It is the first time that Matsuyama, ranked 12th in the world, has been disqualified from a PGA Tour event, coming at the tournament which he achieved the first of his eight PGA Tour wins at in 2014.
Chief referee and PGA Tour Senior Tournament Director Steve Rintoul said officials had been made aware of a potential “non-conforming” club after Matsuyama’s initial tee-off and had spoken to the 30-year-old to confirm that he had used it.
The markings were applied by one of the Japanese golfers’ team to aid with alignment, Rintoul said. While it is not a violation of the rules to add small sharpie marks to help alignment, it is when it is deemed to “unduly affect the performance of a ball,” the referee explained.
“What was done there with that substance, which is very much a white-out substance we would use at home, was a coding not only in the grooves but was very thick along the face,” Rintoul told NBC Sports.
“Now, he’s applied a substance to the face, which renders the club non-conforming … a player is disqualified if they use a non-conforming club.”
Having shot a 3-over 39 on the first nine holes, Matsuyama was informed of his disqualification at the 10th tee.
“I’m not going to say he was expecting it, but it wasn’t as much a surprise as it would have been if it had been unknown,” Rintoul said.
Matsuyama had been chasing his second PGA Tour win of 2022 after triumphing at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January.
DeChambeau back in action
Six golfers sit tied for the lead at 5-under 67 after Thursday’s action, the highest number ever following an opening round at the Memorial Tournament.
American trio Luke List, Davis Riley, and Cameron Young sit level with Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, Australian World No. 3 Cameron Smith and South Korea’s Lee Kyoung-Hoon.
The 28-year-old injured his hand when he slipped over on a marble floor while playing table tennis at the Saudi International in February, with surgery causing him to miss the PGA Championship in May.
US Open champion in 2020 and an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, DeChambeau was happy to be back on the course despite a harsh self-assessment.
“I was able to enjoy golf again even though I played terrible,” he told reporters. “I know I have a lot of stuff to work on. Just being able to go out there, start to enjoy what this game has given me.
“From a golf perspective, I hated every minute of it. But from an emotional standpoint, it was nice to finally be back again in a competitive environment.”