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COVID-19 adds another wrinkle to the captains' agreement with a second 'envelope'

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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The “envelope” has been a part of the Ryder Cup for decades, with captains picking a player from their team who will sit out the Sunday singles matches if there is an injury on the opposing team. The captains’ agreement calls for the match to be halved.

But the age of COVID-19 has added a new layer to the “envelope.” European captain Padraig Harrington explained that for this week’s matches there is the normal injury envelope and a COVID-19 envelope in the event a player from either team tests positive for the coronavirus.

“If, God forbid, we had a COVID outbreak of a number of players, for one player it's pretty straightforward, on Sunday you start losing a few players to COVID, it does affect the match in some way. But one is in a COVID envelope for sure,” Harrington said.

Parts of Ryder Cup COVID protocols still unclear

Parts of Ryder Cup COVID protocols still unclear

A positive test during the team formats wouldn’t likely be an issue with four players from each team sitting out each session, but multiple positive tests on Sunday with 12 singles matches scheduled could impact the competitive integrity of the matches.

According to the captains' agreement, three players on both sides are put in a specific COVID-related envelope. These players, in order of substitution, are "regarded as having been paired with the player(s) who, due to COVID-19, have to withdraw from the other side. Such pairing(s) are regarded as tied matches."

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The PGA of America went on to clarify that in the event of multiple players testing positive, “the exact details of the scenario would be assessed by [the PGA and the European Tour] in order to determine its impact on the overall playing of the Ryder Cup.”

“The other issue is actually quite a detailed and complicated issue and is possibly above the pay grade of the two captains,” Harrington said. “This is certainly something that I'm sure is causing a lot of thought and a lot of time thinking about what would be too many and what would be sustainable.”

According to PGA of America officials, players, caddies and support personnel were tested for COVID-19 before travelling to Whistling Straits and once they arrived at the venue.