The PGA Tour on Sunday announced a two-stroke penalty against Cameron Smith for a wrong drop he took during Saturday’s third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
Smith was already making plenty of headlines for participating in the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs in Tennessee. It is widely expected that the 28-year-old Australian, who won the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews last month, will jump the PGA Tour for LIV Golf once the highly lucrative FedEx Cup is settled. The PGA Tour has banned players who had previously announced their intent to play on the controversial Saudi-funded LIV Golf league from participating in the 2022 FedEx Cup.
On Saturday, Smith’s tee shot on the par-3 fourth hole found the water. Smith proceeded to take a drop, but his ball was resting on the red hazard line when he played his third shot. A PGA Tour rules expert noticed the possible violation of Rule 14.7, which requires a player to take full relief from a hazard, while watching highlights of the third round on television late Saturday night.
Tour officials approached Smith prior to Sunday’s round to ask whether he took full relief, or if his ball was indeed touching the red hazard line when he played his next shot. Smith said it was touching the line, which resulted in the Tour imposing a two-stroke penalty and increasing his third-round score from 3-under 67 to 1-under 69.
Some golf analysts criticized the Tour’s decision to impose such a penalty more than 12 hours after Smith signed his third-round scorecard. The analysts said that with sports betting widespread, such decisions affect not only the golfer but oddsmakers and bettors, too.
Chamblee Urges Finality
Brandel Chamblee has been one of LIV Golf’s most outspoken critics. But the Golf Channel analyst believes penalizing Smith so late was wrong.
I think once the round is completed and there was no penalty violation known and the scorecards are signed, and it’s put to bed, it’s put to bed,” Chamblee said. “Especially in this sports gambling era. The Tour wants it [sports betting], everybody wants to be a part of it.
“This morning, we put a PointsBet up, and Cameron Smith was the favorite. Imagine how many people were sitting at home making a bet and not knowing that they’re making a bet on someone who is four back instead of two back [of the lead],” Chamblee continued.
Fellow Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing agreed with Chamblee.
“Something has to be put in place to get some finality to a round of golf,” Rolfing added.
PGA Tour officials said Smith accepted the penalty graciously. Several years ago, things would have been much worse for the Open champ.
In 2015, the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club amended their Rules of Golf to avoid disqualification for a player who signs an incorrect scorecard, so long as the wrong card was signed only because the player was not immediately aware of being assessed a penalty.
Rule 6-6d allows a player to avoid disqualification for signing a scorecard for a lower score in the event that the final score includes a penalty discovered only after the player signed their card.
Smith shot a final round 70 to finish T13. Will Zalatoris finally won his first PGA Tour event after finishing second in three majors over the past two seasons.
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