Attempting to become the world’s No. 1 golfer and rumored to be headed for Saudi-backed LIV Golf, Cameron Smith was given a two-stroke penalty for a rules violation before play began Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
Will Zalatoris won the event, and Smith ended up finishing 13th. He still trails Scottie Scheffler in the World Golf Rankings.
Smith is “reportedly set to join the rival LIV Golf series,” according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. A report from The Telegraph last week said that Smith has agreed to a $100 million deal to join the breakaway series, which has already added names like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
Why was Cameron Smith penalized?
A PGA Tour statement said Smith “was assessed a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 14.7.” That rule states: “When a player’s ball comes to rest in an area where play is not allowed, the player must take relief under the appropriate Rule. In stroke play, if the player plays the ball from that area (such as a no play zone or wrong green) the player gets two penalty strokes for each stroke made from that area.”
ESPN’s Schlabach explained: “Smith hit his tee shot onto the green, but it bounced left into an adjoining pond. Smith took two clubs’ length of relief. On his drop, his ball rolled back toward the water and settled with part of it on the red penalty-area line. He played his third shot from there and nearly chipped his ball into the hole.”
“The LIV speculation surrounding Smith served as a hard-to-ignore backdrop to the news that he was docked two strokes on Sunday,” wrote Des Beiler in The Washington Post. “Some observers questioned the timing, given it took tour officials nearly a full day to review the incident and make a ruling that, as was noted in wagering circles, dramatically changed his chances of winning.”
In analyzing the social media response to the penalty, Yahoo! Sports’ Rex Hoggard pointed out that the Rules of Golf “are written and maintained by the USGA and R&A (The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews), not the PGA Tour.”
Who is Cameron Smith?
The 28-year-old from Brisbane, Australia, is identifiable by his mullet hairstyle and penguin-themed apparel.
Smith won the British Open at St. Andrews in July by holding off vocal LIV Tour critic and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy.
Smith “was reportedly heckled as a ‘sellout’” by fans during the event, according to The Washington Post.