PGA Tour Finally Gets COVID-19 Message
The Travelers Championship was played with the shadow of Covid-19 hanging over it. Before the tournament began we knew that Nick Watney and Cameron Champ had tested positive for the virus. Webb Simpson withdrew, as did Graeme McDowell and Brooks and Chase Koepka. On the eve of the Travelers, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan warned his players that there would be serious repercussions for all concerned if they failed to follow the social distancing protocols.
Ian Poulter took to Instagram to admit that he had fist-bumped fellow players and caddies and said that mistakes had been made. He suggested that everybody had begun to feel a little too comfortable. The Englishman also admitted that everybody knew it was inevitable that there would be positive tests.
It was striking that behaviour had changed during the Travelers Championship. There were no high fives, flags were cleaned, many but not all golfers took their own clubs from their bags and people finally realised that they had to keep their distance from fellow competitors. It’s taken a while, but the message seems to have got through.
While the positive tests are a huge concern, Monahan attempted to put thing into perspective. Since the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry tours restarted, there have been 2,757 tests conducted over three weeks, with seven people testing positive. While that works out to only 0.253 percent, Monahan said players had been informed of changes and refinements in the tour’s health and safety plan.
First, golfers and caddies who take the tour’s chartered flights will continue to be tested on the Saturday before departure. This process led to the latest positive test of South African star Dylan Frittelli, the fourth PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus. Now, they will also be tested upon arrival at the new venue. Personal coaches and instructors are now going to be tested like the players and considered “inside the bubble.” It seems scarcely credible that they were not already being tested. The players will now also be discouraged from using local gyms and fitness centres. Instead, they are being asked to use a fitness trailer at the tournament site.
If a PGA Tour player tests positive and it is discovered that he did not follow the safety protocols, he will no longer be eligible for a $100,000 stipend issued by the tour.
“All of us have an extraordinary responsibility to follow those protocols. For any individual that does not, there will be serious repercussions,” Monahan said. “I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, but everybody knows, and needs to know, that our future, our ability to sustain this business and to impact the communities where we play and to create so many jobs is contingent on our ability to follow those protocols. So when we have instances where someone hasn’t, they will be dealt with, and as I said, the consequences will be significant.”
The tour has also acquired more than 1,000 Whoop bracelets - it was this device that indicated to Watney that he had the virus.
Paul Casey said: “One of the things we’ve been criticized for, as a whole, has been the player-caddie, handing the clubs backward and forwards,” Casey said. “I admit, I did it today. It’s such a habit.”
Everyone knew there were going to be bumps in the road as the PGA Tour resumed play. What may have been underestimated was the false sense of security that many players, caddies and other people would feel.
“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 our businesses,” Monahan said. “It’s pretty clear that this virus isn’t going anywhere.”
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