Reuters - Mon, 15 Feb 07:25:00 2010
David Duval's long return from golfing wilderness gained pace when the former world number one fell agonisingly short of his first tournament win in nine years at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
His final round three-under 69 left him joint runner-up with fellow American JB Holmes and a stroke behind winner Dustin Johnson, who shut the door on a play-off with a birdie on his last hole.
The result, while no fairytale, was pleasing for Duval, who had had to wait eight months for another top five showing since stunning the world at last year's US Open with a joint second finish behind champion Lucas Glover.
"I feel like I played really well," said the 38-year-old, whose last tournament win was the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.
"I hit the ball good and in general I feel like I did most of the things I wanted to do."
Duval, who held the top ranking in 1999, plummeted to 882nd after his 2001 British Open win amid injuries and personal trauma, but has recovered to 205.
Despite his US Open effort, he finished 130th on the money list last year, five shy of a tour card, then failed at Qualifying School.
He has had to rely on past winner categories, sponsor exemptions and any other way he can think of to keep the comeback going.
"I was hoping that my support and loyalty to a lot of events over the better part of 15 years would help me in that way," Duval said. "So far it has."
Duval gained entry to Pebble Beach courtesy of a Player's Championship win back in 1999. Even then, his appearance was threatened when his back flared up during a practice round on Monday.
The chronic injury, which has dogged Duval for a decade, settled to allow him to tee off.
"Happy to just be playing," Duval said. "Went out on Monday to play, and had to walk off it. I couldn't play."
Despite starting the final round six strokes adrift of the leaders and stumbling with three bogeys, Duval notched six birdies and snared a share of the lead when Johnson dropped a shot on the 17th.
He was unable to birdie the last to truly turn the screws on Johnson, but the par finish gave him his first run of four sub-70 rounds since 2001.
"I feel like I've been playing well," he said. "I don't feel like I've gotten anything out of it for a long time."