British golfer Brian Davis lost a tournament -- and a million-dollar payday -- but won the respect of the golfing world on Sunday for a supreme act of sportsmanship at the Verizon Heritage event at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, The Times reported Monday.
The 35-year-old Englishman played superbly to get into a sudden-death play-off with Jim Furyk, only to call a penalty on himself at the first extra hole for inadvertently brushing a reed on his backswing while playing out of a greenside hazard with his third shot.
It cost him any chance of a maiden victory on the PGA Tour in the U.S. -- although Furyk looked most likely at that stage to seal victory after hitting his third shot close to the hole. Gary Evans, Davis' coach and former tour player, was full of praise for his fellow Englishman.
"Brian has always worn his heart on his sleeve on the golf course," Evans said. "He's not the easiest guy in the world to watch. He can get down on himself but I didn't expect anything else from him. He's a guy that believes in the game."
"It could have cost him $1 million in prize money and bonuses, but it has never been about the money for Brian," Evans said.
Furyk, who won $1 million compared to Davis' $615,000, said: "To have the tournament come down that way is definitely not the way I wanted to win. It's obviously a tough loss for him and I respect and admire what he did."
For his part, Davis felt he had no choice but to call the foul on himself. "It was one of those things," he said. "I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I thought we'd check on TV, and indeed there was movement."
"I want to win a PGA Tour event more than just about anything, but I play by the rules and no victory would be worthwhile if it had a cloud hanging over it. I saw the grass move, called Slugger (White, the referee) over and that's it, end of story."