Tagged in: Golf

Brooks Koepka’s caddie tests positive

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the Travelers Championship after his caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The pro golfer, 30, told Golfweek that Elliott tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

“I’m going to pull out to protect everybody else. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Koepka said. “I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions. The only way this tour can continue is if guys to do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”

Koepka, Elliott, and Koepka’s coach Claude Harmon III all were originally tested for COVID-19 as a precaution after playing a practice round with Graeme McDowell, whose caddie, Ken Comboy, had tested positive.

“We all got tested Monday—myself, Claude and Ricky. We all came back negative,” Koepka said. “We had no symptoms. Nothing.”

However, Elliott’s additional test on Wednesday came out positive, which led Koepka to immediately withdraw from the Travelers Championship. “Ricky has my full support in this. I feel bad for him,” Koepka said. “We have got to do everything we can to not spread it. We have to protect the field. That’s the reason we have these rules.”

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Koepka stated he and his team have been on strict lockdown during the first three events back on tour, staying together with a chef in rented homes and leaving only to go to the golf course or get tested.

The only occasion on which someone left from isolation was on Monday, June 15, when Elliott joined McDowell and Comboy at the funeral of a close friend in Orlando.

McDowell, 40, told Golfweek that Comboy now thinks he may have been exposed to the virus during a commercial flight he took two days earlier on June 13 from Dallas to Orlando after the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Koepka said that he and his girlfriend Jena Sims, as well as his chef, are all being tested for coronavirus Wednesday at the golf course. Based on the results, he will decide whether to return home to Jupiter, Florida, or quarantine in Connecticut.

The PGA Tour has since put in place a health and safety plan that forces any player who tests positive to be “immediately isolated” for a minimum of 10 days “after the positive test and no subsequent symptoms or two negative test results at least 24 hours apart.”

The tour said that 369 players, caddies and essential personnel were all tested on-site before the RBC Heritage initiated, and none tested positive.

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Watney first player on PGA Tour to test positive

Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage on Friday prior to the second round after testing positive for COVID-19.

According to the PGA Tour, Watney specified he had symptoms consistent with the virus. After consulting with a physician, he took a COVID-19 test which turned out to be positive.

Before hearing of the result, however, Watney went to the golf course; Si Woo Kim said he saw Watney on the range. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy said he had a chat with Watney – at a distance – before teeing off. And Brooks Koepka said he saw Watney in the parking lot.

“He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I said, look, it’s fine. You never know. So I said to him, if I was in your position, I probably would have been here, too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy. “But, yeah, look, it sucks for him especially. You know, if you contract it, that’s fine, but then it’s the fact that who have you come into contact with, and who you might have exposed and stuff. Look, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. 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.”

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Watney texted McIlroy to tell him he had the virus and McIlroy valued Watney’s concern.

Watney shot 74 in the first round before withdrawing on Friday. He had traveled privately to Hilton Head Island and tested negatively on Monday here on the island.

He is the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus.

Watney will isolate for at least 10 days nearby.

“Nick will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

The PGA Tour had no additional comment.

There were 369 tests of players, caddies, and essential personnel prior to the start of the RBC Heritage. There were no positive results. Watney, 39, is a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. He shot 71-74 to miss the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge, when the PGA Tour returned to action after a 13-week break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Love III’s return bittersweet 3 months after fire

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disruptive force across the world, made worse for Davis Love III by a March fire that devastated his home.

Love, 56, a two-time U.S. Ryder Cup team captain and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is returning to play for the first time since the fire at this week’s RBC Heritage, a tournament he has won five times.

He is also seeing many friends and colleagues for the first time since the March 27 incident that totaled his home in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

“Certainly [wife] Robin and I packing up to come to a golf tournament was exciting, but it was also a little emotional,” Love said Wednesday at Harbour Town Golf Club, where the tournament starts Thursday. “

We didn’t have anything to pack like we usually do.

“I’m searching for head covers, and my son gave me a ball-mark fixer. I was like, I just don’t have enough equipment to go play a PGA Tour event. So it’s been ups and downs like that.”

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Love discovered a fire in his garage shortly after 5 a.m. that day after an alarm alerted him and his wife. None of the couple’s kids or grandchildren were at the home during the fire.

