Pebble Beach is known for producing historic winners, in particular when hosting the U.S. Open. But in addition to the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there have been plenty of surprising players (Matt Gogel and Ted Potter Jr. jump to mind) to hoist trophies at this Monterey Peninsula gem. And it was here where two of the most random runner-ups in PGA Tour history happened a decade ago.
In 2010, Pebble Beach hosted both the annual AT&T Pro-Am as well as the U.S. Open for a fifth time. Dustin Johnson won the February PGA Tour stop for a second consecutive year and looked poised to pull off the double like Woods had in 2000 when DJ took a three-shot lead after 54 holes. But a disastrous 82 on Sunday opened the door for Graeme McDowell to win his lone major title. But again, the purpose of this post is to focus on the players who came close to winning.
Johnson edged J.B. Holmes and David Duval by a shot in February, the latter turning heads across the golf world for a second time in less than a year. A former World No. 1, Duval had virtually vanished from leader boards until finishing T-2 to Lucas Glover at the 2009 U.S. Open. Prior to that, he hadn't finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since 2002 with his last win coming at the 2001 Open Championship. But after his close call at Bethpage Black, Duval had disappeared again, missing eight of 10 cuts and finishing no higher than T-63.
Duval also finished T-90 at Q School in December so he had lost his PGA Tour card entering 2010 and was relying on sponsor exemptions. But an obscure tournament exemption—he had won the Players Championship prior to 2000—got him into the field at Pebble Beach, where he shot four rounds in the 60s for the first time in more than eight years. A birdie on the 71st hole put Duval in a tie for the lead, but he failed to birdie the par-5 18th. Johnson did and that was the difference.
“In a kind of strange way, it makes me proud,” Duval said at the time. “I feel like I have given the folks who have given me starts this year good fire power for why they did it. That makes me feel good, too.”
Four months later, Gregory Havret was also an unlikely person to be playing in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, let alone to have his name near the top of the leader board. The Frenchman had holed a 50-foot putt just to get into a playoff at a qualifier the month before. But the three-time European Tour winner authored by far the best performance in a major of his career.
Playing in the penultimate pairing with Tiger Woods, Havret shot 72 to top Tiger by three and finish one shot behind McDowell.
“All of a sudden I’m playing a Sunday with Tiger. It was very exciting,” Havret told reporters after. “I knew I had some chances and I did everything thinking I was able to win it. It’s a shame I came up short. . . . It’s fantastic emotion, in between the best surprise of my life and the best disappointment, too. But for sure, to play golf like this, compete for the title (is great).”
At the time, both Havret, 33, and Duval, 38, hoped that their Pebble performances would lead to more success. In Duval's case, coupled with the runner-up at Bethpage Black the previous year, he seemed confident he had re-found the game that had taken him to the top of his sport less than a decade before.
“I feel like I’m getting back on top of everything how I want to,” Duval said following his runner-up at Pebble Beach in 2010. “This is what I expect of myself. I expect to play well. With that said, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a chance to win every week, but you expect to be in control most of the time with what you’re trying to do."
Instead, Duval has posted just two top 10s in the 10 years since, the last being a T-9 at the 2011 Northern Trust Open. And Havret hasn't fared much better with zero worldwide wins and a T-30 at the 2011 U.S. Open being his best finish in five more major championship starts.
Now 48, Duval is back in the field this week on another exemption and he's listed at 2,000-to-1 odds to win (Johnson is the 6-to-1 favorite) at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Probably not a smart bet, but hey, crazy things have happened here. Well, almost happened.