Hideki Matsuyama is disqualified – after ‘someone in the golf world’ sees rule violation

Hideki Matsuyama and Steve Rintoul Thursday on the 10th tee at Muirfield Village.

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A white substance? Pictures online? An unknown informant? Detective work? Although this is a story about breaking the rules of golf, you might also think it reads a bit like a detective story.

In the end, he disqualified Hideki Matsuyama from Thursday’s Memorial first round. Last year’s Masters champion had the stuff on the face of his 3 wood he hit his first shot at Muirfield Village with, and that meant the DQ, per Rule 4.1a(3). But how the rules makers went from opening the tee shot to ejecting Matsuyama on the 10th hole required some research.

At a press conference with reporters midway through the tour, PGA Tour senior tournament director Steve Rintoul said a member of his committee received photos from the club and was asked if he had seen them. The photos, Rintoul said, came from a website – Golfwrx.com posted photos of the club earlier this week – but Rintoul did not reveal who alerted the committee member twice.

“Another person in the world of golf,” he first said. “We don’t need to go into that.”

“Another person in the golf industry,” Rintoul said when questioned again.

“You’re not ready…” began a journalist.

“I don’t think it matters here,” Rintoul said. “It would have happened sooner or later. It was going to be on camera this afternoon.

Rintoul said the message was received when Matsuyama and playing partners Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed were on the first green, and he met Matsyama on the fifth tee. There, after Matsuyama told Rintoul that he had used Wood 3, Rintoul took pictures of it and rubbed his fingernail on the stuff, then reported his evidence to the rule makers and told Matsuyama to keep going. to play.

“These equipment rules can get very difficult very quickly,” Rintoul said.

It was a white substance surrounded by a circle on the clubface. Rintoul described its texture as “White Out”, and rules makers determined that was enough to be a violation of rule 4.1a(3), which Rintoul says reads: “A substance or a treatment cannot be applied to the face of a club that could influence ball flight, spin, loft or anything on the ball, ball performance.

The penalty is a disqualification, and Matsuyama was notified as he and his group made the turn. Matsuyama, his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, and his interpreter, Bob Turner, spoke with Rintoul, then Matsuyama shook hands with McIlroy and Reed, and he left.

“I think after talking about it in the fifth fairway, I’m not going to say he expected it – it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it would have been had it been unknown,” said said Rintoul. “We told him we were looking into this; there was a problem with the stuff on the face. But our committee wanted to give Hideki all the due he deserved while we checked whether this club was non-compliant or not.

So why was the substance used? Although Matsuyama didn’t speak to reporters afterward, Rintoul said he was told it had been applied by Matsuyama’s equipment manager to help with alignment – and that he said it. had done to Matsuyama’s driver before, had stopped doing so but believed the substance was allowed on other clubs. .

“I will say it was a mistake – I will say it was a mistake on their part,” Rintoul said.

A reporter then asked: ‘Is it an inference right here to suggest he’s been applying this to his clubs for some time?

Rory Sabbatini has been disqualified from the RSM Classic.

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Sean Zac

“No, I don’t think so,” Rintoul said. “I think we would have learned that. He is on camera all the time. He always walks in front of the camera. I think it was cool this week. It’s a relatively new 3 wood, it seems. He was looking for a place to make sure he had the ball centered in the face. They just went with like a paper, a white brush, and that’s it.

Notably, according to Rintoul, you are allowed to have smaller marks on the clubface – “like a Sharpie point” – and that if “the paint had gone down into the grooves and down the grooves where it is not on the face, no contact with the ball, again, no problem Matsuyama would also have been allowed to continue either if the wood 3 had been just in his bag and not in play, or if the substance had been removed before to hit it.(That clarification, GOLF’s Sean Zak reported, was made in April.)

On Golf Channel, however, Rintoul offered some advice.

“Don’t put paint on the face of your clubs at home.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is an editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories in the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash his score. You can contact him about any of these topics – his stories, his game or his beers – at [email protected]

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Michael C. Ford