Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters Champion, was disqualified during the first round of the Memorial Tournament because his equipment violated PGA Tour regulations. Chief referee Steve Rintoul broke the news to the player after he finished the ninth hole. Matsuyama was at three-over 39 through the first nine holes.
The disqualification was for markings on his 3-wood that seemingly are used for alignment. While the markings themselves are no issue, the substance used to mark the club was deemed enough to potentially alter the ball’s course.
“There was a lot of white,” Rintoul said. “A white-out substance that was very much up on the face of the club, which, really, it’s very clear in equipment rules that is not allowed.”
It is the first career disqualification for Matsuyama, an eight-time PGA Tour winner. His first career win came at the Memorial Tournament, and he now becomes the first former Masters Champion to be disqualified from a PGA Tour event.
Rintoul said Matsuyama was disqualified because he had already used the club on the first tee by the time its image surfaced online. Matsuyama was told the club could be a potential violation during the second hole. Rintoul said he was not disqualified until after the ninth hole because officials needed to discuss the matter with the U.S. Golf Association (USGA).
“Our committee became aware through some pictures that were posted that there may be a substance that has been painted on the face of one of Hideki’s clubs,” Rintoul explained. “And we approached Hideki and went through the process. ‘Hideki, are you carrying this club?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Have you used this club?’ Because if he hasn’t used the club — it’s okay to carry a nonconforming club; you just can’t use it. ‘Have you used this club?’ Well, the poor guy has played one hole, and he managed to use it off the first tee.”
“At that point, without jumping to too much conclusion with the club and what exactly what was done to the club, I met Hideki at the fifth tee. The damage was done. One shot, and it’s a disqualification.”
Rintoul indicated that the disqualification could have been averted if officials had learned of the markings before Matsuyama used the club in the tournament.
“It was thick enough you could pick up on where it was on the face,” Rintoul said. “But the damage was done on the first hole.”
Rule 4a (3) in the USGA’s rules prohibits applying “any substance to the clubhead (other than in cleaning it) to affect how it performs in making a stroke.” Foreign substances on club heads have been found to result in longer driving distances.