The PGA Tour expanded coronavirus testing of players, caddies and officials this weekend after five-time tour winner Nick Watney became the first golfer to test positive for the virus since golf’s tournament schedule resumed last week following a three-month layoff.
Watney, 39, tested negative for the coronavirus at the RBC Heritage event in Hilton Head, S.C., on Tuesday and played in Thursday’s first round. On Friday, he consulted with a physician after experiencing Covid-19 symptoms. The results of a subsequent test for the virus came back positive, and he withdrew from the competition.
The tour’s health protocols mandate that Watney begin a self-isolation and recovery period of at least 10 days. He will not be allowed to compete until he comes up negative in additional tests.
The PGA Tour resumed last week with a tournament in Fort Worth and since then nearly 1,000 virus tests have been administered in the pro golf community. Watney, who is currently ranked 234th in the world and has not won a PGA Tour event since 2012, was the first golfer, caddie or tour official to test positive. Officials for next week’s Travelers Championship recently announced that they plan to increase testing, to include volunteers and members of the media.
On Saturday, the tour announced that 11 additional tests were administered to unnamed individuals who had close contact with Watney on Thursday, a group that included his partners during the round and their caddies. Each test was negative, the tour said.
Scores of other players are set to be tested Saturday as a negative test result for the virus is required for a player who intends to board a tour-sponsored charter flight to the Travelers tournament outside Hartford, Conn. Nearly 100 players used the tour’s charter flight option to travel from Texas to South Carolina last week. Watney, however, made other arrangements.
Rory McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked golfer, said that a positive test result for a player was not unexpected.
“I think the consensus was someone is going to get it at some point, and Nick’s the one that’s got it, and he’s self-isolating and doing what he has to do,” McIlroy said. “Look, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” he added. “Until this thing’s over, we all just have to stay vigilant and keep your distance and wear our masks if we’re going out in public and keep washing our hands.”