered again with a bogey at the par-4 ninth, but came back with a birdie at the 10th after his second shot landed within 10 feet of the hole.
The course caught up with James down the stretch, however. After his tee shot bounced down the cart path at the par-4 14th, the Englishman was unable to save par. At the par-4 16th, James had three feet left for par, but again was unable to convert.
While James was struggling over the closing holes, Canizares had problems of his own.
After four birdies over his first 13 holes, Canizares stumbled to a double-bogey at the par-4 14th to fall back to 13 under. He countered with a birdie at the 16th and tried to play it safe at the par-5 17th.
Canizares advanced his second shot down the fairway with a clear look at the green. He was unlucky with his third, however, and chunked it into the water protecting the putting surface. He double-bogeyed the hole and parred the last for a round of 71.
James regained his composure over the closing holes and safely found the green at the 17th. He two-putted for par before ripping his drive down the fairway at the par-4 18th.
The 50-year-old, who has dealt with injuries and cancer throughout his career, then dropped his approach to the last within 12 feet of the cup and took another two putts for par and a $375,000 first-place prize at the second major of the Champions Tour season.
'This is the biggest win of my career without question,' said James. 'To win a major, it's incredible. This is definitely the biggest win of my career.'
Gary McCord had a single birdie on the front before coming home with three bogeys on the inward half. McCord carded a 74 to join Dana Quigley in a tie for fifth at 9-under-par 279.
'Get a chance to do some damage and don't take advantage,' said McCord. 'I thought if I could just make anything I could put some pressure on them.'
Tom Kite and Jim Thorpe were one shot further back at 8-under-par 280.
Gil Morgan, who held the lead after the opening round, shot a 71 to finish alongside Hale Irwin, Allen Doyle and Mark McNulty at 7-under-par 281.