By Daniel Rapaport
SANDWICH, England — Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion, became the latest player to withdraw from the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, the R&A announced on Sunday. He will be replaced in the field by Harold Varner III.
Matsuyama was forced to withdraw prior to the second round of last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic when he tested positive for COVID-19. He went into quarantine in an effort to be able to play in the Open, and says he is symptom-free. However, he had continued to test positive for the virus in subsequent PCR tests.
“I’m feeling fine but haven’t been able to practice in preparation for the Open,” the 29-year-old said. “Combining that with the difficult travel to the U.K., my team and I have decided it’s best to withdraw to ensure everyone’s safety. 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.”
The news comes a day after three other players withdrew: Matthew Wolff, who did not cite a reason; K.H. Lee, who will miss the action due to the birth of his child; and Danny Lee, who pulled out with an injury.
There are now five players ranked inside the world’s top 50 that will not tee it up at Royal St. George’s. In addition to Matsuyama and Wolff, Sungjae Im and Si-Woo Kim opted to skip the year’s final major to focus on the Olympics, where a medal would exempt them from mandatory South Korean military service. Kevin Na will not make the trip due to “travel restrictions.”
The first alternate for the Open is now Brendan Steele, with fellow Americans John Catlin and Adam Long behind him in the pecking order should there be more withdrawals.