SANDWICH, England (AP) — Former champion Zach Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus before getting on a charter flight to the British Open, forcing him to join the growing list of withdrawals and ending his streak at playing 69 consecutive majors.
The R&A said Johnson, who played in the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Sunday, and local qualifier Louis de Jager of South Africa had positive COVID-19 tests and withdrew.
Ryan Moore, runner-up at the John Deere Classic, chose not to accept the exemption as the highest finisher among the top five who wasn’t already in the British Open. Instead of the spot going to Luke List, who tied for third, it went to Adam Long as next available on the reserve list.
Johnson, who won the claret jug at St. Andrews in 2015 after a three-way playoff, missed the Masters in his rookie year on the PGA Tour in 2004. He played in every major since then until the British Open.
Players at the John Deere were tested before the charter flight to England.
That brings to 16 the number of players who have withdrawn or chosen not to take their spots in the field for the 149th edition of golf’s oldest championship.
The British Open was the only major to be canceled last year because of the pandemic. It returns under strict protocols by the UK government, and some instituted by the R&A, such as prohibiting players from staying with anyone except their own small core of people.
Johnson did not play the third or fourth round with any other player who is at the British Open.
The latest players to withdraw were replaced by Long, Sam Horsfield of England and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa.
The field already is missing seven players from the top 75 in the world, unusual for a major.
Some had no choice. Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama at No. 18 was the highest-ranked player to withdraw. He had a positive COVID-19 test on July 2 during the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and while he has gone through 10 days of self-isolation without symptoms, his tests keep coming back positive.
The PGA Tour had this issue a year ago with positive tests. U.S. health officials said PCR tests can pick up remnants of the virus even though it is no longer active. But under UK guidelines, Matsuyama would need to produce a negative test.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson said he came in contact with a person who had a positive COVID-19 test and withdrew. Under the R&A requirements sent to players on June 22, anyone who is identified as a contact has to self-isolate and be withdrawn.
Other players cited international travel requirements (Kevin Na) or an emphasis on preparing instead for the Olympics (Sungjae Im, Siwoo Kim, Juvic Pagunsan). The men’s competition in the Tokyo Olympics starts 11 days after the British Open ends.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report from Jacksonville, Florida.
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