• Reuters, Kyodo

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Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama has withdrawn from the British Open at Royal St. George’s after his recent COVID-19 diagnosis and inability to practice properly in time for the year’s final major, the Japanese golfer said on Sunday.

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.”

Matsuyama’s absence at the 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.

The 29-year-old, who in April became the first Japanese man to win a golf major, is considered a contender to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.

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