December 3, 2023

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The Sports Fanatics

2022 Memorial Tournament: Former champion Hideki Matsuyama disqualified for nonconforming club face

For the second consecutive year, one of the best players in the world has been forced out of the Memorial Tournament before completing all four rounds. Last year, it was Jon Rahm who had to withdraw with a positive COVID-19 test result. This time around, Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified for a nonconforming 3-wood.

Matsauyama, who was grouped with Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy on Thursday during Round 1 at Muirfield Village, completed nine holes before leaving the event. The issue for Matsuyama was a substance that had been painted on the face of his 3-wood.

According to the Rules of Golf, rule 4.a.(3) of the equipment portion states: “A substance or any treatment can’t be applied to the face of a club which could influence the flight of the ball, the spin, the loft or anything on the ball, how the ball performs”

Rules official Steve Rintoul said he actually found out about the club on the second hole of Matsuyama’s round and asked him if he’d used it, because if he had not, he would be fine. Matsuyama used it on the first hole.

Rintoul then took photos of the club and handled it before allowing allowing Matsuyama to play with the club while he regrouped with folks from the USGA to determine if it was in fact nonconforming.

“I actually closed my arm and rubbed my fingernail across,” said Rintour. “One way I could feel it, but the next way I couldn’t. Even though it was done with a Wite-Out-like substance, it was thick enough you could pick up on where it was on the face.”

Though Sharpie dots for alignment would have been allowed under the Rules of Golf, according to Rintour, ultimately it was determined that this substance was far too thick to be allowed. A bit later in Matsuyama’s round, after Rintour conferred with the USGA rules folks, they determined that the club was illegal.

Matsuyama explained later that the substance applied was for alignment purposes. Rintour noted that his committee was sent a photo of the club, though he declined to disclose how he received the photo or from whom.

Matsuyama, who won at Muirfield Village in 2014, came in with top 15s in two of his last three starts and was among the favorites to win one of the preeminent PGA Tour events on the calendar. Though his play through nine holes did not indicate that he was going to be competitive on the weekend, it’s still a bummer that Matsuayma was disqualified from the tournament.

Rick Gehman and Kyle Porter discuss Hideki Matsuyama’s disqualification at the Memorial. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.