I just witnessed one of the most amazing sequences of events in a long time. On the first playoff hole of the Verizon Heritage, Brian Davis hit his second shot the left side of the 18th green, off the rocks and onto the beach. Jim Furyk then hit the ball over the green, leaving himself with a long putt from just off the green. Furyk putted, but overshot the hole by a significant distance.
Davis then had a choice. He could try to get on the green with his third shot from the beach, or drop where he crossed over and, lying four, chip in. He chose to play it like a bunker. The shot cleared the seawall and went long.
But then Brian Davis called over the PGA Tour official and called a penalty on himself. After much discussion, the upshot was this: on the backswing, he had brushed a loose reed with his club. That’s a violation of rule 13-4c
13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions
Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;
b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or
c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.
Much discussion ensued, but in the end, it was ruled that Davis was correct: He had touched the loose impediment, and therefore had incurred a two stoke penalty.
And he lost the playoff and tournament.
Mind you, no one would ever have known if Davis had not called that penalty on himself. There was no room for the television to note the error. And if the video did show up on YouTube after the tournament, Davis could plausibly argue that he didn’t realize he had touched the reed—it was, after all, an insignificant it of detritus.
Brian Davis would have known, though, and however much he coveted his first PGA Tour victory, honor was the greater cause. So he called the penalty.
Bobby Jones once deflected praise for calling a penalty on himself by saying that “you might as well praise me for not robbing a bank.” Perhaps so. But I do not think that makes it any less admirable.