McIlroy had won the last two playoff events and three of his last four tournaments dating to his eight-shot win in the PGA Championship. He still is virtually a lock to be voted PGA Tour player of the year, but he had to settle for second place in the FedEx Cup.
"I knew what I needed to do," McIlroy said. "I needed to win. Brandt knew what he needed to do. And he played fantastic. He really deserved it."
It was an emotional week in so many ways for Snedeker, already a high-strung personality. His father, Larry, flew in to watch final round at East Lake, only the second tournament he has attended since having a liver transplant last year.
Snedeker stopped by a hospital in Atlanta to visit Tucker Anderson, the son of his swing coach who was critically injured in a recent car accident and remains unable to communicate with words.
"I asked him if he thought I was going to beat Rory McIlroy, and he gave me a wink," Snedeker said.
He beat everybody at East Lake in a convincing fashion. After taking a double bogey on the par-3 sixth when he hit his tee shot into the water, Snedeker responded with a 40-foot birdie putt on the eighth, an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 13, and chipping in from short of the 17th green to end all doubt.
"I had complete confidence in what I was doing," Snedeker said.
He finished on 10-under 270 and will move into the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time in his career.
Ryan Moore made the strongest run at Snedeker on the back nine, and with an up-and-down behind the par-5 15th green for back-to-back birdies, he was tied for the lead. Moore never was in the mix for the $10 million bonus, though he could have affected the outcome of the FedEx Cup.