Testing and protocols continue to highlight this week’s edition, with more policy changes on the PGA Tour and even more positive test results.
Lemons and lemonade. Brooks Koepka’s decision to withdraw from last week’s Travelers Championship out of an abundance of caution was understandable, after his caddie tested positive for COVID-19. The early exit probably wasn’t that big of a schedule hit for the world’s fifth-ranked player.
The withdrawal was personal, however, since Koepka’s brother, Chase, had Monday-qualified to play the Travelers Championship and he also withdrew from the event after staying with his brother and Brooks' caddie. It would have been a rare opportunity for the brothers to play in the same tournament and, for Chase, to play his first Tour event since October.
Officials at next week’s Workday Charity Open appear poised to give the brothers a second chance. According to the most recent field list, Brooks Koepka is playing the event, which replaced the John Deere Classic when officials canceled this year’s tournament, and Chase Koepka will receive a sponsor’s invitation to play.
There’s nothing fair about COVID-19 and golf is certainly learning how indiscriminate the virus can be, but the opportunity to do the right thing remains unchanged.
Tweet of the week:
Rymer is one of the most engaging and welcoming people we’ve ever worked with at Golf Channel and it was difficult to hear about his struggles after contracting COVID-19. It was also inspiring to read his thoughts on a virus that has become so polarizing.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The situation is F-L-U-I-D. It will be remembered as the Cameron Champ Rule, but the long-hitting 25-year-old is really nothing more than a placeholder based on the inevitability of this outcome.
The disclaimer from health and Tour officials that the COVID-19 pandemic and the circuit’s efforts for sustained competition are “fluid” was never more obvious than this week’s move to address the statistical inevitability of false positive tests.
Champ tested positive for the coronavirus on June 23 at the Travelers Championship, but followed up with three negative tests on June 24, 25 and 26.
“Through the specialist that we worked with, at this point it's clear that I never had it,” Champ told GolfChannel.com. “As far as their medical opinion, it's pretty clear that I never had it, so that's why I'm going about the way I am now.”
The Tour altered its protocols this week to allow Champ and any other player or caddie who tests positive to avoid the previously mandated 10 days of self-isolation if they registered two negative tests that were administered 24 hours apart and hadn’t had any symptoms.
The change allowed Champ to play this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic and acknowledged the only real certainty when it comes to the pandemic – the situation is fluid.
Unapologetic Bryson. It’s not that the hulk of a man needs to apologize to anyone for his ongoing transformation into a hard-swinging behemoth, it’s just the nature of how this experiment is going to play out.
Earlier this week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, DeChambeau was asked his thoughts on the Donald Ross-designed Detroit Golf Club, the classic host of this week’s stop.
“I haven't played both sides yet, so seems like it's fairly tight, a lot of rough,” DeChambeau said. "I think there's a lot of bunkers that are around like 290 [yards], so hopefully I'll be able to clear those and take those out of play. So, sorry, Mr. Ross, but, you know, it is what it is.”
“It is what it is” is Tour-speak for ... well, live with it. To prove the point DeChambeau launched six drives that traveled over 340 yards on Thursday, including a 377-yard poke at the par-5 17th hole.
It is what it is.
Playing golf in a pandemic. The Tour’s ongoing efforts to carry on highlighted the headlines again this week, following the circuit’s most concerning efforts on the testing front.
Chad Campbell became the sixth Tour player to test positive for COVID-19 (although Champ’s result appears to have been a false positive) and he withdrew from the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The same day, the Tour announced three Korn Ferry Tour players had also tested positive – Brandon Wu, Taylor Montgomery and Jonathan Hodge – and also had to withdraw from this week’s event at TPC Colorado.
It’s been easy to view the relative few cases on Tour as the cost of doing business during a pandemic, but three cases in one day certainly changes the mood if not the reality.