Bubba Watson, despite vaccine, forced to WD from Open Championship due to Covid protocols

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Bubba Watson will not compete at the Open Championship due to a breach in Covid protocols in the days leading up to the tournament.

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Bubba Watson, who says he has received the Covid-19 vaccine, will be forced to miss this year’s Open Championship due to Covid protocols.

The two-time Masters champion announced Sunday morning on Twitter that he has been forced to withdraw from golf’s final major due “to having direct exposure who someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.” He will be replaced by Brendan Steele.

“I am disappointed to announce I will not compete at The Open Championship next week due to having direct exposure to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19,” Watson’s statement read. “I appreciate the R&A’s guidance and help navigating UK policy for such situations.”

According to tournament protocols, confirmed close contact with a person who tests positive for Covid-19 leads to immediate disqualification. Watson said he has been vaccinated and that he tested negative ahead of the tournament.

“For those wondering, the UK and US Covid-19 guidelines are quite different,” Watson said in his statement. “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 I do have to follow them.”

For his part, Watson was deferential to the R&A’s guidance, keeping a lighthearted attitude in the wake of the withdrawal.

“Like many of you, I look forward to watching The Open Championship on TV,” his statement read. “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.”

The decision comes at a time of added scrutiny for the R&A, which has drawn criticism from some players for enforcing strict Covid rules while still planning to welcome upward of 30,000 fans for the tournament rounds.

“It seems like us as players, we’re jumping through some hurdles and dodging bullets,” Rickie Fowler said last week. “And they’re having 32,000 fans a day at the tournament, so I don’t know. I can’t really answer questions clearly with all that going on.”

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Under new PGA Tour protocols for vaccinated players, not only would Watson not have been forced to withdraw from the tournament for his close contact, he wouldn’t have been required to show proof of a negative test, so long as he did not develop symptoms.

Watson is not the only player to have a Covid-related withdrawal from the Open. Reigning Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama continues to test positive for Covid-19, one week after being forced to withdraw from the Rocket Mortgage Classic for testing positive.

The first Open Championship in 24 months will be contested at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich later this week. Shane Lowry, winner of the 2019 Open, enters as returning champion.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.