Sutton became the 10th player to win the award since it began in 2000, when Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were the first recipients. It is given annually to a player who reflects Stewart's respect for golf traditions, his charitable work and presentation in dress.
His widow, Tracey, and daughter Chelsea, a senior at Clemson, were at the ceremony on the first tee at East Lake Golf Club.
Behind the grandstand was the 18th hole, where Sutton in 1998 saved par from a deep bunker to force a playoff with Vijay Singh, then beat him with a birdie on the par-3 closing hole.
Sutton, who choked up after talking about Stewart and his family, recalled searching for balance in his golf swing on the eve of the 1998 TOUR Championship, and only later realizing he didn't have balance in his life.
They had a young daughter and his wife was pregnant with twins, and Sutton said all he thought about was winning the tournament.
'I had to walk away from golf on my terms to figure it all out,' he said.
Sutton won 14 times in his career, including the 1983 PGA Championship in a duel against Jack Nicklaus and the 2001 PLAYERS Championship that came down to the wire against Tiger Woods. He was Ryder Cup captain in 2004, when the United States was soundly beaten by Europe and Sutton was criticized for pairing Woods and Phil Mickelson.
'To achieve at a high level, you have to lead a self-centered life,' Sutton said.
He last played a PGA TOUR event at Riviera in 2006, but has kept plenty busy opening a children's hospital in Shreveport, La., raising money for Hurricane Katrina victims and building a golf course. These last few years have taught Sutton that his identity does not have to come through golf.
His message to young players?
'Don't be so self-serving,' he said. 'Think of others as you walk through life, because sooner or later you're going to need them.'
Chris DiMarco missed out on the TOUR Championship for the second straight year, but he's making good use of his time off. DiMarco had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to clean up bone spurs in his left shoulder.
'I am glad I was able to take time off to have this surgery so that when I resume playing, I can do so pain-free,' DiMarco said. 'I can't wait to get back out and swing without pain.'
DiMarco had only one top-10 this year, at the Bridgestone Invitational, and missed the cut in his last three events.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been the most vocal about the $35 million in FedExCup bonus money being paid in cash instead of going into a retirement fund.
Some players are still trying to figure out how to pay their caddies from money they might not see for 30 years.
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said a solution is simple, as long as that's what everyone wants.
'If we had that unanimity, it would be an easy solution,' he said Wednesday. 'I do think there is a preponderance of attitude that the balance is not quite right, and we're talking about pretty good numbers here.'
Over four weeks of the PGA TOUR Playoffs, $28 million in prize money is paid out immediately, while the $35 million is deposited into a retirement fund.
Finchem recalled the early days of the PGA TOUR when the winner was handed a large cardboard check on the 18th green to show how much he had just won. He compared that with players suggesting fans would be more excited to see players dive into a pile of cash after winning $10 million from the FedExCup.
'I don't know if we'll go that far,' he said. 'But we'll see what happens.'
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson might be rivals in golf course design, too.
Mickelson announced Wednesday that the first project of his new design company will be River Rock Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C., about 90 minutes away from where Woods' company is building its first U.S. golf course.
Phil Mickelson Design was launched in January. Its first golf course, built along the Blue Ridge Mountains, is scheduled to open in 2010. Among its features are a 305-yard par 3 with a 65-foot drop to the green and a 180-degree view of the mountains; a par 4 at 343 yards that drops 100 feet to the green; and two fairways that cross one another.
'My commitment to golf is creating the highest quality golf courses that are challenging, engaging and always provide a truly enjoyable experience each time they are played,' Mickelson said. 'To do that, you need to find the most beautiful landscapes available. We've done that in the mountains of North Carolina.'
The Byron Nelson Championship usually leads all PGA TOUR events in charitable giving, but the $6.4 million it raised this year was substantial for other reasons.
It didn't finish No. 1 among tour events -- that went to the FBR Open, which raised $7.8 million.
But the Byron Nelson Championship went over $100 million in career charity, which was enough of a milestone for tournament officials to show up at East Lake to celebrate the news.
'Byron Nelson left a legacy of giving, and it it's wonderful to see this continue,' PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said.