The return of the Open Championship after a two-year hiatus will be cause for celebration this week. But reminders of why it was canceled last year still linger.
Bubba Watson is the latest star to announce his withdrawal from the field at Royal St George’s, explaining on Twitter he had close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Watson said he’s been vaccinated and tested negative in his pre-travel COVID-19 test, but UK protocols prevent him from boarding the charter flight to England.
“Getting on the charter or a commercial flight was not an option available to me after my recent exposure. I don’t make the rules but do have to follow them,” Watson wrote in the tweet (below).
Watson is now among more than a half dozen players to announce their withdrawal in recent days. After withdrawing from last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic because of a positive COVID-19 test, Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has continued to test positive in subsequent PCR tests despite saying he’s symptom free; the WDs of Matthew Wolff, K.H. Lee, and Danny Lee were announced on Saturday; and Kevin Na (travel restrictions); Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim (Olympic preparation) had previously been WDs.
Watson, a two-time Masters champion who finished sixth in last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, has never placed in the top 10 in 11 appearances in the Open, but in the eyes of fellow lefthander Phil Mickelson at least, is believed to possess the shotmaking ability and creativity to fare well on links courses.
“I’m so sorry. You’ve been playing some great golf and the course is such a great one for you,” Mickelson wrote.
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.”