How many more leaks before the golf bubble bursts?
First Nick Watney, then Cameron Champ and now Graeme McDowell. The Northern Irishman has had to join Champ and withdraw from this week's Travelers Championship after long time caddie Ken Comboy tested positive for Covid-19.
How many more leaks before the bubble bursts completely? One, two, three? Is Daily Telegraph golf writer James Corrigan right when he tweeted:
“Let's just be clear that if it had been Woods and McIlroy who'd withdrawn with coronavirus and not Watney and Champ, the PGA Tour would already be back in lockdown. The breaking point will be the optics, not the numbers.”
It’s hard to say anyone will be surprised at what’s happened on the PGA Tour after Justin Thomas’s comments last week, when he noted the atmosphere around the RBC Heritage.
“No offense to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously,” Thomas said. “It’s an absolute zoo around here. There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded.”
World number one Rory McIlroy wasn’t surprised either. Upon hearing the news Watney had contracted the virus and withdrawn from the RBC Heritage, he said:
“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. I think we’ve done really well to start golf again and get back up and play golf tournaments. I don’t think anyone was blind to the fact that someone could catch the virus, and it’s a shame that Nick did.
“It’s just one case, and as long as it’s contained to that and we move forward, we can keep playing.”
Now that it’s three cases, can the PGA Tour keep playing? At one point does the health of the players take precedent over the rush to get back to normal?
Is the European Tour taking note?
What’s happening on the PGA Tour right now should be a seminal lesson for chief executive Keith Pelley and the European Tour. Pelley assured the world’s media recently that the health of players, caddies, officials, media was paramount in the restart of the European Tour schedule. The British Masters beginning July 22nd sets off the UK Swing, a series of six tournaments the tour is funding to try to get back to some sense of normality. These tournaments are supposed to be played in a protective bubble the coronavirus can’t enter.
I’m sure Pelley and the tour will take every precaution to ensure everyone is tested, that the necessary protocols are in place. The PGA Tour said the same thing, but all it takes is one person to get infected and the bubble is in danger of bursting. Or three people.
Both tours are desperate to restart for obvious reasons, the most obvious being money. However, you have to ask a paramount question: is it worth it? Guess what folks, the virus is still out there. Wouldn’t it just make more sense to put professional golf on hold until we get this thing under control?
Strange that the European Tour wiped out the entire 2020 Staysure season because of the coronavirus but still wants to go ahead with the regular tour.
The PGA Tour’s three cases so far isn’t just a warning signal for the European Tour, but for all of golf. Clubhouses are set to reopen despite the fact there still isn’t a vaccine, and the test and trace system needed to get a hold of this thing is nowhere near robust enough.
Bubbles have a habit of bursting, which is why we need to remain vigilant, at all levels of golf.