PGA TOUR Announces Protocols for Next Month’s Return to Competition

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Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth

The PGA TOUR announced guidelines for next month’s return to competition, including daily COVID-19 testing, comprehensive social distancing on and off the golf course, and an immediate withdrawal requirement and self-isolation period for any player who tests positive for the coronavirus.

A lengthy update sent to its membership and shared publicly Wednesday outlined all protocol for the previously announced reopening of the schedule on June 11 for the Charles Schwab Challenge. The update started with this note on precaution: “We will not play if we do not feel we can provide a safe and healthy environment for all constituents involved.”

That healthy environment includes the establishment of pre-travel screening for players and caddies, a PCR nasal swab or saliva test upon arrival and daily questionnaires and/or thermal screenings during the course of a tournament.

Any player (or caddie) who tests positive will not have the result announced publicly, but will be forced to withdraw from that event and self-isolate for up to 10 days. If the player has already made the cut, he will receive the equivalent of last-place money for that week.

Those who are waiting for test results may go on-site for play or practice, but will not have access to the facilities.

Essentially, the PGA TOUR is asking those involved with tournaments to act as if “safer at home” policies are in effect while they are at tournament locations.

Among the announced protocols to maintain a “controlled bubble” around those competing in and working on these events are: No family members allowed on-site and limited support personnel; continual disinfection of all facilities; and restriction on player/caddie movement while outside a tournament venue, which will include staying only at approved hotels or rental houses, ordering take-out instead of dining at restaurants and chartered flights from one tournament location to the next.

Players and caddies will be “strongly encouraged” to take these flights, which have a 170-person capacity and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

In a section of the memo about “player and caddie experience and expectations,” it states that this is an “opportunity to set an example for other professional sports leagues.”

Unlike many courses open for recreational play right now, flagsticks will not be required to remain in the cup while putting and bunkers will be supplied with rakes, though caddies are expected to clean these items when they are done. Players will be asked to remove their own clubs from the bag before each shot, and retrieve their own ball from the hole, including on practice greens.

Competitors will also be asked to adhere to social distancing policies, including washing their hands frequently; using sanitizing gel; avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth; avoiding handshakes, fist-bumps and high-fives; and refraining from spitting on the course.

Previous services which have been eliminated for the impending period include bag storage, valet parking, dry cleaning and the use of clubhouse gyms. In addition to no spectators on-site for at least the first four events, there will be no pro-ams or sponsor value programs.

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