Kevin Na made the “tough decision” to skip this year’s Open, but will he be the last player from the land of the free and the home of the brave to withdraw from the final men’s Major of the year?
Rather than voluntarily imprison himself in an R&A bubble, Na opted to protect his freedom in the best interest of himself and his family, vowing to one day return ‘one of his favourite weeks of the year’.
“It was a tough decision but for my family and me it is best to skip The Open this year,” Na said on Thursday. “I will be back next year, it is one of my favourite weeks and I would love to hold the Claret Jug one day.”
He’ll be back next year, provided Covid is a thing of the past and the bubble has well and truly burst, presumably? However, every cloud and all that and at least Na’s withdrawal opened the door for last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic winner Cameron Davis to stroll through…
“I’m not able to go next week,” said the Australian. Oh. In fairness to Davis, his excuse is a much more valid, non-covid related one.
“Yeah, I got married last year in September and decided to start the green card process to make traveling in and out of the country so much easier. But, unfortunately, six months I’m not going to be able to leave the States while that’s getting processed.”
His loss is Martin Kaymer’s gain; the two-time Major winning German taking his place in the field at Royal St. George’s where the reserve list now reads 1) Andy Sullivan, 2) Antoine Rozner, and 3) Troy Merrit.
The likelihood of the trio teeing up at Sandwich next week? Probably pretty high given the reluctance of PGA Tour regulars, not accustomed to the rigours of Europe’s restrictions, to leave the sanctity of the States for pastures prohibited. Rickie Fowler certainly didn’t sound keen on jumping through such hoops for the sake of a Claret Jug, even at a venue where he finished second in 2011.
“Yeah, there’s definitely some concerns,” Fowler said. “Guys have been talking to me or have been talking to other guys, been making calls or sending texts back and forth with some of the people with The Open, just with any questions or concerns that we have because there’s multiple things that come up as far as if there happens to be a couple people on the plane that test positive when you get there, you know, what happens with that. Obviously, we’re all going into our own small bubbles, can’t be around other players.
“It seems like us as players, we’re jumping through some hurdles and dodging bullets 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.”
To keep the books in order, Na was the eighth player to so far withdraw from the event, and the second American after the third Charles Howell decided a trip to the UK wasn’t for him while Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim decided that in order to best prepare for the Olympics, they would also seek game-time elsewhere.
That might seem a tad disrespectful as well but when you consider a medal at the Games for the Koreans would see them swerve two years of mandatory military service, I’d be doing what I felt was best for me, too. As for those fearing one-week in an R&A bubble with the dangling carrot of one of golf’s richest prizes at its end, it’s hard to source the same level of sympathy.