After trying to get a fire extinguisher, it became apparent that the fire was too strong, Love said. The Loves called 911 and waited.

“It seemed like it took forever,” Love said recently in a Golf Digest interview. “We were standing there watching our house burn down.”

The house was 12,000 square feet and three stories, but Love said it was gone in 30 minutes.

Most of Love’s golf memorabilia was gone, including the replica Ryder Cup trophy he received in 2016. A replica of the Wanamaker Trophy he was given for winning the 1997 PGA Championship is part of his display at the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Loves recently bought another home in the same area and will take time to decide their next move.

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Berger wins tightly contested Colonial in playoff

Daniel Berger was playing some of the best golf that no one noticed. Three months away because of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t slow his momentum, and he made it pay off Sunday with a triumph at Colonial.

The PGA Tour made a healthy return to golf at the Charles Schwab Challenge with a somewhat sickly finish. Berger saved par from behind the 17th green on the first playoff hole and won when Collin Morikawa missed a 3-foot par putt.

Berger closed with a 4-under 66, his 28th consecutive round at par or better dating back to Oct. 11 at the Houston Open.

Even over the final hour, a half-dozen players were still in the mix. All that was missing was the sound and energy of a gallery, with the PGA Tour not allowing fans for the opening five events in its return. Berger won for the third time — all victories during this week on the calendar, just not in circumstances like this. It was the first PGA Tour event since March 12 when the spread of the new coronavirus shut down golf and other sports.

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From no positive tests to a dynamic end at history-rich Colonial, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan sized up the week by saying, “This has been a phenomenal start to our return.”

Morikawa has been equally steady. Since graduating from Cal last year, he has won and made every cut, a streak now at 21 events, the longest streak by a newcomer since Tiger Woods.

He took a share of the lead with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole. It was the short ones that hurt. Morikawa also missed a birdie putt from 6 feet on the 18th hole in a 67.

Berger was the only one who delivered, making a 10-foot birdie on the final hole that put him at 15-under 265. The last time Berger was in a playoff, Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him at the Travelers Championship. So he could feel for what Morikawa felt int he loss. “It’s going to hurt for a little while, but he’ll get over it and he’ll be winning again,” Berger said.

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Golfers playing through bizarre is new normal

Players at the Charles Schwab Challenge who participated in virtual press conferences on Tuesday stated they accept and support the conditions imposed for the first PGA Tour event since the abbreviated Players Championship in mid-March, protocols that involve both testing for coronavirus and restrictions on the golf course. Still, the “new normal” is likely to take some getting used.

After arriving in Fort Worth, all 148 players in the field (and their caddies) had to undergo a nasal swab test. Players, caddies and others then received a temperature scan of their foreheads and answered a series of questions about COVID-19 symptoms in order to gain entry to Colonial Country Club—a routine that will be recurrent daily throughout the entirety of the tournament.

Once on the grounds, Tour officials have encouraged everyone to keep space between themselves and others, creating some unusual breaks from the routine found at most tour events. “You’re getting your own range balls,” said Jordan Spieth, the 2016 champion at Colonial. “You’re scooping your bucket.”

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The PGA Tour enacted these sweeping regulations and recommendations in order to ensure the safety of everyone involve in staging a return after its longest break—March 12 to June 9—since World War II.

As one of the first professional sports to resume play, golf has a chance to set an example about how sports can return to some form of responsible competition and entertainment.

To do that, however, the participants must take ownership, Speith said.

“A hundred percent. I totally think we all as players have responsibility for it to go off very smoothly,” he said. The Tour has limited the number of people who can be on the grounds, allowing no spectators or family members of the players to be in attendance. There is none of the usual infrastructure you find at a Tour event, no grandstands or hospitality areas or fitness trailers. What there are plenty of, however, are hand sanitizers stations throughout the course.

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Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning knocked off Phill Mickelson, Tom Brady

Rain filled the South Florida air on Sunday, threatening to make a mess of The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club.

Instead, four sporting icons didn’t let bad weather dampen what turned out to be an exciting, fun-filled exhibition that raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief efforts while highlighting the ups and downs of competitive golf.

