Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama disqualified as Cameron Smith leads at the Memorial

Aussie Cameron Smith played like the world No.3 in Ohio where a Masters champ got into trouble.

Cameron Smith justified his jump to a career-high world ranking of three by taking a share of the lead after the opening round at the Memorial in Ohio as Master champion Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified for putting an alignment marker on one of his clubs.

Already a winner twice this year, Smith rose to world No.3 on the back of his 13th-placed finish at the PGA Championship and conceded that a focus on technique had freed him up to “play like a kid” in 2022.

The Queenslander nailed seven birdies, with two bogeys, in his opening round to card a five-under 67 and share the lead with five other players. Another 15 are within two shots of the lead.

“I think I‘ve had good and bad weeks in the past. I feel as though I’ve just done a little bit of extra work at home this year, really staying on top of a couple of technique things,” Smith said.

“And it’s allowed me to free up out here and just play like a kid, hit different shots into the greens and make birdies.

“My game has felt pretty good all season. I just need to stay on top of a few things. I think just really stay on top of my driver, my irons feel really good. Just need to keep hitting fairways and keep contending.”

But 2021 Masters winner Matsuyama won’t contend after being disqualified for an equipment violation midway through the opening round.

The Japanese star was three-over par through nine holes before being informed at the 10th tee of his violation.

Chief referee Steve Rintoul said a substance that looked like white paint had been applied to the surface of one of Matsuyama’s clubs.

“Those markings were placed there by his club guy to help with alignment,” Rintoul said.

“Assistance with alignment by placing a small Sharpie mark on the face … is certainly allowed, but what was done there with that substance, which is very much like a Wite-Out substance we would use at home, was a coating that was not only in the grooves but was very thick along the face … which renders the club nonconforming.”

Matsuyama admitted using the club on the first tee.

“The damage was done on the first hole,” Rintoul said. “Just unfortunate set of circumstances for Hideki, for sure.”

Matsuyama, 30, won the first of his eight PGA Tour titles at the Memorial in 2014.

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