Cameron Smith looked to get on top of the leaderboard in the FedEx Cup playoffs’ opening tournament on Sunday but was hit with a setback as he got set to tee off at the St. Jude Championship.
The PGA Tour penalized the reigning British Open winner after officials learned his ball was still touching the red hazard line when he was taking a penalty drop on the par-3 fourth hole during the third round on Saturday. Smith was docked two strokes.
Smith signed for a 67 after the third round and was two shots behind J.J. Spaun. Instead, Smith started Sunday four shots behind the leader.
Gary Young, the chief referee for the PGA Tour, said Smith was apprised when officials took a closer look at the replay. The rules allow what a player sees to take precedence over a zoomed view from television. Smith told Young the ball was definitely touching the line.
The PGA Tour official watching the broadcast initially determined it was not enough to raise any questions. The entire golf ball must be in play and not touching any part of the line.
“Just knowing the awkwardness of camera angles and that he was dropping in a really tight area there at No. 4, the geometry of the whole situation — he’s got basically a sliver he’s dropping the ball in — we felt very comfortable at that time that he was familiar with the rule,” Young said.
“And that it was such a quick view of it that we had, at that time we decided it wasn’t worth following up on.”
Young said another official working the tournament happened to watch the rebroadcast Saturday night and officials decided to take another look.
Smith and officials talked before the final round and he was asked about the drop. Officials said they had no choice but to penalize him.
“I thought it was simply going to be a situation where I asked Cam the question and he was going to (say) that he was comfortable that his ball was outside the penalty area,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.