Written by Chris Kubala
As the sports world continues to try and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are eagerly watching to see how things play out. The PGA Tour expects to return to the course next month with the Charles Schwab Challenge beginning June 11. Based on the TV ratings for the TaylorMade Driving Relief match, fans are ready to see a return of the sport on television. An estimated 2.35 million people tuned in to watch it on NBC, which the network said was 16 percent higher than the ratings for the final of the Dell Match Play Classic last year.
However, when the PGA gets back in full swing next month, it appears that some name players won’t be there to tee off. The major concerns aren’t necessarily about the coronavirus itself but more about the restrictions that the tour has put in place in order for it to return. As it stands, players that would be coming back to the United States from overseas would have to quarantine for 14 days. Should they leave the United States and return to their home country, they would need to quarantine for an additional 14 days. Those parameters have proven to be too much for at least one golfer to make the decision to return right away.
Lee Westwood, currently ranked 31st in the world rankings, has said that, while he’s entered in both the Charles Schwab Challenge and the RBC Heritage, that he’s unlikely to leave the United Kingdom to come over to the United States to take part in those tournaments. According to Westwood, the quarantine on both ends of the trip makes it an unpalatable situation for him. In an interview with the Golf Channel, he said the following about the situation:
"Right now, I won't be playing them. Not with having to leave here two weeks before, quarantine, then play the two tournaments, then come back here and quarantine again. It's six weeks for two tournaments, and to me, that's just not worth it. And it's not worth taking the risk if everybody thinks that those kind of precautions have got to be in place. I don't feel like golf's a priority if it's that severe.''
Another potential issue for Westwood comes later in the summer as he is the host of the British Masters from July 30-August 2. If quarantine rules are still in effect at that point of the summer, he would run the risk of missing the PGA Championship. The major was originally scheduled for May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco but was rescheduled for August 6-9. In addition to Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, currently 10th in the world rankings, has said that he won’t return right away but plans to arrive later in the summer to be ready for the major championships and the Ryder Cup later this year.
That duo aren’t the only ones that aren’t making the trip for the early tournaments. Adam Scott, who went home to Australia after The Players Championship was halted and eventually canceled, told the Australian Associated Press that he plans on sitting out the first seven events because he isn’t thrilled with the plans that the Tour put forth in order to return to action. He said “They are being fairly thorough, but my initial reaction was I was surprised it wasn't tighter than it is. What concerns me is dialogue that [the tour] is hopeful of returning one- or two-hour test [results]. You'd want that in place before competing.
The other [concern] is it seems an asymptomatic person could operate within a tournament. If they're not showing symptoms and I somehow pick it up inside the course and I'm disqualified, I'm now self-isolating [in that city] for two weeks. I'd be annoyed if that happened. I thought you'd start quite tight and loosen those protocols to normal if appropriate."
As it stands, Scott, the number six player in the world, hopes and plans to return in late July in time for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship that is the same weekend of the British Masters. That way, he’d be in the United States and ready to go for the PGA Championship the following week. While it’s unfortunate that two of the Tour’s top-ten golfers are looking to miss the first full-fledged event in three months for the PGA, it’s a matter of choice. It’s something that Westwood, Fleetwood and Scott feel is in their best interests as they battle through these uncertain times and prepare for later in the season.