Masters champ Matsuyama leads mass Open withdrawals

The withdrawal of reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is a big blow not only to organisers of this week’s Open Championship but the 32,000 a day fans headed to Royal St. George’s.

The first Japanese male golfer to win a major advised the R&A a recent positive COVID-19 diagnosis and inability to practice properly has led to his withdrawal and what would be his eighth Open appearance.

Hideki Matsuyama Hideki Matsuyama (Credit: PGA Tour)

The Japanese star’s withdrawal also robs fans worldwide of seeing the three majors winners of 2021 being grouped for the opening two rounds on the Kent course.

Matsuyama’s absence at the 149th Open will end his streak of 33 consecutive appearances at major tournaments, while concerns also remain over his participation at the Tokyo Olympics, where the men’s golf competition is set to start on July 29.

Matsuyama has been self-isolating since testing positive during the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit on July 2. He is currently asymptomatic but subsequent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have continued to show positive results.

“I’m feeling fine but haven’t been able to practice in preparation for The Open,” Matsuyama said in a statement released by the R&A ahead of the tournament, which begins on Thursday.

“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.”

While missing The Open, Matsuyama is still considered a strong contender to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.

Matsuyama adds to a laundry list of players unable, or unwilling, to make it to the final major of the year including 2015 Open champion, Zach Johnson, Matthew Wolff, Bubba Watson, New Zealand’s Danny Lee, Kevin Na, Kim Si-woo and Im Sung-jae.