Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson out of The Open Championship
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SANDWICH, England – Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson have withdrawn from the Open Championship at Royal St George’s due to COVID-19 protocols.
Matsuyama, who became the first male player from Japan to win a major championship at April’s Masters Tournament, chose to withdraw due to UK protocols, ensuring he keeps his Olympic dreams alive.
Watson, a two-time Masters winner and 12-time PGA TOUR winner, has been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and as such serves as a risk according to the UK Government protocols.
Matsuyama tested positive for the virus prior to the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 2 and according to the R&A has been in quarantine since and is currently symptom free, but he has continued to show positive results on PCR tests.
“I’m feeling fine but haven’t been able to practice in preparation for The Open. Combining that with the difficult travel to the UK, my team and I have decided it’s best to withdraw to ensure everyone’s safety,” Matsuyama said via statement to the R&A.
“I feel badly missing The Open and look forward to playing again at St Andrews next year. I’d like to thank the many golf fans for their continued concern and support as I strive to return to the game I love as soon as possible.”
Individuals need a negative test result to enter the UK and any positive result inside the UK could result in a 10–14-day quarantine in the country. Matsuyama will now attempt to be ready for the Olympic golf tournament to be held in Japan starting July 29, where he will represent his home country.
A fully vaccinated Watson took to social media to explain his absence at Royal St Georges. U.S. guidelines differ from the UK and while Watson desperately wanted to take his place in the field, the Floridian first and foremost had the health and safety of others on his mind.
Taking his place in a 12th Open Championship would prove near impossible under the UK’s strict entrance guidelines.
“I am disappointed to announce I will not compete at the Open Championship next week due to having direct exposure to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. While I am vaccinated and have passed the required pre travel Covid test, not enough time has passed for me to comfortably join the charter flight and risk exposure to the other players and personnel on board,” Watson said.
“I appreciate the R&A’s guidance and help navigating UK policy for such situations. Like many of you, I look forward to watching the Open Championship on TV. Since I will be watching from the comfort of my couch I would not mind seeing the field have to deal with a little rain and strong winds! Best of luck to all the players. I look forward to returning to the Open Championship next year.”
Former champion David Duval was also a late withdrawal on Sunday.
Americans Harold Varner III, Brendan Steele and John Catlin join the Open Championship field.
Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Louis de Jager were the latest withdrawals Monday. Moore, who finished second in the John Deere Classic on Sunday, declined his spot in The Open because of a back injury. Johnson and de Jager have withdrawn after testing positive for COVID-19. Adam Long, Sam Horsfield and Dylan Frittelli took their spots in the field.