Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama withdraws from Open

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SANDWICH, England — Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has withdrawn from The Open, citing a recent COVID-19 diagnosis and his inability to practice properly in time for the year’s final major championship.

Matsuyama, who became the first male golfer from Japan to win a major championship when he captured the Masters in April, tested positive for the coronavirus on July 2 before the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

He has been in quarantine since that positive result and the R&A reported that he is not experiencing symptoms, although he has continued to test positive.

“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. “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.

“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.”

American Harold Varner is now in the Open field.

The Open is operating under different protocols than is the case on the PGA Tour and the R&A has yet to say if Matsuyama was cleared.

Matsuyama would be allowed to return to competition on the PGA Tour 10 days following the onset of symptoms or testing positive for the virus even if his tests come back positive. According to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, a person who shows symptoms might continue to test positive for months, although he is no longer deemed contagious after 10 days.

Ranked 18th in the world, Matsuyama’s best finish since winning the Masters was a tie for 26th at the PGA Championship. He will now turn his attention to the Olympic golf tournament, which begins July 29 outside of Tokyo. The next three players on the R&A’s reserve list for The Open are all Americans: Brendan Steele, John Catlin and Adam Long.

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