Monday, April 19, 2010

Honesty is More Important than Victory

Davis calls penalty on himself, gives up shot at first PGA win
“Honesty is more important than victory.”

Imagine standing on the edge of achieving your life's dream. You make a small mistake that will cost you your dream -- but if you don't say anything, you might just get away with it. Would you own up to the mistake, or would you keep quiet and hope for the best?
Brian Davis isn't the best-known name in golf -- or even the hundredth-best-known -- but after Sunday, he ought to move up the list a few notches. Davis was facing Jim Furyk in a playoff at the Verizon Heritage, and was trying to notch his first-ever PGA Tour win.
Davis's approach shot on the first hole of the playoff bounced off the green and nestled in among some weeds. (You can see the gunk he was hitting out of in that shot above.) When Davis tried to punch the ball up onto the green, his club may have grazed a stray weed on his backswing.
So what's the big deal? This: hitting any material around your ball during your backswing constitutes a violation of the rule against moving loose impediments, and is an immediate two-stroke penalty. And in a playoff, that means, in effect, game over.
Okay, you can think that's a silly penalty or whatever, but that's not the point of this story. The point is that Davis actually called the violation on himself.
"It was one of those things I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye," Davis said. "And I thought we’d check on TV, and indeed there was movement." Immediately after the shot, Davis called over a rules official, who conferred with television replays and confirmed the movement -- but movement which was only visible on slow-motion. Unbelievable.
As soon as the replays confirmed the violation, Davis conceded the victory to Furyk, who was somewhat stunned -- but, make no mistake, grateful for the win.
"To have the tournament come down that way is definitely not the way I wanted to win," Furyk said. "It’s obviously a tough loss for him and I respect and admire what he did."
Furyk took home  $1.03 million for the win. Davis won't exactly have to beg for change to get a ride home; he won $615,000 for second place. And he may have won much more than that by taking the honorable route.
To be sure, this isn't quite in the same category as J.P. Hayes, the golfer who disqualified himself from qualifying school after learning -- in his hotel room, all alone -- that he had played a nonqualifying ball; or Adam Van Houten, who cost his team an Ohio state title when he admitted signing an incorrect scorecard.  For starters, Davis's shot was on television, and while he could have "not noticed" the movement, the TV cameras still did, and someone might have called him on it later on.

But the bigger deal is this -- the guy gave away a chance at winning his first-ever PGA Tour event because he knew that in golf, honesty is more important than victory. It's a tough lesson to learn, but here's hoping he gets accolades -- and, perhaps, some sponsorship deals -- that more than make up for the victory he surrendered.

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