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Players 2022: Hideki Matsuyama WDs just ahead of Thursday round due to back injury

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Patrick Smith

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — One man’s disappointment is another’s opportunity. Less than 30 minutes before Hideki Matsuyama’s scheduled 8:40 a.m. tee time for the opening round of the Players Championship, the PGA Tour announced that he had withdrawn from the event due to what was described as a lingering back injury.

At the ready was Patrick Rodgers, the first alternate who was waiting near the clubhouse in the event of just such a thing. Rodgers will join a threesome that includes Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Smith teeing off on the 10th hole Thursday.

Rodgers, 29, has a spotty record at the Players. He has played in the event five previous times, missing the cut his first three years, then finishing 77th in 2019 (but not playing in the final round) and T-65 in 2021. Rodgers has yet to break 70 in 13 rounds, holding a 73.38 stroke average.

Matsuyama was one of the favorites entering the tournament, having won twice during the 2021-22 PGA Tour season. In seven starts, he has made five top-25 finishes, including two top-10s (T-7 in 2016 and T-8 in 2019). The bigger question is how might the injury impact his attempt to repeat as a winner at the Masters next month.