Cameron Smith, who is trying to become the No. 1 golfer in the world and will reportedly compete in the rival LIV Golf series, was handed a two-stroke penalty before the final round of the FedEx St. Jude on Sunday. Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
According to a statement from the PGA Tour, Smith played his ball from the wrong spot on the fourth hole during Saturday’s third round. The tour said Smith was given “a two-stroke penalty for a rule 14.7 violation” [playing ball from the wrong spot].”
Smith, winner of the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews last month, fell in the wrong place after hitting his ball into the water on the par-3 fourth hole.
Smith signed for a 3-under67 and was 2 shots behind leader JJ Spaun. After the penalty, he started the last round 4 strokes behind him.
Rule 14.7 of the Rules of Golf states: “If a player’s ball comes to rest in an area where play is prohibited, the player must take relief under the relevant Rule. In stroke play, if the player plays the ball from that area (such as a no-play zone or wrong green) the player incurs two penalty strokes for each stroke made from that area.”
Smith hit his tee shot on the green, but it bounced left into an adjacent pond. Smith took the length of relief two clubs. On his drop, his ball rolled back to the water and landed with part of it on the red line of the penalty area. From there, he played his third shot and nearly shot his ball into the hole.
Gary Young, the PGA Tour’s chief referee, said they noticed Smith’s ball was very close to the penalty area line during live action on Saturday. Young spoke to the rules officer who was on the fourth hole, but he was not called by Smith for a ruling.
“It looked like his ball was very close to the line, but we felt comfortable that the player knew enough that he wouldn’t play a ball that touched the penalty area line,” Young said during an interview with NBC Sports on Sunday.
Another member of the tour’s rules committee, Young said, expressed concern about Smith’s drop on Sunday morning. Young said Smith’s ball was close enough to the line “that we decided we should probably talk to the player himself.”
When Young Smith asked about the situation Sunday morning, Smith said, “Yeah, my ball definitely hit the line.”
“He was unaware that no part of the ball could touch the penalty area line,” said Young. “He thought that if part of the ball was in the general area of the court, he was safe to play it.”
Young said Smith took the news as a “complete gentleman” and said, “The rules are the rules.”
With Scottie Scheffler missing the cut in Memphis, Smith would move to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
On Tuesday, the Telegraph of London reported that Smith would become the highest-ranked player to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf league. He will reportedly receive a signing bonus worth more than $100 million and is set to debut at the next LIV event in Boston later this month.
Smith dodged journalists’ questions about the report.
“I am a man of my word and if you want to know anything, it will be said by me,” Smith said Tuesday.