Will an offending reed be Davis' talisman?
HILTON HEAD, S.C. - A small portion of what appeared to be a piece of straw protruded from a pocket in Brian Davis' Titleist golf bag Thursday afternoon. Upon closer inspection, it was a brown reed, which Davis' caddie Steve Hulka had plucked from Calibogue Sound Wednesday night and slid into a compartment of the black-and-white bag as an odd but appropriate talisman.
"I found the culprit. Well, darn close to the culprit," Hulka said with a grin. "It's a memory for us of all the bad - and good - from last year."
"I noticed he put it in the bag. I'm not going to take it out," Davis said. "Maybe this time it helps me."
Davis, 36, birdied his last two holes Thursday at Harbour Town GL for an opening 3-under-par 68, a heartening and healing beginning to The Heritage for the native of London, who finished runner-up to Jim Furyk here a year ago.
Furyk won on the first extra hole in a sudden-death playoff, but Davis departed a winner of sorts, too. He called a two-stroke penalty on himself and conceded the title to the eventual FedExCup season champion after he ticked a loose reed with his wedge in his backswing in the marshy area left of the 18th green, a violation of Rule 13-4 covering the movement of a loose impediment in a hazard.
"I started a bit rusty, but finished well," Davis said of his effort amid sunny and calm conditions Thursday. "It's just nice to be back here and playing well again here. I didn't want to make a lot of it."
But that has happened anyway, as others have made something of it. Davis said he took Golf Channel on a shot-by-shot walk-through of last year's playoff earlier in the week, and during Wednesday's Pro-Am he heard from many well-wishers who said that Harbour Town owes him one.
Davis isn't so sure about Harbour Town owing him anything. "I still have to go out and win it," said Davis, who has five runner-up finishes on the tour but still seeks his first victory. "Obviously, for me it was a huge disappointment. It would have been my first win. I would have gotten a trip to the Masters and to Kapalua for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. There was a lot I missed out on last year because of what happened.
"But, that said, what I gained was a lot of positive things off the golf course, a lot of people pulling for me, meeting a lot of great fans who have a kind word," he added. "It was a negative initially, but once it all settled down, you look at it objectively and think there aren't many situations where you make a mistake and you have a lot more positives. You know, you can't run from it. You just have to suck it up and move on."
Davis began his round Thursday on the 10th tee, so he came upon the 18th in mid-round. He played the long par-4 with a drive into the right fairway and an approach into the bunker fronting the green. His bunker blast from 45 feet lipped out for birdie, but he tapped in for a par.
"We couldn't believe that didn't go in," Davis said of his blast from the sand.
Well, maybe now Harbour Town owes him two.
-- Dave Shedloski