McIlroy and Koepka confirm Nick Watney interactions after golfer tests positive for Covid-19
"It's a shame, but the show goes on."
Webb Simpson leads Bryson DeChambeau and Corey Conners by one shot going into round three of the RBC Heritage but the main story from South Carolina is Nick Watney's positive test for Covid-19.
The American golfer arrived for his second round at Hilton Head Island but was informed that he had tested positive for Covid-19 before he went out for his round.
The PGA Tour started back last week and all of the world's top 10 golfer, bar Australia's Adam Scott, are back at it. While it has to be expected that a small number of golfers, caddies and those working at these PGA Tour events may test positive for the virus, over the coming months, details around the Watney case are jarring.
The PGA Tour, in a statement released late on Friday, confirmed that 'prior to arriving at the tournament, he indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness'. Still - despite showing symptoms consistent with having Covid-19 - Watney was permitted to take his place in the field for the first round, during which he shot a +2 round of 74.
The PGA statement does note, however, that Watney tested negatively after arriving in South Carolina for the event. In part, the statement reads:
'Watney, who travelled privately to Hilton Head Island for the tournament and was not on the PGA Tour-provided charter flight, tested negative upon arrival. He is the first PGA Tour member to test positive for Coronavirus. A total of 369 individuals (players, caddies, essential personnel) underwent on-site testing prior to the start of the tournament, with zero positive results.'
Watney is no self isolating and has withdrawn from the tournament. With contact tracing not commonplace in the United States, it was up to some of the golf correspondents at the event to start asking questions about who Watney had been in contact with over the past few days.
The PGA were not giving up more than the statement they released but Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka both confirmed they had been in contact with Watney on Friday morning. McIlroy commented:
"Nick texted me actually because we had a chat on the putting green before I went out to play.... We were at a distance. He was just saying, 'Look, I hope I didn't get too close to you'. He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course. I said, 'Look, it's fine'.
"You never know. So I said to him, 'If I was in your position, I probably would have been here too'. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy."
McIlroy says Watney's positive test 'sucks for him' and appreciates the text he received, rather than finding out about it through the news. The Northern Irish golfer was quite stoic about a member contracting Covid-19 and maintains that individuals 'have to stay vigilant', washing hands and wearing masks 'until this thing is over'.
When told about Jordan Spieth reflecting that a positive test for a golfer was a matter of 'when, not if', McIlroy replied:
"200,000 deaths in the U.S. alone from Covid-19. So to think that us on the PGA Tour, none of us were going to get it was very... I don't think anyone thought that.
"I think the consensus was someone is going to get it at some point, and Nick's the one that's got it, and he's self-isolating and doing what he has to do. It's a shame, but the show goes on. We've got 36 holes to play at this tournament."
While McIlroy only discovered the Watney news after his round, world No.4 Brooks Koepka says he found out on the 17th hole of his second round.
"I don't know too much about it," said Koepka. "I mean, I saw Nick this morning. I was right next to him in the parking lot."
"We've got to see what happens," he added. "It's unfortunate Nick got it, but at the same time, hopefully, it stays with just him and doesn't spread because I think we'll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue."