DUBLIN, Ohio — Former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified Thursday when officials determined he had too much paint on the face of his 3-wood that he was using for alignment.
It was the first time Matsuyama, who won the Memorial in 2014 for his first PGA Tour victory, had ever been disqualified on the PGA Tour.
Chief referee Steve Rintoul said rules officials were made aware of 10 small lines forming a circle on the face of his 3-wood. Matsuyama had just teed off at Muirfield Village and was approached on the second hole.
It's OK to have a non-conforming club in the bag as long as it hasn't been used. Matsuyama said he used it for his opening tee shot.
Rintoul said he met him on the fifth fairway to talk to the Japanese star and to take pictures of the club. He then brought in the USGA and the tour's equipment standards leader to make sure, and the result was disqualification.
The alignment aid was not at issue, rather the substance used to create the lines was thick enough that it could affect the flight of the ball.
Rule 4.1-a(3) states players cannot hit a shot with a club that has been changed “by applying any substance to the clubhead (other than in cleaning it) to affect how it performs in making a stroke.”
Rintoul described the substance as white-out used in fixing typographical errors on paper.
“There was a lot of white,” he 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.”
He said he closed his yes and rubbed his fingernail across the face of the club. In one direction he could feel the paint, and the other direction he couldn't.
“It was thick enough you could pick up on where it was on the face,” he said.
Rintoul said someone in the golf industry whom he declined to identify pointed out pictures of Matsuyama's club that had been taken a few days ago. They reached Matsuyama too late to keep him from using the club in competition.
“But the damage was done on the first hole,” Rintoul said. “Just unfortunate set of circumstances for Hideki, for sure."
Matsuyama left after nine holes — he was 3-over par — without comment. His next tournament is the U.S. Open in two weeks.