HOUSTON (Reuters) - Britain’s Brian Davis has never seen anything quite like it, despite having twice triumphed on the European Tour and won the PGA Tour’s qualifying tournament in 2004.
Since his remarkable act of sportsmanship in a playoff for the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on Sunday, the e-mails of congratulation have kept pouring in from anyone who was inspired by his actions beside the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links.
“I’ve gotten more congratulations this week than when I’ve won,” Davis told reporters on the eve of Thursday’s first round of the New Orleans Classic in Avondale, Louisiana. “It’s a weird feeling.
“E-mails started flooding in from people — not necessarily golf fans, just ordinary people who heard what had happened and just wanted to say congratulations and thanks for being honest and following the spirit of the game.
“The last two days have been humbling,” added the 35-year-old Englishman, who is based in Florida. “I’ve received a lot of messages from school teachers, parents, children.
“Most of the e-mails are parents saying: ‘I’m using you as an example to my kids about doing the right thing.’ It’s been a very nice couple of days to be honest.”
Davis cost himself the chance to win his first PGA Tour title shortly after he had rolled in a 17-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to force a playoff with American Jim Furyk.
Furyk ending up winning at the first extra hole when Davis was assessed a two-stroke penalty for making contact with a loose impediment in a greenside hazard when playing his third shot.
On his backswing, the Englishman barely clipped a dry reed with his club before splashing out to 30 feet and he immediately called over a rules official to clarify the situation via television replay.
Having been penalized, Davis went on to miss his long-range putt and conceded the title to Furyk, who was six feet from the cup after three shots at the par-four 18th.
American Charles Howell III, a double winner on the PGA Tour, applauded the action taken by Davis.
“In watching it, I didn’t see a rules infraction at all,” Howell said. “It’s bizarre in the fact that you have to go to a high-speed camera and slow it down to find one.
“With the adrenalin and the nerves, I’m surprised he even felt he touched that twig. That’s what was amazing. It took him away from the chance to win his first golf tournament.”
For Davis, the situation became bizarre when he swiftly moved from the bitter disappointment of registering his fourth runner-up spot on the PGA Tour to a feeling of happiness.
“It’s probably the first time in my career, or in any golfer’s, where (you) lost in a playoff and actually drove home more positive than when you left,” he said.
“It’s been a good experience for me, and it’s been great for the game of golf that we do call rules infractions on ourselves. It’s just part of the game.”
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury