In praise of the 99%
What do Darren Clarke and Brian Davis have in common? They represent the 99% of professional golfers who play with honesty, integrity and within the spirit of the game at all times.
On a wider scale, they also represent the 99% of ALL golfers who play the game the way it’s meant to be played. It’s important to make this statement right now.
Hmmmm, I wonder why?
Clarke lost the 2006 Irish Open by two shots to Thomas Bjorn, but may have won if not for an incident in the final round that illustrates why golf is arguably the most honourable of sports in an age when trying to get away with anything and everything seems endemic in so many other sports.
Poor weather forced the final round of the 2006 Irish Open at Carton House over to an extra day. Clarke’s last shot before he left the course on Sunday was a pushed tee shot into heavy rough off the 9th fairway.
Clarke’s ball was buried in the grass. He marked the ball’s position, and faced a hack with a wedge back to the fairway when play resumed.
That wasn’t the situation the Northern Irishman discovered when he returned to the spot on Monday morning. His ball was sitting up on top of the rough, leaving a clear shot to the green.
Under the Rules of Golf, Clarke was completely in his rights to accept the new lie. Even European Tour rules official Andy McFee said the Northern Irishman was allowed to take advantage of the situation. What Clarke did next speaks volumes for his, and the game’s, integrity.
Clarke played the shot as he would have had to do the day before, opting to pitch the ball back to the fairway. He ended up with a bogey five. It may have cost him the chance of becoming the first Irishman since John O’Leary in 1982 to win the Irish Open. It was a price worth paying.
Complimented on his integrity, Clarke explained:
“That's part and parcel of the game. A lot of people had been looking for the ball and a lot of people had flattened the grass around it. It was a much better lie than when I left it. I had the opportunity to hit it on to the green, but I felt my conscience wouldn't allow me to do that. So I decided to chip it out like I would have yesterday.”
His conscience got the better of him. Same goes for Englishman Brian Davis in the final round of the 2010 Verizon Heritage on the PGA Tour.
Davis will probably go down in golf’s record books as a mere footnote. He deserves a high place on golf’s roll of honour for his integrity.
Chasing his first PGA Tour title, Davis found himself in a sudden death playoff with Jim Furyk at Harbour Town Golf Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Furyk took the title at the first extra hole when Davis called a two-shot penalty on himself after touching reeds in the hazard beside the 18th green. His actions weren’t discernible to anyone but himself, but he had no hesitation in alerting PGA Tour rules official Slugger White to his misdemeanour.
The then 35 year old cost himself £270,000 as a result. It, too, was a price worth paying.
“I could not have lived with myself,” Davis said.
"Well, obviously I want to win a PGA Tour event more than just about anything, but no victory would be worthwhile if it had a cloud hanging over it. I am proud to uphold the values that my parents taught me, and I teach my kids the same stuff. Be honest in your sport and in your life and simply do your best. That's all you can do."
Furyk had nothing but praise for his opponent afterwards. He said:
“I admire him for what he did. It's a testament to our game and the people that play on the Tour, and that we have so many guys that do that.”
It was and is, as with Clarke, and needs to be said. These aren’t isolated incidents. The game is littered with examples of players calling penalties on themselves. It’s what makes this game of golf so great.
This blog is in praise of the 99%.
#JustSaying: “I think 99% of golfers out here, if it’s a question one way or the other, they’re going to go the other way, not taking a drop.” Lanto Griffin, who finished 7th in the Farmers Insurance Open