Cameron Smith was assessed a two-stroke penalty for "improper placement of the ball" after hitting into the water on the 4th hole of Saturday's third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, the PGA Tour announced Sunday.
Smith began the final round at 9-under, four shots behind leader J.J. Spaun.
"Prior to the start of the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship, Cameron Smith was assessed a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 14.7 (playing the ball from the wrong place) on Hole No. 4 during the third round where he was operating under Rule 17.1 (when ball was in penalty area)," the PGA Tour said in a statement. "Smith's score has been adjusted and he will begin the final round at 201 (-9)."
Golf Channel showed the shot on the final round tournament broadcast, showing Smith playing his ball on the red penalty line after a relief drop. He had hit his tee shot on TPC Southwind's par 3 fourth hole off a ledge and into a pond.
Gary Young, a PGA Tour rules officials who is the chief referee of the FedEx St. Jude Championship, said rules officials saw it happen on the broadcast initially but didn't think much of Smith's ball placement because it's "something common that players do every day." They figured Smith knew the rule.
An on-site rules official noticed it while watching the re-broadcast Saturday night, Young confirmed.
Cameron Smith has been penalized two strokes for improper placement of the ball in the penalty area in Round 3.
He now begins the final round trailing by four.
More on the penalty ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/a1wr2Bqv9R
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 14, 2022
Upon closer inspection, it was determined the ball was "really close to the line, if not touching the line, so it was worth asking the player," Young explained from the tournament's Phil Cannon Media Center, incidentally right as Smith teed off his final round about 100 yards away.
"I thought it was simply going to be a situation where I asked Cam the question and he was going to tell me he was comfortable his ball was outside the penalty area," Young continued.
"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. That was the moment I know the player has knowledge the ball is touching the line. He just simply didn’t understand the rule, that it requires the entire ball to be outside the penalty area and in his relief area."
“Ideally," Young added later on, "he would have just called for an official if he had any question on his mind."
Smith was told of the PGA Tour's decision at around 11:20 a.m., about 70 minutes before his scheduled tee time.
All of this is occurring with Smith at the center of the PGA Tour's ongoing feud with the LIV Golf Series. It was reported earlier this week that Smith had already signed a $100 million contract with LIV.
But the penalty ultimately came down to Smith's word and he was "completely calm throughout", Young said. "He knew he had made a mistake. He just didn’t have an understanding of it, and he knew that the rules were the rules. His answer to me was “The rules are the rules.’ "
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Cameron Smith penalized two strokes for improper ball placement Saturday