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Devil Ball Golf

Remembering Brian Davis’ moment of sterling honesty

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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We're back again at the Heritage, the site of 2010's most impressive moments of honesty and integrity on the golf course. A quick refresher: Brian Davis was facing Jim Furyk in a playoff at the then-Verizon Heritage. Furyk was in the midst of a career resurgence; Davis still hadn't notched a single PGA Tour win.

Davis' approach shot went into the beachy garbage around the green. When he tried to chip up, he sensed a tick in his backswing, like he struck something. Hitting a loose impediment in your backswing is a two-stroke penalty, which would effectively end the playoff in Furyk's favor.

Thing is, it wasn't some eagle-eyed TV viewer who called in the penalty. No, it was Davis himself. He called over a rules official, and they viewed the replay on TV. Only a slow-motion replay showed any movement. The rules official made the call, and Furyk got the tournament win.

Now, one year later, ESPN's Jeff Bradley caught up with Davis. And now, the extent of what honesty cost him is clear:

"Friends said to me, 'That penalty cost you $400,000,'" Davis recalls. "And I said, 'No it probably cost me more like $2 million.' A win would've gotten me into the Masters. My endorsement bonuses would have kicked in. A win opens so many doors. All of the sudden, I'd be in the world events like the SBS, with guaranteed money. There's no price you could put on it. It cost me $400,000 on that Sunday. But how much did it really cost me? Who knows? Winning at the Verizon Heritage would've been awesome. Probably the hardest thing is knowing how much a win can possibly change your career."

Davis then sighs, and rattles off a few things off the top of his head.

"I mean, everyone knows Top 125 and you keep your tour card," he said. "But Top 70 gets you in all the invitationals. Mr. Palmer's tournament. Mr. Nicklaus' tournament. Great tournaments with limited fields. Top 50 and you're guaranteed to play in every pro-am. That's important to me because it means I can spend Monday and Tuesday with my family. Because the guys who are not in the pro am can't play a practice round on Wednesday. They have to play Tuesday. That's how important your spot on the money list is."

Damn, that's rough. And in another twist of the knife, Davis carded two other second-place finishes, at the Crowne Plaza and the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic. That first win remains out there somewhere for Davis.

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