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Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama drops out of Players Championship

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Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama drops out of Players Championship
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (pictured) is tied with Scottie Scheffler with a PGA Tour best two wins this season. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) -- Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew from the 144-player field of the 2022 Players Championship just before his first-round tee time, the PGA Tour announced Thursday.

The tour said that his exit was due to a back injury. His withdrawal was announced at 8:03 a.m., just 37 minutes ahead of his tee time on the 10th hole at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course.

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Patrick Rodgers, the No. 233 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, replaced No. 11 Matsuyama. The tournament runs from Thursday through Sunday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Matsuyama, who claimed his first career major title in April in Augusta, Ga., was among the Top 10 favorites to win this week at Sawgrass. The tournament offers a $20 million prize purse, with $3.6 million going to the winner.

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Those totals represent the largest prizes in the history of the Tour, outside of the FedExCup finale.

No. 1 Jon Rahm, No. 2 Collin Morikawa, No. 8 Justin Thomas, No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, No. 3 Viktor Hovland, No. 6 Rory McIlroy, No. 5 Scottie Scheffler and No. 7 Xander Schauffele are among the remaining favorites in the field, which now has 22 of the world's Top 25 players.

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No. 12 Bryson DeChambeau and No. 19 Harris English dropped out earlier this week. No. 29 Kevin Na and No. 45 Phil Mickelson are the only other Top 50 players who aren't playing.

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Scheffler, who won last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, leads the FedExCup season standings.

He is 293 points ahead of Matsuyama, who is tied with Scheffler with a PGA Tour-best two wins through 10 events. Matsuyama won 2022 titles in October at the Zozo Championship and in January at the Sony Open.

He missed the third-round cut at the 2021 Players Championship. Matsuyama led through the first round of the 2020 Players Championship, which later was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He tied for eighth in 2019 and tied for seventh in 2016.

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The first round of the 2022 Players Championship airs from noon to 6 p.m. EST Thursday on Golf Channel. The second round airs at the same time Friday on the same network. The third and fourth rounds air from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on NBC.

Scenes from 2022 PGA Players Championship

Cameron Smith of Australia holds the Gold Man Players Championship trophy after winning the championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on March 14, 2022. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

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