We’ll be hearing a lot about the honorable actions of Brian Davis in calling a penalty on himself during a playoff at the Verizon Heritage. The praise is well-deserved, of course. However, there’s one aspect of the “honorable” theme that I can do without.
Invariably, some commentators compare golf to other sports and say something like, “Can you imagine an offensive lineman calling a holding penalty on himself or a baserunner admitting that he was out instead of safe?”
Sorry, but the situations are in no way comparable. In those sports, and most others, there are officials watching whose job it is to make the calls. Their word is final.
In golf, there’s no way to have an official watch each player in the field as they make their way around the course and hit shots. Therefore, it is strictly out of necessity that players are duty bound to call penalties on themselves. It arises from the nature of the game, not the nature of golfers.
If Brian Davis was a player for Manchester United (using a soccer analogy because he’s from England), do you think he would tell an official that he committed a foul or that he deserved a yellow card? Of course not, nor should he. But as a professional golfer, he is obligated to call a penalty on himself if he commits a violation.
That said, Davis deserves praise for calling an official’s attention to the mere possibility that he might have committed a penalty in this case. He said he thought he saw that his club might have ticked a loose reed in a hazard on his backswing even though he didn’t feel it.
Frankly, it’s quite possible to imagine a player letting this go, so Davis might have gone above and beyond the call of duty here. Then again, he could have been concerned that since it happened in a playoff, a possible violation might have been caught on television and thus analyzed via replay. He was simply making sure that was done, and as it turned out the violation was so slight that it took a while to determine that it definitely occurred.
Lost in all of this is that Davis was almost sure to lose the playoff anyway. Without the two-stroke penalty, he would have needed to make a 40-foot putt to tie Jim Furyk’s par on the first extra hole, the 18th at Harbour Town. In the end, his actions resulted in positive publicity for him that might increase the profile of an otherwise fairly anonymous player to the general public.
(A note from a Rules standpoint: It would have been OK to touch a live, growing reed on a swing in a hazard. But this was a reed on top of a pile of dead reeds, so it wasn’t growing, and thus was a loose impediment. Since Davis was in a hazard, he wasn’t allowed to touch or move a loose impediment lying in the hazard.)
* * *
Jim Furyk’s Heritage victory showed that golf is the most fickle of games, where even the best players in the world have their swings come and go. On March 21, he won the Transitions Championship in Florida. On April 18, he won the Verizon Heritage. In between, he shot 80-76 at the Masters, beating only four players in the field. That included a 44 on the back nine of the first round that consisted of three double bogeys, a triple bogey, a bogey, two pars, and two birdies. And Furyk is supposed to be one of the most consistent players on the Tour.
I like CBS announcer Jim Nantz, but he made an odd comment about Tiger Woods’ cursing being caught on a microphone during the Masters. “If I said what he said on air, I would be fired,” Nantz said in an interview with WFAN in New York last week. Uh, Jim, you are being paid to broadcast a tournament and Tiger is a competitor in the tournament whose comments were picked up by an on-course mike. There is a difference. Besides, I don’t think an announcer would be fired for letting loose a “Dammit!” or a “Goddammit!” Though it is true it might get him removed from the Masters broadcast crew.
Woods’ announcement that he will play in the Quail Hollow Championship on April 29 to May 2 shows two things: 1) He apparently plans on a relatively normal schedule from here on out. If he was planning on a more limited schedule, he probably wouldn’t have played until the Players Championship the following week. 2) He apparently plans on showing more consideration to tournament sponsors and media. Normally, he has waited until the Friday before a tournament—the PGA Tour’s commitment deadline—to announce he is playing.