Hart, who lives 20 minutes from the Tournament Players Club at Heron Bay, birdied his final four holes in the final round to overcome a three-shot deficit for his second career Tour title (1996 Bell Canadian Open).
Hart finished one stroke ahead of Kevin Wentworth and J.P. Hayes, but it Brian Gay who was the hard-luck loser that Sunday.
Gay, bidding for his first victory, appeared to tie Hart for the lead when his 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th sat on the lip, and then fell into the hole. But Gay three-putted the 18th from 75 feet for his first bogey since the second round.
After the round, Gay was assessed a one-stroke penalty at No. 17 because of the delay before the putt fell. That left the former Florida Gator in a tie for fourth place with Jim Furyk.
The penalty stemmed from rule 16-2, which states that when the ball overhangs the lip, it is considered at rest 10 seconds after the player reaches the hole. If the ball falls in after that, a one-stroke penalty is given.
Rules official Slugger White viewed television replays with Gay and determined that the ball fell into the cup at least 13 seconds after Gay walked up to the hole.
Gay noted that he could have avoided the penalty by walking more slowly to the hole.
'Personally, I think it's a huge gray area,' Gay said following the event. 'There's a lot more leeway than three seconds, and it was a pretty important stroke for me. Both of the guys I was playing with thought I was fine.'
The extra shot cost Gay $88,933. Still, he finished the year 102nd on the money list. Hart ended the season 43rd in earnings.
Gay and Hart are two of 144 players in this week's field, which includes PGA Tour stars Brad Faxon, Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson, Furyk, and Hal Sutton.
A couple of young international up-and-comers are in the field. South African Adam Scott will join Aaron Baddeley, who has already won twice this year in his native Australia.
Mark Calcavecchia is also scheduled to compete. The 1998 Honda champion is making an expedient return from arthroscopic surgery to his left knee. He skipped last week's Genuity Championship for the first time in 20 years.
Joe Durant will also join the fray. Durant is coming off his second victory of the season at Doral's Genuity Championship. He has now won in each of his last two starts. He ended a three-year winless drought at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, setting the 90-hole PGA Tour scoring record in the process.
This year's purse is $3.2 million, with the winner taking home $576,000.