HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — The PGA Tour made it through 11 days of its return to golf before Nick Watney became the first player to test positive for the coronavirus, The next question is who’s next, or how many, before the show no longer goes on.
The tour began contact tracing of anyone who might have been in close contact with Watney, who tested negative 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 Friday — that includes players and all caddies in Watney’s group, and another caddie staying with Watney — and all 11 tests were negative.
There was a secondary test, and those results were not expected until later Saturday at the earliest.
Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were among those not surprised by the positive test.
“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. “Yeah, it’s a shame, but the show goes on.”
Spieth is one of four players on the PGA Tour’s board of directors and was involved in every meeting as the tour put together a 37-page protocol called “The Return to Golf.”
It included plans for a positive test. 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.
The tour said it would have no further comment, and Watney did not immediately return a phone call.
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.
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.”