The reigning Masters champion and a former British Open winner have both pulled out of this week’s major championship at Royal St. Georges due to COVID-19.
Hideki Matsuyama officially withdrew on Sunday, citing a lack of practice following his positive test at the Rocket Mortgage Classic earlier this month. Johnson, who won the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews, withdrew on Monday after he tested positive for the coronavirus after the John Deere Classic on Sunday.
“I am disappointed to announce that I have tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to withdraw from the 2021 Open Championship,” Johnson tweeted on Monday. “I look forward to returning to St. Andrews next year, a place where I have such wonderful memories. Good luck to all the competitors.”
Johnson, according to The Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Mike Hlas, didn’t feel well after finishing his final round at the John Deere Classic on Sunday. He skipped his media session, quickly signed his scorecard and left TPC Deere Run, and later learned of his positive test.
He was supposed to be on the chartered flight from the Quad Cities to England with others playing in the event, but did not join.
Johnson, a 12-time Tour winner, won the British Open in 2015 — which marked his last professional win — in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman. That win was the Iowa native’s second major championship, following his victory at the Masters in 2007.
Matsuyama was forced to withdraw from the Rocket Mortgage Classic after the first round after he tested positive, too. He said in a statement on Sunday that he is “feeling fine,” but hasn’t been able to practice enough to feel comfortable playing.
“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 in a statement through 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.”
Harold Varner replaced Matsuyama in the field, and Sam Horsfield replaced Johnson.
Johnson, Matsuyama latest to WD from British Open
Johnson and Matsuyama are just the latest to announce they won’t compete in the British Open, bringing the total number of people who have withdrawn up to 17.
Bubba Watson withdrew on Sunday, too, saying he was exposed to someone who has tested positive. While he said he is vaccinated and hasn’t tested positive, he wasn’t able to play due to the stricter rules the R&A has in place.
Ryan Moore also withdrew on Monday due to a back injury, and Louis de Jager withdrew after he tested positive. Adam Long and Dylan Frittelli will play instead, and Brendan Steele replaced Watson.
Matthew Wolff, K.H. Lee and Danny Lee all withdrew, too, but for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus.
The British Open will kick off on Thursday from Royal St. George’s, which was supposed to hold the tournament last year but didn’t get to after the event was canceled due to the pandemic. It was the only one of the four major championships to completely cancel last season.
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