How do PGA players at the Travelers Championship feel about health, safety and coronavirus testing?The Hartford Courant — By Shawn McFarland The Hartford Courant
June 24-- CROMWELL, Conn.-After just one golfer tested positive for coronavirus through the first two weeks of the PGA Tour startup, three people on Tour have tested positive since Tuesday at the Travelers Championship: golfer Cameron Champ, and caddies Ricky Elliot and Ken Comboy.
Elliot caddies for Brooks Koepka, who withdrew from the tournament when the test results came back. Comboy, who did not travel to Connecticut, caddies for Graeme McDowell, who also withdrew. Chase Koepka, brother of Brooks, withdrew out of an abundance of caution after playing a practice round with Brooks and McDowell on Tuesday. Webb Simpson, who won the RBC Heritage tournament on Sunday in Hilton Head, S.C., also withdrew.
Koepka said he had taken the pandemic as serious as anyone, placing his entire team on lockdown, traveling with his own weights, and keeping to himself while not at the course. Still, someone from his camp tested positive and forced a withdrawal. Even PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday that it would be disingenuous to say that another golfer or caddie won't test positive for COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
Still, the show continues on the Tour. Monahan said Tuesday that the Tour will continue to refine its health and safety protocol, with increased testing for golfers, caddies and coaches, as well as a fitness trailer on site, and a stipend for golfers who test positive.
Some golfers in Cromwell for the Travelers Championship have voiced their opinions on what the Tour has done so far, how comfortable they feel playing, and changes they may like to see. Here's what they had to say.
"I'm not worried," Thomas said Wednesday. "I mean, for me I just need to do what I'm told to do or what I'm supposed to do and follow all the correct protocols. I hate to say I'm guilty of taking like the fist bump thing for granted. I think some of us were doing it last week, and it's already different than what we're used to, and it's such a habit that we're trying to get better at. But we have to get better at that. That's something that's unacceptable, and I'm guilty just as much, and once I kind of figured out I was doing it at Colonial (I) tried to stop and got better at it last week and will continue to do so."
Thomas was outspoken about the lack of social safety while in South Carolina in terms of the general population. He hopes his fellow Tour members continue to stay safe, and simply, do their part.
"Just everyone needs to do their job. I think as weeks go on, it's easier to get a little bit lazier and maybe get a little bit more lenient on what you know you should and shouldn't do ... If you see somebody doing something wrong, don't just let it go and tell everybody about like, oh, this person was doing something wrong, because you're in the same boat."
"If that involves getting a little bit stricter, then so be it."
Spieth, a former champion at TPC River Highlands, spoke about the potential changes the Tour may make to keep golfers safe.
"We're going to continue to make minor adjustments," he said Tuesday. "I think the idea of extra testing has come around. The idea of mandatory tests for anyone who was even within six feet, whether they made physical contact with somebody who had a positive test, making those kind of mandatory, because the testing is very, very easy."
"We've looked into having dinner options so that you don't have to go grab-to-go food to keep the bubble even smaller. There are adjustments that are being talked about, and they'll be made as we move on. When we run into potentially having fans, that'll change things up a bit, too."
Koepka withdrew Wednesday morning after learning Elliot had tested positive. Despite his precautions, the virus was able to infiltrate his camp.
"I've told everybody on my team they're pretty much on lockdown," Koepka said on Tuesday, a day before he withdrew from the tournament because his caddie, Ricky Elliot tested positive for COVID-19. "If they don't want to do that, then they don't have to be with us. It's pretty simple."
"I'm taking this seriously. I've had three months off with an injury, four months off with injury, three months off with sitting at home because of COVID ... I've been staying outside, just going to my house and that's it. I'm not hanging around guys. I don't really feel like doing much, just hanging around my team."
"The harbor area (in North Carolina) was busy. I'm nobody to describe what's what," Rahm said Tuesday. "I mean, I live in Arizona, and cases are going up, and up until a couple weeks ago Arizona was a complete zoo. There was very little rules, the bars were open, people were having parties. It's not up to me. I think each one needs to make the smarter choice for themselves and try to not extend the situation as much as possible."
"I didn't see that much last week because I try to stay in my bubble. I've been renting houses; I go from the golf course to the house to the golf course to the house and that's about it. Obviously there's going to be some people that take it more serious than others, but each one at their own risk, and that's about as much as I can say."
Rahm, a native of Spain, saw how the pandemic affected his own country, too.
"I've been pretty sensitive to the matter with my family being in Spain and how bad the situation was there for a while, and I'm really, really sympathetic with them so I try to do my part to not get in that situation, and that's it. You know, the way I thought about it was I would hate to think I am possibly infecting somebody who might see their grandparents and get them infected. It's just sad to think about"
"We felt like at some point someone was going to test positive," Reed said Tuesday. "I mean, with how contagious the virus is and with us traveling, we knew at some point someone was going to test positive."
"I feel like the Tour has done an absolutely amazing job on it. I feel like with what they have in place for us here at the golf course and when we kind of come into town, basically telling us hotels to stay at where they know have been cleaned correctly, disinfected, and same thing at the golf courses and the social distancing that we have in place while we're out here playing and practicing. I feel like we're really safe on the golf course. It's the risks you have when you're not on the golf course that are the parts that you just have to be careful of."
"That's the hardest thing; you can have people that have the virus that don't know they have it, and you can be right next to that person when you're grabbing takeout food or at the grocery store or anything like that, at a gas station, that can put you in harm's way."
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