The PGA Tour marched on through the third event in its return to competition last week at the Travelers Championship, but the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic was immense.
As commissioner Jay Monahan said
Wednesday after news that one player – Cameron Champ – and two caddies – Ken
Comboy and Ricky Elliott – had tested positive for the virus before the start
of the event and prompted the withdrawal of three more players, “This is the
reality we are all living under.”
Later in the week, Denny McCarthy
withdrew after testing positive and one of his playing partners, Bud Cauley,
withdrew as a precautionary measure. Jason Day
requested to be re-tested Saturday but the result was negative. Then on Sunday, a positive test for Dylan Frittelli was announced, making him the fourth player affected. Frittelli, who missed the cut at the Travelers event, has been withdrawn from the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic.
The impact of the testing, which led Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell and Chase Koepka to withdraw after being in close contact with someone who tested positive, raised the question of whether the PGA Tour is right to continue playing.
Monahan made it clear the tour intends to continue with its schedule, but changes have been made to its original pandemic plan and more changes are likely given the uncertain situation. Asked specifically if there is a number of positive tests that would lead the tour to cancel an event, Monahan did not say.
“We feel like we're on a path that's going to allow us to continue to sustain our return to golf, but rest assured there will be many sleepless nights,” Monahan said. “When you're working in a world of uncertainty, these are the things you worry about. But also rest assured that the PGA Tour will always do the right thing as it relates to our players, our fans, and our constituents, and make sure we create the safest environment possible.”
To emphasize the seriousness of the tour’s protocols, Monahan said any player or caddie found to have violated the guidelines will face “serious repercussions.”
The tour adjusted its
protocols so that no one inside the so-called “bubble” will be allowed on
property at the tournament site until after they have been confirmed to have a
negative test result that week.
Other changes the tour made it to its plan include more
testing for players and caddies on the tour’s charter flights, adding swing
instructors to the mandatory testing group, reopening the tour’s on-site
fitness facility to eliminate the use of public gyms and withholding stipends
available to players who test positive if they violate protocols.
Also, caddies are not allowed on the practice green with
Through three weeks and multiple events on the PGA Tour and
Korn Ferry Tours, there have been nine positive tests among more than 2,700 tests
administered, an approximate .002 infection rate.
“It is a low number, and it's a low number on a percentage
basis. But every number hurts,” Monahan said. “So I think for us, as we look at
where we are now, three weeks in … I think we all need to remind ourselves that
we're all learning to live with this virus, and we all need to learn to live
with this virus, both as individuals, as family members and certainly within
Monahan said the tour and the Memorial Tournament still
plan to allow a limited number of spectators on site at Muirfield Village
“We're confident in that plan, but like every tournament
going forward, we're continuing to look at what we're learning now and start to
think forward of how we are going to plan for all the subsequent events,”
“But we are looking forward to
reintroducing fans at the Memorial tournament, but rest assured, we are only going
to do it if we think it's a healthy and safe environment for our players, our
caddies, our staff, and also for those fans that would be attending, and we
think we've considered all those factors.”
Ron Green Jr.