FINAL ROUND LEADERBOARD:
Dougherty celebrates his victory at The Old Course
-18 N Dougherty (GB)
-16 J Rose (GB)
-15 R McIlroy (NI)
-14 B Lane (GB), Pa Lawrie (GB)
-13 E Els (SA)
-12 P Harrington (Ire)
-11 P Casey (GB)
Englishman Nick Dougherty captured his second European title, securing the Dunhill Links Championship with a two-stroke victory at St Andrews.
The 25-year-old began the final day with a three-shot lead but soon saw that slip away with opening bogeys.
But he posted three successive birdies to card a 71 and finish on 18 under, two shots ahead of Justin Rose.
Irish teenager Rory McIlroy earned his Tour card in only his second pro event by securing third place after a 68.
Ernie Els tied for sixth on 13 under with compatriot Trevor Immelman but was left to rue a calamitous triple bogey seven at the 16th.
This is the win I've been after for two years and I'm very proud of myself
The South African putted into a bunker from just off the back of the green and took four more to get down, a three-putt culminating in a miss from two feet.
Els had moved level with Dougherty but the Englishman never lost his lead.
Rose's challenge faded when he bogeyed the legendary 17th, the Road Hole, and Dougherty was also able to take five there without jeopardising his control of the event.
"This is a life-changing win for me but I felt very nervous at the start of the day," admitted Dougherty, who jumps to the top of the European Ryder Cup points table.
"I've been in this position before and it's not gone right but I spoke to my fitness coach, Ron Cuthbert, before going out and he told me to use the nerves as a positive thing.
"He said if I wasn't nervous it would be a bad thing and he told me to enjoy these moments. He was a real help.
"I got off to a pretty bad start but I trusted myself and my ability. I had some big players, like Ernie and Justin, chasing me but I got the job done. This is the win I've been after for two years and I'm very proud of myself."
I knew at the start of the week I needed to do something pretty special to get my Tour card and I am absolutely ecstatic
The impressively assured McIlroy became the youngest player to clinch his card.
"I knew at the start of the week I needed to do something pretty special to get my tour card and I am absolutely ecstatic," the 18-year-old said.
McIlroy showed admirable resilience after driving out of bounds at the 14th and running up a double bogey, finishing with three birdies in the closing four holes.
"When I talked about my chances of making the card this week to Lee Westwood he told me I could win the tournament," he said.
"When someone like Lee tells you that it gives you a lot of confidence. Hopefully this is a huge step for bigger and better things."
Open champion Padraig Harrington finished in a share of eighth at 12 under to retain his lead in the European Tour Order of Merit standings.