Smith caught 2 shots for bad drop in 3rd round in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — British Open champion Cameron Smith and his hunt for No. 1 in the world got a little more difficult, even before he started Sunday in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

The PGA Tour penalized Smith with two shots when he found his ball still touched the red penalty line when he took a penalty drop on the par-3 fourth hole during the third round on Saturday.

Smith scored a 67 and trailed two shots. A win on Sunday takes him to number 1 in the world. With the penalty, his score was adjusted to a 69 and he started the final round four shots down.

The penalty is getting more attention around Smith over reports – which he has chosen not to discuss – that he will be the latest player to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf after the FedEx Cup play-offs.

It also frustrated those who participated in daily fantasy competitions. Smith, a three-time winner this year and No. 2 in the world, was the favorite to win the final round of the TPC Southwind.

Gary Young, the chief referee for the PGA Tour, said Smith was aware as officials took a closer look at the replay. According to the rules, what a player sees takes precedence over a zoomed-in view from the television. Smith told Young that the ball definitely hit the line.

It is suspected that Smith was not aware that when taking a drop from a penalty area the entire golf ball must be in play and must not touch any part of the line.

Although Smith said his ball hit part of the line, the bad break was how it unfolded. The PGA Tour has a rules official watching the broadcast, but he decided it wasn’t enough to ask questions.

“Just knowing the awkwardness of camera angles and that he fell there at number 4 in a really tight area, the geometry of the whole situation – he actually has a splinter that he drops the ball into – we felt very comfortable then he was familiar with the rule,” Young said. “And having such a quick look at it, we then decided it wasn’t worth following up.”

Young said another official working on the tournament was watching a rebroadcast Saturday night and they decided to watch again.

“The committee has decided to investigate it a little further,” he said.

At that point they found Smith as he arrived to warm up for the final lap, asked him about the drop and had no choice but to punish him.

“I thought it was just going to be a situation where I asked Cam the question and he was going to (say) that he was comfortable having his ball out of the box,” said Young. “Unfortunately, when I asked him the question, he said to me, ‘No, the ball definitely hit the line.’ So at that point there is no going back.”

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