CROMWELL - The PGA Tour will go ahead as planned with the 2020 Travelers Championship.
Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan made the announcement Wednesday in a virtual press conference after golfer Cameron Champ and two caddies tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to four other withdrawals for the tournament.
“We feel a great responsibility to inspire people and to be in their living rooms on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Monahan said. “We feel like we’re on a path that will allow us to continue to sustain a return to golf, but rest assured there will be plenty of sleepless nights. When you’re working in a world of uncertainty, these are the things you’re worried about. But rest assured, the PGA will always do the right thing as it relates to our players, our fans, our constituents and make sure we create the safest environment possible. “
In addition to Champ, who withdrew after testing positive Tuesday, Brooks Koepka, the fourth-ranked golfer in the world, and Gaeme McDowell, a former U.S. Open champion, withdrew from the Travelers Championship Wednesday after their caddies tested positive for the virus. Koepka’s brother, Chase, who qualified Monday, also withdrew as a precaution, as did Webb Simpson, the world’s fifth ranked golfer, Monahan said at his press conference.
Koepka tested negative, but withdrew “out of an abundance of caution.” The four-time major winner, caddie Ricky Elliot and coach Claude Harmon III each tested negative for COVID-19 Monday, but when the three were tested again Tuesday, Elliot’s results came back positive.
McDowell’s caddie, Ken Comboy, also tested positive, but Comboy hadn’t traveled to Connecticut after showing symptoms over the weekend. McDowell did, however, play a practice round with the Koepkas Tuesday.
“I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize the health of any player in the field or his ability to compete,” Koepka said in a statement. “The right thing to do right now is get home, support Ricky and feel confident that I'm doing what I can do protecting my fellow Tour members, my PGA Tour friends and everyone associated with the Travelers Championship this week.”
Simpson, who tested negative Wednesday, made his decision after a family member tested positive. Simpson won last week’s RBC Heritage in South Carolina, where many golfers at the Travelers, including their caddies, coaches and families recently arrived from.
Nick Watney was the first golfer to test positive since the PGA Tour resumed its schedule, which happened to be at the RBC Heritage tournament.
South Carolina is one of nine states listed on a joint plan by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that requires visitors to those states to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition to South Carolina, travelers from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas are all required to quarantine.
“Based on where we are with 27 states seeing a rise, it’s a concern that we’ll continue to closely monitor,” Monahan said. “We’re here and we’re here with the full support of local and state officials. I know that the governor reaffirmed his support and he’s excited to see us getting the Travelers Championship underway.”
Monahan also said the Tour, as a result of the positive tests, will continue to adjust its safety protocols.
Since returning to play, the Tour has instituted a number of protocols already, although Monahan said some have gotten “a little lax or away from protocol.”
For those not traveling by bus or mobile home, players are required to stay at a tour-designated hotel. For the Travelers, it’s the Marriott in Hartford. Players and caddies are screened prior to traveling and also screened daily on-site. The Tour provides daily questionnaires, thermal readings and a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) nasal swab test.
On the course, players are expected to observe social distancing guidelines, refrain from shaking hands, high-fives and fist-bumps. They are also supposed to be the only ones to pull clubs, gloves, balls and tees from their bags. Caddies can handle the pins and bunker rakes, but must wipe each down after touching them.
But as each tournament goes by, it’s an ever-evolving process.
“We’re excited to get into the Travelers Championship this week,” Monahan said. “And I sent this in a memo to our players, we’re going to continue to refine and get better and better and identify ways to mitigate the risk.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com