The top of the leader-board was packed on Thursday at The Memorial but the head-scratching news of the day developed when 2021 Masters champ and 2014 Memorial winner Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified for the first time in his career.
Matsuyama’s three-wood had a hand-painted white substance on the face of the club. Tour rules official Steve Rintoul described the texture of the paint as “white out.”
The situation was brought to the Tour’s attention by another golf industry entity. It could have been the Golf WRX site, which takes close-up photos of the clubs PGA Tour players use each week in competition and shows them on its website.
Matsuyama was approached on the fifth hole, initially so that the club could be examined. Hideki was asked if he used it and he hit his opening tee shot with it off the first hole.
Matsuyama shot 39 over his first nine holes and probably knew what was coming. On the 10th tee, Rintoul gave the Japanese star the bad news.
“I think after we talked about it in the fifth fairway, I’m not going to say he was expecting — it wasn’t as much a surprise as it would have been if it had been unknown,” Rintoul said. “We told him we were looking at this; there was a problem with the stuff on the face. But our committee wanted to give Hideki all the due that he was deserved while we ascertained whether this club was nonconforming or not.”
The club was deemed non-conforming per rules 4.1a (3) which reads: “A substance or any treatment can’t be applied to the face of a club which could influence the flight of the ball, the spin, the loft or anything on the ball, how the ball performs.”
Penalty is disqualification. After speaking with Rintoul, Matsuyama shook hands with playing partners Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed and exited the course. Had Matsuyama not used the three-wood, he would have been allowed to remain in the competition.
Meanwhile, everyone played on and by days end the top of the scoreboard was quite crowded.
Cam Young, who is looking more and more like a shoe-in for Rookie Of The Year, shot a five-under par 67 and was joined by another Cam — Cam Smith along with Luke List, Davis Riley, Mackenzie Hughes and Byron Nelson winner K.H. Lee.
Ball striker extraordinaire, putter un-extraordiniare, Will Zalatoris was a shot back after shooting 68. He was joined by Sahith Theegala, Denny McCarthy and Wyndham Clark. Theegala had a chance to make it a half-dozen at the top but bogeyed his final hole of the day.
Defending champion Patrick Cantlay put an even par round of 72 on his scorecard, last year’s runner-up, Collin Morikawa, shot 71.
Jon Rahm, the world’s No. 2 who was leading by six shots here last year after 54-holes, was hit by a positive COVID test 12 months ago. Rahm shot 72.
Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele shot 70s.
Bryson DeChambeau made his return to the Tour after seven weeks of recovery following hand surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand. Bryson struggled and shot 74 and was tied for 96th.
Bryson: LIV “Not Worth The Risk”:
Bryson DeChambeau was one of the prime targets for the LIV Series and there were huge numbers thrown out as to what sort of money was offered to him.
After his round on Thursday at the Memorial, Bryson had this to say:
“I think that’s mostly – a lot of it is private. There’s not really any conversations that need to be made about that, other than the fact that, like, every person out here has their own opinion on it. Me, there’s obviously a lot of conversation. For me, I personally don’t think that at this point in time I’m in a place in my career where I can risk things like that.
“I’m loyal to my family that I’ve created around me with sponsors and everything. And as of right now, the golf world is probably going to change in some capacity. I don’t know what that is. Not my job to do so. I’m just going to keep playing professional golf and enjoy it wherever it takes me, play with the best players in the world. That’s really all I’ve got, that’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life, because I want to be one of the best players in the world.”
The Jack Nicklaus Lawsuit:
It’s a tough situation for the game’s greatest major champion and Jack Nicklaus is the host of this week’s Memorial tournament. He’s being sued by Howard Milstein, chairman of the Nicklaus Companies.
Pay special attention to No. 86: “86. By pursuing a controversial golf league program with the leaders of Golf Saudi for his own personal enrichment, Mr. Nicklaus encouraged Golf Saudi to recruit him to endorse their controversial golf league program, rather than using his access to encourage Golf Saudi to support the efforts of Nicklaus Companies to establish Nicklaus Design as a preferred supplier of golf design services to projects controlled by Golf Saudi.”
Jack won’t be talking about the lawsuit during tournament week but previously said this:
“The claims made by (Nicklaus Companies executive chairman) Howard Milstein are untrue. Our relationship has been a difficult one, at best. I have little doubt about the outcome, but I don’t intend to make this a public spectacle, if it can be avoided.”
Darren Clarke Turns Down LIV Color Commentary Slot:
Former European Tour stalwart Darren Clarke is now enjoying his time on the Champions Tour. Clarke was recently recruited by the LIV Series to serve as color commentator.
Miller Brady, the president of the PGA Tour Champions, informed Clarke in a phone call on Tuesday that he would risk his Champions Tour status, stating that Clarke’s involvement in the broadcast would be a breach of regulations and would be subject to disciplinary actions.
“I really enjoy my time on the Champions tour and didn’t want to jeopardize it,” Clarke said. Clarke would not disclose the amount of the offer but was clear that the offer was considerable.
“It was very, very generous offer. It was very tempting, because the offer was so good,” the 2011 Open champion said. “If I said yes, I’d almost be ready to retire from professional golf.”