Thursday, April 22, 2010
Would you cheat for $385,000
By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS
Professional golfer Brian Davis wanted to win more than almost anything. “You’re not playing for second,” he said. “You’re playing to win.”
He was playing the 18th hole in a playoff of the Verizon Heritage golf tournament. The winner’s check was worth more than $1 million. His ball had a crummy lie in the marsh but Davis lifted it with his wedge to within 30 feet of the pin, well within reach of keeping the playoff going. But something bothered him.
“I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye,” Davis said later. “I didn’t feel anything but I thought I might have seen something.”
What Davis saw – but which no one else observed – was that his club brushed a reed on his backswing. Try to see it for yourself on this video.
But it is against the rules of golf to move a loose impediment in a hazard. Brian Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself and that cost him the tournament. The difference between winning and finishing in second place was $385,000.
“I play by the rules and no victory would be worthwhile if it had a cloud hanging over it,” Davis said.
Would you call a penalty on yourself if it made the difference between winning and losing?
As one newspaper wrote, the world has never seen a football player call himself out of bounds on a touchdown run in the Super Bowl or a baseball player say he missed third base when scoring the winning run in a World Series.
The newspaper says Davis won the respect of the world even though he lost the tournament. The Times of London called it “the supreme act of sportsmanship.”
“One of those things they never quite get around to tell you in school is that doing the right thing quit often entails hurting yourself, or at least your own perceived self interest. Brian Davis proved Sunday that in the end, it’s worth it.”
If you were in Davis’ place, would you call the penalty on yourself? Now imagine Davis playing another sport. Would he earn respect as a football player by calling a holding penalty on himself or in basketball if he called himself for a foul?
Why not? What makes golf different?
Here's what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll has to say: