In most sports, athletes let the officials take responsibility for upholding the rules. In fact in most sports, athletes and coaches "play the refs" and try to get away with as much as they can. Not so in golf.
Golf is one of the few sports to have developed a culture that demands that athletes take responsibility for upholding the rules and for reporting even their inadvertent violations of the letter of the law. Golf demonstrates that the honor code really works, even when the stakes are high and no one is looking.
In the playoff for the Horizon Heritage Tournament title with over $400,000 on the line, Brian Davis of England called a two-stroke penalty on himself for accidentally nicking a reed on the backswing of his recovery shot from a hazard to the left of the 18th green. Only Davis was aware that he had barely touched the overhang, yet he did not hesitate to make his infraction known to an official. The reaction of the golf community was not surprise but affirmation. "What Davis did was what probably 90 percent of the players on the tour would have done," wrote Larry Dorman. Dorman went on to recount golf's proud history of self-reporting going back to the legendary Bobby Jones, who in 1925 after calling the same penalty on himself said, "You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank."
Few would fault Tiger Woods for doing what athletes in all other sports do -- let the rules committee take responsibility for deciding whether to give him a two stroke penalty or disqualify him. But this is not all other sports; this is golf. Tiger missed an opportunity to act like a real champion, by doing something far more significant and memorable than winning another major.