Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has withdrawn from the 2021 Open Championship and will be replaced in the field by Harold Varner III. Matsuyama was also forced to withdraw from the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Matsuyama stated a number of different factors as reasons for his WD from the 149th Open, including lack of practice because of his quarantine as well as the travel restrictions on Open competitors. Golfers are only allowed to travel with two other people besides their caddies, and the protocol for the week reads like a golf rule book.
"I'm feeling fine but haven't been able to practice in preparation for The Open," Matsuyama said in a statement. "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."
According to ESPN, Matsuyama has also continued to test positive and would have needed a negative test once on the ground in England to be allowed to play in the tournament.
There is also the matter of the Olympics to think about for Matsuyama, which will be held in his home country of Japan. With a recent spike in cases, Japan announced that the Olympics would be held without fans this year. That will be an incredibly important event for Matsuyama to prepare for, especially in the wake of his massively popular Masters win.
"I'm really looking forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo," Matsuyama said after winning the Masters. "If I am on the team, and maybe it looks like I will be, I'll do my best to represent my country, and hopefully I'll play well."
There has been a long string of WDs at this Open – including Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, Matthew Wolff, Kevin Na and Bubba Watson – but Matsuyama is the highest-ranked player to sit out the final major of 2021.
It's already been a great major season for Matsuyama, who in April became the first Japanese player to ever win the Masters and followed that up with top-30 finishes at both the PGA Championship at Kiawah and the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Matsuyama has not found similar success at recent Opens. He has three missed cuts in his last four Open Championships and his best finish remains a T6 way back in 2013.