PGA Tour carries on after 1st positive coronavirus test

The tour said the 11 people were tested on Friday - that includes players and all caddies in Watney’s group, and another caddie staying with Watney - and all 11 tests were negative.

Rory McIlroy in conversation with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Arthur Blank, Home Depot co-founder, owner of the PGA Tour Superstore, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC during a practice round prior to the RBC Heritage.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The tour began contact tracing of anyone who might have been in close contact with Nick Watney, who tested negative on Tuesday when he arrived at the RBC Heritage, reported symptoms on Friday and had another test that came back positive.

The tour said the 11 people were tested on Friday - that includes players and all caddies in Watney’s group, and another caddie staying with Watney - and all 11 tests were negative.

READ | COVID-19: Watney tests positive, withdraws from PGA Tour event

There was a secondary test, and those results were not expected until late Saturday at the earliest.

Rory McIlroy, who says he chatted with Watney on the putting green before the positive test was returned, said he was not among those who had the additional tests because they were at a distance.

"I think just statistically and looking at the numbers, someone was going to get it, and even being as careful as you can be, things happen, and you pick it up from somewhere,” McIlroy said on Saturday after a 66. “We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. I think we’ve done really well to start golf again and get back up and play golf tournaments. I don’t think anyone was blind to the fact that someone could catch the virus, and it’s a shame that Nick did.

"It’s one case,” he said. “And as long as it’s contained to that and we move forward, we can keep playing.”

What led Watney to report symptoms, according to McIlroy, was data on his Whoop strap that measures such metrics as workouts, sleep and recovery.

"They’ve done studies where if your respirator rate goes up during the night by more than two breaths per minute, that’s sort of a telltale sign you might have something,” McIlroy said. “So it was his Whoop that told him his respirator rate went up, and that’s why he thought, ‘Maybe I could have it.’”

Watney must self-isolate for at least 10 days. It ends provided he has no subsequent symptoms or has two negative test results at least 24 hours apart.

Players have a designated hotel that is not mandatory. They are urged not to eat out at restaurants, also a recommendation for caddies and the essential personnel who must be tested when they arrive at every tournament.

It’s up to them what they do after hours.

Justin Thomas is staying in a villa with Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, and they brought a chef. Thomas was among those who noted how busy it was at Hilton Head Island, a popular vacation spot in the summer.

"No offense to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously,” Thomas said. “It’s an absolute zoo around here. There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded.”

Watney’s caddie, Tony Navarro, said he tested negative. He is self-isolating in Hilton Hilton, able to go to the store provided he wears a mask. He said he was staying to help Watney with anything he needs, and then planned to drive him home to Austin, Texas.

The tour administered a 954 tests over the opening two weeks of the return - 487 at Colonial last week in Fort Worth, Texas, 98 for those who took the charter flight to South Carolina and 369 at Hilton Head. All were negative until Watney’s positive test on Friday.

Watney was at the golf course - Brooks Koepka saw him in the parking lot, McIlroy chatted with him on the putting green and Si Woo Kim saw him in passing on the range. He left after getting word of his result.

Under the tour’s protocols, players who are tested upon arrival are allowed to practice until the results are back, but they are not allowed in facilities like the clubhouse.

The PGA Tour heads to Cromwell, Connecticut, next week, followed by Detroit and then back-to-back tournaments in Ohio.

"We’ve got to see what happens,” Koepka said. “It’s unfortunate Nick got it, but at the same time, hopefully, it stays with just him and doesn’t spread. Because I think we’ll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue.”