Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and two-time Augusta winner Bubba Watson have withdrawn from the 149th Open Championship over Covid-19 concerns, organisers said on Sunday.
Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese man to win a major golf title when he captured the green jacket in April, had tested positive for Covid-19 during the PGA Tour Rocket Mortgage Classic this month and had to withdraw.
"Matsuyama has been in quarantine since then and is currently symptom free," the R&A said in an article on the Open website. "Subsequent 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. "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."
Watson withdrew after being identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
"While I am vaccinated and have passed the required pre-travel Covid test, not enough time has passed for me to comfortably join the charter flight and risk exposure to the other players and personnel on board," Watson said on Twitter.
"I appreciate the R&A's guidance and help navigating UK policy for such situations.
"Like many of you, I look forward to watching the Open Championship on TV. Since I will be watching from the comfort of my couch I would not mind seeing the field have to deal with a little rain and strong winds!"
Matsuyama, 29, was replaced in the field by American Harold Varner. Brendan Steele will play in place of Watson.
The 149th Open Championship begins on Thursday at Royal St. George.