The Big Deal – That Shouldn’t Have Been
The “big deal” in this case has nothing to do with Goldman Sachs, Wall Street, health care, or government bailouts. It did involve money, though, and that is part of the reason it made headlines. A couple of weeks ago, Brian Davis told the truth, acted with integrity, and forfeited $411,000 in the process.
You likely know the story. It happened during the Verizon Heritage golf tournament. Brian Davis and Jim Furyk were on the first hole of a playoff, after finishing the day with identical scores. Davis had holed a clutch 18-foot putt for birdie on the final hole to force the playoff. But he ran into trouble quickly.
Davis was in a hazard that had clusters of reeds all around. He took his time and pondered his options. Playing a 14-time PGA Tour winner such as Furyk, Davis – who has yet to win a PGA event – needed to make a spectacular shot. He and his caddie looked it over carefully. He struck the ball. Then he immediately called a PGA official named Slugger White to come over. He told him that he might have grazed one of the reeds on his backswing.
Nobody had called it. The officials standing nearby had not seen anything amiss. Jim Furyk had not protested. But Davis, although he hadn’t felt it through the shaft of his club, believed he had seen it out of the corner of his eye.
White went to the TV monitor. The touch between club and reed was so slight that it took slow-motion replay to spot it. But there it was! And PGA Rule 13.4 – which prohibits moving any “impediment” with the start of a player’s backswing – says that a player is to be assessed a two-stroke penalty for such an infraction. And that was the end of Davis’ chance to win his first PGA event.
The honesty of Brian Davis became a “big deal” immediately. In some ways, it overshadowed the tournament outcome. E-mails and phone calls flooded in to Davis. Members of the PGA’s senior tour phoned to thank him for restoring some sense of integrity to their sport. Teachers had students write essays. “He’s class,” said Slugger White of the man he had to penalize, “first class!”
As Davis himself admitted in the aftermath of his action, though, it should not have been a big deal at all. That’s what Rule 13.4 says, and golf is played by rules. Shortcuts, cheating, taking advantage of one’s opponent, winning by doing whatever you must – they are all part of the lore of life these days. But they have no place in a person of character. Davis wants to win, but fair and square.
That there was such a fuss over a golfer doing what he was supposed to do may be a commentary on the low expectations we have of one another.
“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1 NLT).
Rubel Shelly is a Preacher and Professor of Religion and Philosophy located in
Rochester Hills, Michigan.