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The Open Championship is set to begin this week, but tight COVID restrictions and guidelines have already caused a handful of players to withdraw. So far, 13 players who had been planning to play at Royal St. George’s have pulled out of the competition, including seven of the top 75 in the world rankings.
Hideki Matsuyama, reigning Masters’ champion and the No. 18 player in the world, is both the latest player to withdraw and the highest-rated player to withdraw thus far. The six-time PGA tour winner tested positive earlier this month in Detroit at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. According to his team and the R&A (Scotland’s governing body for golf), Matsuyama has been quarantined ever since, but he continues to produce positive tests. Though he has been described as “symptom-free,” the work of preparation, major travel, and COVID-influenced red tape makes this year’s Open Championship simply untenable.
“I feel badly missing The Open and look forward to playing again at St. Andrews next year,” said Matsuyama, 29. “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.”
There is also an Olympics angle at play for Matsuyama. Skipping the Open should help better guarantee his health and clearance for Tokyo’s Summer games. The hometown hero, fresh off the first Masters win in Japanese history, likely looks to play a prominent role in his country’s ceremonies and plans.
Matsuyama’s best finish in the Open Championship was a tie for sixth in 2013.