The result exceeded his expectations, but it still left Charles Howell III short of his first win in more than 10 years.
Howell returned from a rib injury this week at the Quicken Loans National, making his first start since the RBC Heritage in April. The veteran needed little time to play his way back into contention, shooting a final-round 66 to earn a spot in a playoff before losing to Kyle Stanley on the first extra hole.
"Really going into this week, I was extremely rusty. I really can't believe how good I played," Howell said. "I was going nuts (during the layoff) because I couldn't do anything. I could putt and ride a bike, but that was it. It was a long nine weeks, but I'm glad to be back and hopefully can stay healthy now."
Howell appeared inches away from an outright victory in regulation, but his 20-foot birdie try on the 72nd hole barely missed the target. After returning to the 18th tee, Howell pushed his drive and came up short with his approach, a spot from which he couldn't get up and down to save par.
It's the 16th career runner-up finish for Howell, who has enjoyed a remarkably consistent career and at age 38 has now eclipsed $33 million in career earnings. But he still has won only twice on the PGA Tour, the last victory coming more than a decade ago at the 2007 Nissan Open at Riviera.
The Augusta, Ga., native was also looking to return to the Masters for just the second time since 2009, but he'll have to find another way to qualify for next year's field at Augusta National. The runner-up finish did net Howell a spot in the Open later this month at Royal Birkdale, where he missed the cut back in 2008.
"Based on the rough I saw last time, I need to get healthy to hit it out of that stuff," he said. "But I'm excited to go back. It's such a wonderful event, and it's nice to be in it."