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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Golfer rules when it comes to honor

By Ferd Lewis

Out of the corner of a barely open eye, golfer Brian Davis wasn't sure what he glimpsed on his backswing under the pressure of a difficult playoff shot.

But if there was uncertainty in his eyes the other day in the PGA Tour's Heritage Classic, there was none in his conscience.

In immediately asking the tournament official for a review, Davis, in essence, ended up calling a penalty on himself. One that ultimately cost him more than $410,000 and a shot at his first PGA Tour victory.

While a milestone victory eluded Davis, the way the Englishman handled it made for a much more defining moment and a lesson beyond his sport.

It said, for example, Davis is someone of integrity choosing dignity over dollars in a situation where it could have been easy to look the other way.

"I was actually closing my eyes coming down into the sand (with the club)," Davis said. "It was one of those things (that) I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. And, I thought we'd check on TV. And, indeed, there was movement."

The grazing contact with a loose twig on his backswing was in violation of the dreaded Rule 13.4 (moving a loose impediment during a takeaway), earning a two-shot penalty, enough to give Jim Furyk the victory. Had Davis not called officials, there is a chance he could have gotten away with it. It isn't likely anyone would have aimed an accusatory finger at him had he feigned surprise.

But Davis demanded a higher personal standard, something rare enough in sports, not to mention society in general these days. In just about any other sport not only would a player not have called the situation to an official's attention, he would have likely gone into histrionics if a referee had called it directly.

Imagine the "who, me?" gyrations your average NBA player would have gone through in a critical game. Picture a baseball player called out on a bang-bang play at the plate with that much riding on a call.

Even in the gentlemanly game of golf such rulings don't always go down well. Witness Michelle Wie's recent confrontation with the same rule and her insistence on contesting the ruling in the LPGA Kia Classic.

Over the years a number of golfers have stayed in step with the sport's honor code whether it be signing an incorrect scorecard, ball placement or mishandling a club. There have been enough Mark Calcavecchia, Greg Norman and Tom Kite, etc., moments to remind us how golf stands apart.

And heaven help the golfer who puts himself in a position to even be second guessed about adherence to the rules as Mark McCumber found out.

Victory has escaped Davis in 132 PGA Tour events, but honor is clearly his.