Cameron Smith will get pricey stroke penalty at St. Jude amid backdrop of LIV rumors

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The ultimate spherical of the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Championship went to a playoff Sunday, however a lot of the chatter within the golf world as that unfolded was regarding a participant who had already completed six pictures again, exterior of the highest 10.

Cameron Smith may need been capable of put way more warmth on the leaders, together with eventual winner Will Zalatoris, however shortly earlier than he teed off Sunday, the Australian was handed a two-stroke penalty over an infraction he dedicated Saturday. That instantly took Smith from simply two pictures off the 54-hole result in 4 again.

The British Open champion and one of many tour’s greatest younger gamers, Smith had already sparked loads of speak earlier this week when the Telegraph reported that he agreed to a $100 million deal to turn into the most recent large identify to defect to the rival LIV Golf collection. The Saudi-funded upstart doesn’t have one other occasion scheduled till simply after the conclusion of the PGA Tour’s three-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs, of which the St. Jude Championship was the beginning. A minimum of in principle, if Smith earned the $18 million verify that goes to the playoff winner, he might think about it a large parting reward earlier than formally becoming a member of LIV.

If nothing else, had the 28-year-old Smith received the St. Jude Championship, he would have risen to No. 1 on this planet rankings. Because it occurred, his Thirteenth-place tie nonetheless left him well-positioned to emerge in two weeks with the PGA Tour’s greatest single payout.

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The LIV hypothesis surrounding Smith served as an unignorable backdrop to the information that he was docked two strokes on Sunday. Some observers questioned the timing, given it took tour officers almost a full day to evaluation the incident and make a ruling that, as was noted in wagering circles, dramatically modified his probabilities of successful.

The sequence started Saturday on the par-3 fourth gap of Memphis’s TPC Southwind when Smith hit his tee shot into water. He took a drop, however a day later, officers decided that the ball he subsequently chipped onto the inexperienced had come to relaxation illegally on the crimson line that demarcated the penalty space close to the water.

PGA Tour chief referee Gary Younger defined Sunday that his workers had observed on the time that Smith was enjoying a ball “awfully close” to the road, however initially gave him the advantage of the doubt that he wouldn’t have struck the ball had it, actually, been in an unlawful place.

Upon a “second look” Sunday, Younger stated, he determined “it was worth asking” Smith about it.

“I thought it was simply going to be a situation where I asked [Smith] the question and he was going to tell me that he was comfortable that his ball was outside the penalty area,” Younger stated. “When I asked him the question, unfortunately, he said to me, ‘No, the ball was definitely touching the line.’ So at that point, there’s no turning back.”

“He wasn’t aware,” Younger stated of Smith on NBC Sports activities, “that no portion of the ball could be touching the penalty area line. … Cam is a complete gentleman, and he took it that way. He was completely calm through the whole process, and once he found it was a two-stroke penalty, he just said to me, ‘The rules are the rules.’ ”

Smith, who was reportedly heckled as a “sellout” throughout the St. Jude, didn’t make himself obtainable to the media after capturing a 70 in Sunday’s spherical. He began the match with rounds of 67 and 65, and signed for an additional 67 on Saturday earlier than the penalty modified it to 69.

When the PGA Tour posted a tweet displaying Younger’s rationalization on NBC Sports activities, LIV golfer Lee Westwood replied with a suggestion that the tour wasn’t being delicate in an try to impair Smith’s probabilities of successful.

“Surely not,” tweeted Westwood, a 49-year-old Englishman who was amongst these suspended by the PGA Tour in June for competing in LIV’s inaugural occasion. “Too obvious!”

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Not within the St. Jude subject have been three gamers — Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford — who had gathered sufficient FedEx Cup factors to qualify for the playoffs earlier than leaping ship to LIV earlier this summer time. On Tuesday, a federal choose denied their request for a brief restraining order that might have outmoded the PGA Tour’s suspension and allowed them to compete within the three-tournament postseason. Stailing ongoing, although, is an antitrust lawsuit filed in opposition to the tour by that trio and eight extra banned LIV golfers.

Earlier than the Memphis match received underway this week, a number of noteworthy PGA Tour gamers criticized their former colleagues for taking authorized motion after accepting the Saudi-backed large sums to play elsewhere. Amongst them was Scottie Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked participant who on the time was additionally No. 1 within the FedEx Cup factors race.

“It’s one of those deals where those guys kind of made their decision to go join another tour,” Scheffler, 26, advised reporters Tuesday, “and they broke the rules and regulations of our tour, and now they’re trying to sue us, which is definitely a bit frustrating.”

Scheffler and Smith have been paired in Thursday’s first spherical, and the previous raised eyebrows when footage circulated of him strolling instantly in entrance of Smith because the latter tried to line up a putt. Smith then regarded up on the passing Scheffler and held that look for a second, whereas on-line observers questioned if the minor breach of golf etiquette had something to do with rumors of Smith and LIV. Scheffler was later reported to have denied any ailing intent, claiming he was too targeted on his play to comprehend the place his path on the inexperienced was taking him, and Smith reportedly was comfortable sufficient to be joking with him about it.

Scheffler, whose stellar 12 months on the tour has included a Masters triumph and three different wins, missed the minimize on the St. Jude however had constructed such an enormous lead within the FedEx Cup factors race that he nonetheless solely fell to second place after Sunday. Zalatoris, who defeated Sepp Straka over three tense playoff holes for his first PGA Tour win, is in first, and Smith is in third.

Smith has been linked to LIV since at the least final month’s British Open, when he was requested about it throughout his post-victory information convention. After initially expressing some unhappiness that the query would come up instantly after his greatest second, Smith stated, “I don’t know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”

When the topic of a attainable transfer to LIV got here up once more this week in a pretournament media session, Smith as soon as extra demurred.

“My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs,” Smith advised reporters in Memphis. “That’s all I’m here for.”

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