Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson were among the five players to withdraw from the Travelers Championship, four from a chain reaction of caution over the corona virus the PGA Tour noticed.
“The snowball is getting a bit bigger,” Graeme McDowell told The Associated Press after withdrawing on Wednesday because his old caddy, Ken Comboy, tested positive for the virus.
The tour released results showing three positive tests at the TPC River Highlands in Connecticut – Cameron Champ and the caddies for Koepka and McDowell. There were no positive tests at the Korn Ferry Tour event in Utah.
As it enters the third week following the return of the COVID-19 pandemic that ended three months of golf, the tour conducted 2,757 tests at PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour events in five states, with seven positive results.
“It’s a low percentage by percentage, but every song hurts,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “I think we should all remind ourselves that we all learn to live with this virus.
“It’s pretty clear this virus isn’t going anywhere.”
Nick Watney was the first player to test positive at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina last week, where people were teeming with summer vacations.
Champ tested positive with the Travelers on Tuesday and immediately withdrew.
Four more players withdrew, even with negative test results.
Koepka said his caddy, Ricky Elliott, tested positive and then did another test that came back negative. Does not matter. He chose to retire, and was particularly upset because his younger brother, Chase Koepka, withdrew after being given a rare chance to play through a qualifying on Monday.
When his brother made it, Koepka arranged a house where he could stay from Tuesday, so he let his brother stay with him in the meantime. After that, the brothers played a practice round with McDowell and British Open champion Shane Lowry.
Chase Koepka said he felt he should back off because he was in close contact with someone who tested positive.
“I feel terrible for Chase,” said Koepka. “This course is made for him, he plays as good as I’ve ever seen him. And I put him in that situation. It’s one thing when I withdraw. He does not often get this chance. ‘
Simpson, who won RBC Heritage last week with a record score that took him to number 5 in the world, withdrew when he learned that a family member had tested positive.
Monahan said the tour would continue, and he said there was no set number of positive tests that would cause golf to stop again.
“We feel like we are on a path that will allow us to continue our return to golf,” said Monahan. “But rest assured, there won’t be many sleepless nights. If you work in a world of uncertainty, these are the things that worry you. ‘
Monahan sent a memo to players outlining increased measures in her health and safety protocols. These include testing players before and after they have chartered flights. Swing coaches are now required to be tested every week and are considered part of the bubble, and the fitness trailer will be on tournaments to prevent players from going to gyms.
He also said the tour will no longer pay for players or caddies to isolate themselves for positive tests if they don’t follow the health and safety plan.
“We all have an extraordinary responsibility to follow these protocols,” said Monahan, adding that he was sometimes guilty when adapting to a new way of life. “There will be serious consequences for anyone who doesn’t.”
He did not say what the punishment would be. The tour does not publish disciplinary measures or fines.
McDowell says his caddy flew on a commercial flight packed from Dallas to Orlando, Florida after missing the cut at Colonial. That Monday they went to a memorial service – along with Elliott, who grew up at McDowell in Northern Ireland, and McDowell’s trainer – and then all drove six hours to Hilton Head.
“The problem is that people here pass tests while they may still have the virus,” McDowell said. “That’s what we learn. Ricky passed a test on Monday and he failed this morning. ‘
The return of the PGA Tour to tournaments started with a perfect record – 487 tests for players who arrived at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas; 98 players on the charter flight to South Carolina; 369 tests on Hilton Head Island. All came back negative.
But there have now been four positive tests in the past six days, and Monahan said no one should be surprised if there are more in Detroit next week, or the next two weeks in Ohio.
“I think this is the reality of what we all live under,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that this is not the case. But I don’t think anyone should be surprised. I certainly hope we will not. But to say we won’t have cases … would be disingenuous because we all learn while we’re at it. ‘
McDowell said he would take two weeks off and hoped to return to Ohio for the first two weeks in July. So much depends on the virus and whether it reaches a level that it is not wise to continue golf.
“Will we stop, will we start in a month, two months? You come back and what has changed? McDowell said. “I think the tour is doing quite well. It’s just so hard to control everyone outside the gates.
“We need to get to the other side of this.”