HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Brian Davis couldn’t deny what he saw and knew he was honor-bound to tell the world.
Davis ticked a loose reed during his backswing on the first playoff hole of the Verizon Heritage, calling a two-stroke penalty on himself that gave Jim Furyk a victory on Sunday.
“It’s just awkward to see it happen at such a key moment in the golf tournament,” Furyk said. “Awkward for him to lose that way, and a little awkward for me to win.”
Davis immediately asked for U.S. PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White and shared what he saw on the shot.
“Are you sure?” Furyk asked.
“I know I did,” Davis responded, according to White. “I could not have lived with myself if I had not.”
White consulted with officials who checked TV replays and confirmed Davis’ worst fear: His violation cost him a chance at his first PGA Tour victory.
What Davis lost on the course will be regained in his reputation for his honorable act, White said.
“That will come back to him spades, tenfold,” White said.
That was little consolation for Davis, who rolled in a clutch 18-footer for birdie on his final regulation hole to catch Furyk and force extra holes.
Davis’ troubles began with his approach, a wayward 7-iron that hit the left edge of the green, rattled off the rocks boarding Calibogue Sound and settled among some grass, twigs and reeds.
Davis’ error, a violation of rule 13.4 against moving a loose impediment during a takeaway, was indiscernible but for slow motion replays.
“It was one of those things I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. And I thought we’d check on TV, and indeed there was movement,” Davis said.
He immediately conceded victory to Furyk, who putted out for his 15th PGA Tour win and second since March.
Furyk didn’t know what to do at first. He raised his putter and tipped his cap to the cheering and confused crowd, then embraced his children who ran to meet their championship dad.
“I want to react to the crowd and kind of wave and let them know, that ‘Hey, I’m excited,”’ Furyk said. “But I don’t want it to take away from Brian.”
Furyk earned $1,026,000 million, finally tasting victory at Harbour Town after posting two seconds and a fourth since 2005.
Davis earned $615,000 for his fourth second-place finish on the PGA Tour.
“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.”
Davis nearly won in regulation, his approach to his final hole scaring the cup before settling 18 feet away. His birdie putt had just enough steam to drop in and keep hope of a breakthrough win alive.
Davis shot a 68 and, like Furyk, ended with four rounds in the 60s.
Moments later, the playoff was done with Davis’ self-imposed violation, something inconceivable in most other sports, where competitors take pride in getting every edge they can.
“He’s class, first class,” White said.