“I’m going to pull out to protect everybody else. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Koepka told Golfweek. “I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions. The only way this tour can continue is if guys do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”
Koepka became the third player confirmed to have withdrawn from this week’s tournament, joining Cameron Champ (who tested positive Tuesday) and Graeme McDowell (whose caddie, Ken Comboy, tested positive). Later Wednesday, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced that Chase Koepka, Brooks Koepka’s brother, and Webb Simpson also withdrew “out of an abundance of caution.” Simpson told TSN a member of his family had tested positive. At last week’s Heritage in South Carolina, Nick Watney withdrew after one round following his positive test.
As part of the PGA Tour’s coronavirus plans, anyone who might have come into close contact with a player or caddie who tests positive must submit to additional tests. The PGA Tour said none of the 11 people who came into close contact with Watney last week — including caddie Tony Navarro, playing partner Vaughn Taylor and Sergio Garcia, who gave Watney a ride to the tournament on his private plane — tested positive.
The tour is offering golfers seats on a chartered flight to each tournament, and the golfers must test negative before getting on the plane. Golfers, caddies and tournament officials also are tested again before each tournament starts.
On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth confirmed that the PGA Tour had informed the golfers that it will be adjusting its coronavirus plan in the wake of Watney’s positive test, with more testing and tests of anyone who came within six feet of an infected person.
Watney originally tested negative for the coronavirus early in the week of the Heritage, according to Golf Digest. But after his first round Thursday, a fitness tracker notified Watney that his respiratory rates were up, a possible sign of the coronavirus. That prompted Watney to get another test Friday, which came back positive.
The PGA Tour is giving more than 1,000 of the same fitness trackers to players, caddies, tour officials and media members.
“It is very, very unlikely [Watney catching the coronavirus] happened at the golf course,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, told Golf Digest this week. “We continue to find out more about this virus every day, but we know outdoor transmission is much less likely than other activities.”
Brooks Koepka and Elliott played a practice round with McDowell on Tuesday, though Comboy did not travel to Connecticut. Koepka said everyone in his camp tested negative Monday, and McDowell told Golf Digest he again tested negative Wednesday.
“Ricky has my full support in this. I feel bad for him,” Koepka said. “We have got to do everything we can to not spread it. We have to protect the field. That’s the reason we have these rules.”
On Wednesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut jointly announced that anyone traveling to their states from states where coronavirus cases have spiked must quarantine for 14 days, an order that goes into effect at midnight Thursday.
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