Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: It's How You Play the Game

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: It's How You Play the Game

Article excerpt

It fell from the South Carolina sky like a large hailstone, invisible from the boats moored in the waters of Calibogue Sound. It bounced on the second cut, popping eastward where it ricocheted off a pair of large, white rocks, and came to rest on the sands of Hilton Head Island.

That left Brian Davis with his first crucial choice: He could play it where it lay among the reeds and grasses, or hit from where the ball first bounced in the rough and take a one-stroke penalty.

Davis was tied with Jim Furyk after four rounds and the two were engaged in a sudden-death playoff on the 18th hole. There was a chance Davis could chip in from the rough, but the penalty looked daunting after Furyk made a good first putt. So Davis opted to take a shot from the beach, hoping he could lift the ball over the rocks and set himself up with an easy putt to tie Furyk on the hole, forcing the payoff to continue.

Davis and his caddie examined the possible stroke from a dozen angles. The 35-year-old Englishman has never won a PGA tournament despite playing professionally since 1994 and joining the tour in 2006. This, perhaps, was his moment.

Davis laid the ball up on the green in reasonable position, leaving himself a slim chance of forcing the match to a second playoff hole. And then he made his second crucial decision.

On the backswing, Davis' club head hit a loose reed. The reed wasn't knocked out of the way and the contact in no way affected the shot. No one but Davis, who clearly has mastered the art of keeping his head down when he swings, even noticed. Nonetheless, it was a violation of rule 13.4, which prohibits moving a loose impediment during a takeaway.

Davis made a choice many found astonishing. He called to the tournament director, who bears the excellent sports moniker Slugger White, and confessed. White hadn't seen the infraction, and so subtle was the misdeed that tournament officials had to watch close- up, slow-motion video to verify that it had happened. …

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