PGA restart under scrutiny after Nick Watney tests positive for Covid-19 | Sport

Intense focus surrounds the status of the PGA Tour’s restart after one of its players, the 39-year-old Nick Watney, tested positive for Covid-19 mid-competition. Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage in South Carolina before the second round and is now spending at least 10 days in isolation.

This is an obvious blow to the Tour, in the second event of its resumption. As something of a forerunner for the reopening of mainstream US-based sport, golf knows its procedures are firmly in the spotlight.

“On Friday, prior to arriving at the tournament, he indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness and after consulting with a physician, was administered a test and found to be positive,” said a Tour statement of Watney.

“Nick will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines. For the health and well-being of all associated with the tournament and those within the community, the Tour has begun implementing its response plan in consultation with medical experts including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick.”

Luke List and Vaughn Taylor, Watney’s playing partners in South Carolina, continued as a two for the second round.

Taylor explained afterwards that he was informed of Watney’s situation by a Tour official after nine Friday holes. “I was a little shocked, to be honest,” Taylor said. “Heart started racing, got a little nervous.”

Taylor, List and their caddies were immediately taken for testing. Taylor added: “I didn’t have any close contact with Nick yesterday. We kept our space. We didn’t shake hands. Right after the round, I washed my hands. Nick never coughed or sneezed. So I feel comfortable.”

Brooks Koepka expressed a wider fear. “It’s unfortunate Nick got it,” said the former world No1. “But at the same time, hopefully, it stays with just him and doesn’t spread because we’ll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue.”

Last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge, 487 tests were carried out by the Tour, which all returned negative results. Watney missed the cut there, with his exact, subsequent movements for now unclear.

“Watney, who travelled privately to Hilton Head Island for the tournament and was not on the PGA Tour-provided charter flight, tested negative upon arrival,” the Tour added. “He is the first PGA Tour member to test positive for coronavirus. A total of 369 individuals [players, caddies, essential personnel] underwent on-site testing prior to the start of the tournament, with zero positive results.”

In a “return to golf” package issued to competitors and other relevant parties last month, the Tour stipulated that in the case of a positive test any individual “will be required to self-isolate until a minimum of 10 days after the positive test and no subsequent symptoms or two negative test results at least 24 hours apart”.

The same paperwork contained only “strong recommendation” that players and caddies stay in designated hotels. Other guidance stipulated “rental homes will be allowed with proper sanitisation practices approved by Tour”, “local players can stay at their own homes” and “all local constituents on property can stay at their own homes.”

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