Golf hero Davis soaking upsporting accolades

BRIAN DAVIS will tee it up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans today with the status of golf’s newest hero following his show of sportsmanship in South Carolina last week.

Davis called a penalty on himself during a sudden-death play-off with Jim Furyk at the Verizon Heritage tournament, an act that cost him the chance of a maiden US PGA Tour victory and almost $400,000 (€298,500) in prize money.

The Englishman will attempt to put his disappointment at the title slipping from his grasp and fourth runner-up finish in America in the last four years when he tries again at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, near New Orleans.

Yet he will also have the praise of fellow professionals and fans alike ringing in his ears having called the penalty on himself at Harbour Town Golf Links last Sunday when he made contact with a reed, a loose impediment, during his backswing while playing out of a greenside hazard area.

The 35-year-old Englishman notified rules officials of the infraction and received a two-stroke penalty, effectively handing American Furyk his second title in a month.

The PGA Tour received a slew of e-mails from fans impressed by Davis, some of which it published on its website, while his fellow pros were also praising him and their sport’s integrity as they arrived at the 7,341-yard, par-72 TPC Louisiana.

“It is very unique about golf,” said Charles Howell III. “I think the fans can appreciate it a bit. The situation in itself is bizarre to me, because in watching it, I didn’t see a rules infraction at all.

“It’s bizarre in the fact that you have to go to a high speed camera and slow it down to find one. So for Brian to even feel he touched that was incredible.”

“It took him away from the chance to win his first golf tournament. If he makes that putt, you never know. Heck, even if he two-putts, he still has to make the putt to win. So the golf tournament was still alive. I think those are the things that make golf what it is that you don’t see other sportsmen calling penalties on themselves especially in that situation.”

New Orleans defending champion Jerry Kelly added: “The funny thing is it does make you proud to be in a membership that is honest like that. I don’t know of any other sports or any other businesses in the current climate where stretching the rules just doesn’t happen.

“It’s much more commonplace (in golf) for someone to call themselves on a questionable rule. And you’ll have the guys in the group going ‘are you sure? Maybe it didn’t move’.

Davis is one of four Englishmen in the Zurich Classic field alongside Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Greg Owen.

Sergio Garcia of Spain will bid to bounce back from a missed cut at Harbour Town.

Other Europeans in action will be a Swedish trio of Mathias Gronberg, Richard S Johnson and Daniel Chopra, Norway’s Henrik Bjornstad and Germany’s Alex Cejka.

The field will be led by America’s world number three Steve Stricker.

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