Brian Davis was close here and stopped himself short.
Otherwise, he might not be talking about chasing his first PGA Tour victory, wouldn’t still be talking about the penalty he called on himself during the 2010 Heritage playoff with Jim Furyk, which earned Davis the title of gentleman but not the tartan jacket.
He would not be Davis who brushed the reed on the bank of the Calibogue Sound, but Davis, past champion. But he didn’t win in 2010 — or since.
And each time he fires a round like he did Thursday, a 6-under-par 65 to lead after the first round of the RBC Heritage, thoughts of the elusive first PGA Tour victory probably surface. The Englishman calms them.
“If you think like that, it’s always going to be a problem,” Davis said. “Because you’re always going to be fighting it. It will be one of those things, I’ll probably win when I don’t expect it. And when I win one, I’ll probably win three that year. You just never know.”
With poor weather expected late today and early Saturday, players took advantage of Harbour Town Golf Links in a slight breeze.
Davis leads Charley Hoffman and Kevin Streelman trail by a shot after each fired a 66.
Hoffman, who made his only bogey of the day on the par-3 17th after leaving his bunker shot on the face of the trap, skipped Harbour Town for years before adding it to the 2012 schedule on a whim. A top-10 finish encouraged him to return.
“Now I really enjoy coming here,” Hoffman said. “... If you don’t play a golf course well, even if you like it, you’re probably not going to show up.”
A pair of Australians fresh off solid finishes at the Masters — Jason Day and Marc Leishman — played together and shot 67 to trail Davis by two. Thursday’s grouping of Day, Leishman and Webb Simpson, who shot 68, did not record a bogey.
“It’s definitely not good when a couple of guys start down the wrong way, it’s easy to do that,” Leishman said. “And it works the same when everyone is playing well.”
Streelman credited his short-game work before the Masters for his success on the greens. He took 26 putts Thursday.
The Duke product won the Tampa Bay Championship in March and compared Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course to Harbour Town’s layout.
“You’ve got to control your golf ball,” Streelman said. “You’ve got to trust the direction you go all day.”
Davis won twice on the European Tour, most recently in 2004. He earned medalist honors at PGA Tour Qualifying School that fall.
Victory in the U.S. has been difficult since he began devoting the bulk of his time here in 2006. He has been a runner-up five times and finished inside the top 100 in money in 2007 and 2008.
After a slow start Thursday, Davis chipped in for birdie on No. 6, a stretch of five birdies in six holes. He added a 28-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and enjoyed an uneventful 18th.
Davis’ act during the 2010 playoff is well-documented. He brushed a loose reed on his backswing during the first playoff hole with Furyk, a violation of a rule against moving loose impediments in a hazard. He recognized the breach and consulted with PGA Tour official Slugger White, who confirmed the two-stroke penalty with slow-motion television replay.
White that day said Davis’ honorable decision would be paid back in full. But it hasn’t yet, at least not on the golf course.
“All you can do is do your best,” Davis said. “Today was my best, and it was awesome. I’ve just got to keep doing that.”