Cameron Smith left the course at TPC Southwind on Saturday believing he was tied for third in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, with a shot to get to the top in the fourth round. He arrived at the course Sunday two strokes further behind from where he was Saturday and four strokes behind the leader.
The PGA Tour announced Sunday that Smith was assessed a two-stroke penalty for playing the ball from the wrong place. The penalty changed his score from 11 under through three rounds to 9 under.
When the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first tournament in the 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs, concluded Sunday, Smith was tied for 13th. Had he not been penalized, he would have finished tied for fifth. The difference in playoff points is 200.
Smith did not comment to reporters after the round.
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Here’s a look at what led to Smith’s penalty.
Why was Cameron Smith penalized?
Smith hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 fourth hole at TPC Southwind on Saturday. Because his shot landed in a penalty area, he was required to take relief, according to Rule 14.7 of the Rules of Golf.
When he took his relief of two club lengths, the ball rolled toward the water after the drop and on the red penalty line. He continued with his next shot. But the rollback meant he did not take full relief, meaning he had played his shot from an improper location.
According to the PGA Tour, rules officials saw the infraction Saturday but did not investigate because of “the awkwardness of camera angles and that (Smith) was dropping in a really tight area,” according to chief referee Gary Young. Young added it “wasn’t worth following up on.”
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But rules officials took another look on a rebroadcast and saw the ball was “really close to the line, if not touching and possibly on the line,” Young said.
Young spoke with Smith before the fourth round about the incident. Smith told Young the ball was touching the line. That statement forced the PGA Tour to assess the penalty. It said that the penalty would not have been assessed had Smith said he felt the ball was beyond the penalty area.
“I thought it was simply going to be a situation where I asked [Smith] the question and he was going to tell me that he was comfortable that his ball was outside the penalty area,” Young said. “When I asked him the question, unfortunately, he said to me, ‘No, the ball was definitely touching the line.’ So at that point there’s no turning back.”