Ethics & Professional Issues

Losing golfer a winning example of ethics in action

Golf Still not sure what doing the right thing looks like?

You obviously weren't watching golf on TV last weekend.

The scene was Hilton Head Island, S.C., home of the Verizon Heritage, a tournament with a storied 42-year history on the PGA Tour. Jim Furyk and Brian Davis -- the latter a virtual unknown seeking his first PGA Tour victory -- were tied at 13 under par after 72 holes of regulation play and locked in a sudden-death playoff; the first man to win a hole would win the tournament.

Davis's approach shot on the first playoff hole landed in some weeds just off the green. As he tried to chip the ball onto the green, Davis's club brushed a stray weed or two during his backswing. As the Devil Ball Golf blog points out, that's an obscure violation of the PGA's rule against moving "loose impediments" that results in an immediate two-stroke penalty.

No one appeared to have seen the violation -- except Davis himself, "out of the corner of my eye," he said later.

So what did he do?

With his first Tour victory and more than $1 million in prize money on the line, Davis pointed out his error to an official, who then checked a TV replay and confirmed that, yes, Davis had violated the rule.

In essence, Davis called his own violation, docked himself two strokes and handed the tournament title to Furyk.

Could he have gotten away with it? Maybe. But as Davis himself explained, "I could not have lived with myself if I had not (reported the violation)."

That's what doing the right thing looks like.

Davis passed one of the most basic ethical litmus tests around: He did the right thing even when no one was looking.

He's also a perfect example of the notion that everyone -- not just the rules official, not just the boss -- is responsible for acting ethically. As ethicist Christopher Bauer says, "The integrity of your company is being judged all day, every day on the basis of everyone on staff."

Thanks to Brian Davis, that's good news for the entire PGA Tour -- Tiger Woods's behavior notwithstanding.

Check out our list of ethics-related CPE, then tell us: What would you have done in Davis's shoes?


Bill Sheridan