Koepkas, Simpson, G-Mac Withdraw

Webb Simpson, who captured the RBC Heritage on Sunday, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, and Brooks and Chase Koepka (pictured) on Wednesday withdrew from the Travelers Championship one day before the start at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., after two caddies tested positive for the Coronavirus.

Ricky Elliott, caddie for Brooks Koepka, and Ken Comboy, McDowell’s caddie, tested positive one day after Cameron Champ of Sacramento became the second PGA Tour player to test positive for Covid-19, after Nick Watney of Davis and Fresno State did so last week.

There was a report that one of the caddies underwent another test later that came back negative, but Commissioner Jay Monahan would not confirm or deny that.

“When I look at the last four to five days, I have experienced some fatigue and muscle soreness myself,” McDowell said. “I didn’t think of it as Covid-related, but rather just the effect of being back on the road, back practicing, back playing and just a little tired after having a few months off.

“But now that Kenny has tested positive–and we’ve spent a lot of time together the last 10 days–I have to take those symptoms more seriously. That is why I am withdrawing this week.  I want to do the responsible thing.
“I’ve had two negative tests this week–Monday and Wednesday–but if there’s any chance that I could have it, I am not keen on risking the possibility that I could pass it onto anyone else this week in Hartford.”

Said Brooks Koepka: “I haven’t tested positive for Covid-19, but as I’ve said all along, I’m taking this very seriously. I don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize the health of any player in the field or his ability to compete. I was planning to take the next two weeks off anyway, so the right thing to do right now is get home, support Ricky and feel confident that I’m doing what I can do protecting my … PGA Tour friends and everyone associated with the Travelers Championship this week.”

Simpson said he withdrew because a family member he did not identify has tested positive for the virus, while Chase Koepka, who Monday qualified, withdrew because he played practice rounds with his brother, McDowell and their caddies.

Both players also tested negative.

“It’s real,” said Charley Hoffman, who is chairman of the PGA Tour’s Players Advisory Council. “We might have gotten a false sense of security with no positive tests in the first week back, but having this happen the last two weeks is kind of a wake-up call.

“This is not a joking matter. If we want to keep playing golf, we have to try to understand this virus and take it very seriously. We have to lead by example.”

The PGA Tour issued the following statement: “We have been working since March to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan that would be considered a best practice among professional sports leagues. While we have been thorough in building and implementing a program that mitigates as much risk as possible, we knew it would be impossible to eliminate all risk–as evidenced by the three positive tests this week.

“We need to use these developments as a stark reminder for everyone involved as we continue to learn from an operational standpoint; we are making several adjustments to our health and safety plan, as noted in the memo sent to players this morning, and we will continuously reinforce to all players, caddies, staff members and support personnel on property at PGA Tour events to adhere to social distancing and other safety protocols that further minimize risk.”

Monahan told the media in a press conference that the PGA Tour will do even more testing and continue to emphasize social distancing protocols.

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