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Why Cameron Smith was penalized by PGA Tour in third round of FedEx St. Jude Championship

Cameron Smith left the course at TPC Southwind on Saturday believing he was third in the FedEx St. Jude Championship with a shot at making the top spot in the fourth round. He got on the course two strokes further on Sunday than on Saturday and four strokes behind the leader.

The PGA Tour announced Sunday that Smith had been given a two-stroke penalty for playing the ball from the wrong spot. The penalty changed his score from 11 under to 9 under through three rounds.

When the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first tournament in the 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs, ended Sunday, Smith finished in 13th place. Had he not been penalized, he would have finished fifth, tied on points. 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.

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Why was Cameron Smith punished?

On Saturday, Smith hit his tee shot on the par 3 fourth hole at TPC Southwind. Because his shot ended up in a penalty area, he was required to take relief under Rule 14.7 of the Rules of Golf.

Taking his relief by two club-lengths, the ball rolled toward the water and onto the red penalty line after the drop. He proceeded with his next shot. But the rollback meant he didn’t find full relief, meaning he played his shot from an incorrect position.

According to the PGA Tour, rules officials saw Saturday’s violation but didn’t investigate it because “the camera angles were awkward and[Smith]fell into a really narrow range,” according to chief judge Gary Young. Young added it was “not worth pursuing.”

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But rules officials looked back at a replay and saw that the ball was “really close to the line, if not touching and possibly on the line,” Young said.

Young spoke to Smith about the incident before the fourth round. Smith told Young that the ball touched the line. That statement forced the PGA Tour to evaluate the penalty. It was said that if Smith had said he felt the ball was outside the penalty area, the penalty would not have been awarded.

“I figured it was just going to be a situation where I asked [Smith] the question and he wanted to tell me that he was comfortable that his ball was outside the penalty area,” Young said. “Unfortunately, when I asked him the question, he said to me, ‘No, the ball definitely touched the line.’ So at this point there is no going back.”

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