The former champion Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified from the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio midway through his first round on Thursday due to an illegal marking on one of his clubs.
Matsuyama, who earned the first of his eight PGA Tour wins at the 2014 Memorial Tournament, was disqualified from the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event after painted lines were discovered on the face of his three wood.
It marked the first time the former Masters champion has been disqualified from a PGA Tour event.
The PGA Tour senior tournament director, Steve Rintoul, said images of the club were posted online and his team learned of them only after Matsuyama had used it on the first tee. Had he not used the club, he could have kept playing.
Rintoul said his team approached Matsuyama on the second hole to ask if he had used the club and the former Masters champion was forthright about it.
“The material was applied to the face for alignment for Hideki to set the ball inside the circle of the lines. That’s actually the center of the face,” Rintoul told reporters.
“And applying a small, discrete dot with a Sharpie to help you with alignment is fine. We have players who do it all the time. But the amount of substance that was up on the face of the club, when we felt it to the USGA, their equipment standards guys, it was just excessive.
“And that’s what could affect – could affect – the performance of the ball.”
Matsuyama, playing in a group alongside Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, was three-over-par 39 when he reached the turn at Muirfield Village after a double-bogey at the second hole and bogey at the sixth.
Cameron Smith of Australia was one of six players to shoot an opening-round, five-under-par 67 to take a share of the lead with Cameron Young, Luke List, Davis Riley, South Korea’s KH Lee and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes.
The six co-leaders are one stroke ahead of Will Zalatoris, Denny McCarthy, Sahith Theegala and Wyndham Clark, who each opened with rounds of four-under 68.
Smith made seven birdies and two bogeys Thursday. The winner of March’s Players Championship called the round “a little bit of a grind.”
“Had to make a few good pars on that last nine for me, the front nine,” Smith said. “It was just good to kind of hang in there, make a few birdies, see a few putts going in. I think this is about as easy as this place is going to get today. I think it’s going to be a lot of stressful golf and a lot of grinding over the weekend. Nice to kind of take the box there early in the week.”
Riley joined the tie late in the day. The PGA Tour rookie briefly held the sole lead last Sunday at the Charles Schwab Challenge before finishing tied for fourth. After playing the front nine in even par, Riley rang up three straight birdies on 11, 12 and 13 and eagled the par-five 15th with a 17-foot putt.
“Hit a drive down the right side and thankfully caught the fairway,” Riley said. “Thought it might have had a chance to go on the bunker. And when it was in off the right, had 262 [to the] hole, hit it perfect, a little cut three-wood landed on the green and caught the slope and funneled down to about 15 feet and made the putt center cup. That was a nice one to grab.”
Lee is looking for a Texas double after winning the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas two weeks ago for the second straight year. He holed out for an eagle two with a 152-yard shot at the ninth hole to make the turn in 31.
Hughes, who has not had a great season, made nine birdies to counteract two bogeys and one double. “I hit a few loose ones that I’d like to have back, but I did so many good things that it’s kind of easier to forget about those,” Hughes said.
Ten players were tied for 11th at three-under 69, including Keegan Bradley, Max Homa, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas. McIlroy shot a two-under 70 and Spain’s Jon Rahm was at even after a 72.
Bryson DeChambeau played his first round on the PGA Tour since the Masters after recovering from wrist surgery in April. He shot a four-over 76 with four bogeys and one double bogey. In similar fashion, Harris English made his first start on tour since January following hip surgery and shot a five-over 77.