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning triumphed 1 up over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in Hobe Sound, Florida, but the outcome never really mattered. Mickelson trash-talked, as did announcer Charles Barkley. 

Justin Thomas, the No. 4 player in the world, dished some dirt and offered some barbs while serving as an on-course reporter. Celebrities called in and offered challenge donations. Ultimately, after $10 million was pledged by the four players and WarnerMedia previous to the match, another $10 million was raised over the course of the afternoon via online and text donations and other pledges.

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“Phil said he was nervous, so imagine us,” stated Manning, the retired two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who is a member at Augusta National. “To go behind the ropes and get in these guys’ world and in the arena with them was really an incredible experience.

“I was not comfortable the whole time, but raising $20 million as people are going through such tough times, it’s something I’ll always remember and cherish.”

Things got off to a slow start due to the poor weather, which delayed the start by some 50 minutes.

But once the players got going, there was some excellent banter and good golf. All of the players were outfitted with custom golf carts, with cameras focused on their faces and microphones available for questions from the announcers.

Mickelson hit a few wayward shots to start, but the 44-time PGA Tour winner settled down and served as a cheerleader for Brady, trying to keep him in the game. The duo rallied on the back nine as the format shifted to modified alternate shot. Mickelson bombed a tee shot onto the short par-4 11th green, and Brady holed the eagle putt to bring them to 2 down.

“This is where it changes,” Mickelson said. He missed a good opportunity to bring the match close at the 13th but got within one hole when Manning missed a short par putt at the 14th. They could get no closer as the players proceeded in heavy rain and near darkness.

After Woods hit his tee shot in the fairway at the 18th, with Manning knocking the approach to the front of the green, all that was left was a two-putt par for the victory.

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U.S Open scraps qualifying; now all-exempt field

The U.S. Open will not have qualifying for the first time since 1924.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the event at Winged Foot from June to September, has forced the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) into the decision.

“As you can imagine, this was an incredible difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” stated John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of Championships for the USGA.

Open qualifying is the hallmark of golf’s second-oldest championship. The USGA often points out that typically half of the 156-man field has to go through either 36-hole qualifying or 18-hole and 36-hole qualifying.

It even invested in a marketing campaign that was rolled out in February, titled “From Many, One,” to illustrate that more than 9,000 people apply to play in the U.S. Open, eventually yielding to one winner.

The USGA did not reveal on Monday how other players would become exempt.

Among those who have yet to qualify is Phil Mickelson, a runner-up six times in the only major he has not won.

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Mickelson said in February he would not ask the USGA for an exemption, and that if he failed to qualify or become exempt, he would not play. Winged Foot is where Mickelson made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to lose by one.

The field apparently will be smaller because of the late major date, though the USGA did not mention the field size in its April 6 announcement that the U.S. Open was moving to September 17-20 at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York.

The cancellation of Open qualifying will be keenly felt among golf fans. It’s from those final qualifying tournaments that Cinderella stories appear. In the last quarter-century, three eventual Open champions first made their way into the field via qualifying: Steve Jones in 1996, Michael Campbell in 2005 and Lucas Glover in 2009. Last year 9,125 competitors entered qualifying for the Open, with more than 35,000 entering all USGA individual competitions.

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Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning favored to defeat Phill Mickelson, Tom Brady in charity golf

The match is set, the trash-talking has started and the odds are on the board for a star-studded, 18-hole event to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts on Memorial Day weekend.

Caesars Sportsbook on Monday opened Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning as the favorites over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in “The Match: Champions for Charity” showdown May 24 at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe South, Florida.

Woods and Manning were installed as -175 favorites, with Brady and Mickelson at +150 at Caesars.

The event will be televised on TNT and TBS at 3 p.m. ET. The four members will make a combined $10 million donation to relief efforts. The 18-hole match will consist of nine holes of best ball and nine holes of modified alternate shot.

Two years ago, Mickelson bested Woods in a head-to-head, made-for-TV event in Las Vegas.

