When players travel to England next month for The Open, they will be met by strict COVID-19 protocols.
According to R&A CEO Martin Slumbers via a Player Information Update sent to players, caddies and coaches who will potentially be teeing it up at Royal St. George’s, the year’s final major championship will “operate under strict government oversight from the U.K. government.”
The guidelines include players being forced to test regardless of if they are vaccinated or not, being prohibited from going to restaurants, grocery stores and bars during tournament week, and having to either stay at approved hotels or in private residences, which can only be shared with up to four members of their team – caddie, coach, manager, medical support or translator – and not other players. (Remember those shared houses with Spieth, Fowler, JT and others? That won't happen this year.)
Players and their team will, however, be exempt from mandatory quarantine, which is either 10 days upon entering the country or five days with a negative result.
"All accredited players, caddies and player support team members including family members will be subject to strict 'inner bubble' restrictions for the duration of their time at the Championship and must not mix with members of the general public in restaurants, supermarkets or other public areas," the update said. "No one outside the accommodation buddy group is permitted to visit others in self-catering/private accommodation. This would be seen as a breach of the COVID-19 protocols and could lead to withdrawal from the championship."
The protocols are a far cry from the PGA Tour’s current guidelines, though the update stated that the rules were not determined by the R&A but rather the U.K. government, which just extended its mask mandate until July 19. The championship, which will be contested July 15-18, is expected to permit 32,000 spectators per day, which is believed to be the most at a golf tournament since the tours returned to action after the start of the pandemic.
Some players and other team members have already begun to voice their opinions on the impending requirements.
"I'm going to go because it's the British Open,” one player, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Golfweek.com. “But I certainly thought about not going. I just can't believe with the numerous examples of successfully run, safely held tournaments and majors here that they can't figure out a better situation. If someone on your plane tests positive on the way to the British and is sitting anywhere close to you, you're out, no questions asked, no matter if you're vaccinated. It's aggravating that they deem the tournament safe enough for 32,000 fans a day to attend but won't let a player's wife or children travel and watch the tournament, nor will they even let players visit a restaurant without threat of disqualification."
Pete Cowen, an instructor who teaches several players, including Rory McIlroy, told The Telegraph that he had planned to stay with several caddies in an RV near the driving range.
"There are going to be 32,000 fans allowed in every day and they're saying we can't stay in anything other than the dedicated hotels -- most of which are already sold out -- because we'd be mixing with the public. And we can't stay together, like we have on the PGA Tour for the last year,” Cowen said. "We have all been vaccinated and will have been tested before we are allowed in. This 'bubble' we have created between ourselves has produced no problems at all.
"It makes no sense at all when there will be 60,000 at Wembley [for soccer], 140,000 at Silverstone [racetrack] and all those at Wimbledon on the weekend before -- sitting next to each other. I suppose I should be grateful I am going at all, as initially the wording of the [regulations] made me believe instructors would be banned."