7 of the best golf players in the world will miss the British Open due to COVID

Former golf champion Zach Johnson has joined a growing list of players who withdrew from the British Open on Monday due to a positive coronavirus test.

Also on this list is Louis de Jager, one of 12 players to earn a place at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews through local final qualifying. The R&A said player Ryan Moore, the John Deere Classic runner-up in Illinois, declined the exemption for top-five finisher at the PGA Tour event.

A total of 16 players withdrew or refused to take their place on the field for the 149th edition of golf’s oldest championship game.

The British Open was the only major event canceled last year due to the pandemic. Although it returned this year, it is subject to strict UK government regulations, and some instituted by the R&A, such as prohibiting players from staying with anyone outside of their small group of people.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, continue below:

Already seven players from the world’s top 75 are missing for the British Open. England’s Sam Bairstow tees off on 4 in a practice round ahead of the 149th Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Club on Monday in Sandwich, England.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Johnson, who won at St. Andrews in the 2015 playoffs, was at the John Deere Classic and had to be tested before boarding a charter flight. He did not play the third or fourth round with any other player present at the British Open.

The last players to retire were replaced by Adam Long of the United States, Sam Horsfield of England and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa.

They’re already missing seven players from the world’s top 75, which is unusual for a major.

Some had no choice. Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama at No. 18 was the highest-ranked player to retire. He tested positive for COVID-19 during the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 2, and despite going through 10 days of self-isolation without symptoms, his tests are still coming back positive.

The PGA Tour had this problem a year ago with positive tests. US health officials have said PCR tests can detect remnants of the virus even if it is no longer active. But according to UK guidelines, Matsuyama should produce a negative test.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson said he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and pulled out. Under R&A requirements sent to players on June 22, anyone identified as a contact must self-isolate and withdraw.

Other players cited the demands of international travel (Kevin Na) or the focus on preparing for the Olympics (Sungjae Im, Siwoo Kim, Juvic Pagunsan). Tokyo Olympics men’s competition begins 11 days after the end of the British Open.

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Zach Johnson is one of many golfers not to take part in this year’s British Open. Johnson hits the second tee during the final round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament Sunday at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo/

Michael C. Ford