Last week, in an online promotion for this year’s challenge, Mickelson ribbed Woods by showing off the trophy he conquered by defeating him in 2018. “Tiger doesn’t strike us as somebody who’s really going to get up for an event like this, for lack of a better phrase,” said Jeff Davis, director of risk for Caesars Sportsbook. “Phil kind of eats this stuff up.”

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The early betting action on the match had been even at the DraftKings sportsbook, where 60% of the bets were on Woods and Manning, while 55% of the money wagered was on the underdogs, Mickelson and Brady.

Jeff Sherman, a golf odds specialist at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, researched Brady’s and Manning’s golf matches online, watching old pro-am events they played in and videos of their swings.

“From what I could find, I believe Brady’s like an 8 handicap, and Manning’s like a 6 handicap,” Sherman said. “So, slight edge to Manning there.”

Sherman compared the handle on the 2018 event between Mickelson and Woods to how much is wagered on a “good NBA game,” but said he expects this year’s version of “The Match” to attract potentially four times as much betting interest.

“For a standout event like that, it was less than I anticipated,” Sherman stated “I think one has the potential to do three or four times that, just based on this being by itself on a Sunday, when people can get involved. “There’s definitely going to be more involvement on this one, because it’s not up on many things.”

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Senior PGA Championship in May canceled

The Senior PGA, set to be the season’s second major on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, has been canceled outright because of coronavirus, tournament officials reported Thursday.

The Senior PGA was intended for May 21-24 at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.

“This was not an easy decision, we know how much this Championship means to our Southwest Michigan community, and the positive impact it has on our local economy, however the health and safety of our community is our priority” Jeff Fettig, chairman of the Senior PGA Championship, said in a statement. 

“We will miss the players and fans, who have all become welcomed extensions of our community over the years. While we are incredibly disappointed that the championship will not return to Benton Harbor in 2020, we know that this is the right thing to do.”

Tournament officials stated they explored the option of reprogramming, but said that cancellation was “the only option,” in the face of the coronavirus crisis. 

The season’s first major, the Tradition, was set for the week before in Alabama, and has been rescheduled for September. The tour has five majors per season.

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On the PGA Tour, the season’s first three majors, the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open, have been postponed, with reports saying the final one, the British Open, is set to be canceled.

The Senior PGA has been held at Harbor Shores, a Jack Nicklaus-designed resort, every year since 2012, with champions like Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, Roger Chapman and Paul Broadhurst.

The tournament is signed on to return to Benton Harbor again in 2022 and 2024.

“We completely support the PGA … in their decision to cancel the championship, and we appreciate the diligent and thoughtful way in which they have handled this situation,” said Marcus Muhammad, the mayor of Benton Harbor, in a statement. “We take great pride in our city, and are looking forward to hosting the championship and showcasing all that Benton Harbor has to offer when the time is right.”

The cancellation will cost the Benton Harbor tens of thousands of charitable dollars. In 2018, the tournament raised about $175,000 for local organizations, including the Benton Harbor High School athletic department, as well as the First Tee of Benton Harbor, among several others.

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Winged Foot closure leaves U.S. Open in limbo

The closure of Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, due to coronavirus concerns has at least temporarily halted preparations there for the 2020 US Open.

The US Golf Association said in a statement to GolfChannel.com that it continues “to hold the dates for the US Open at Winged Foot in June” while it also monitors guidance and regulations from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and state and local authorities.

In the meantime, work that had started on tournament infrastructure such as corporate hospitality tents and grandstands has been halted.

The USGA acknowledged that the championship, programmed for June 18-21, might have to be postponed, but said it was too soon to make that call.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and making relevant contingency plans,” USGA chief brand officer Craig Annis told the Journal News newspaper that serves Westchester County.

“We expect to make a decision sometime in the middle of April.”

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The first two major championships, the Masters and PGA Championship, have already been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in England is still programmed for July 16-19.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo warned Tuesday of “troubling and astronomical numbers” in the rate of coronavirus infections in the state, saying they were doubling every three days.

The Masters and PGA Championship have already been postponed, and the PGA Tour has canceled eight events. There is talk of the PGA Championship taking over the date vacated by the postponed Olympic Games in late July, with the Masters potentially moving to October.

The last time the U.S. Open was not played was in 1945 due to World War II.

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