PGA Tour golfer tests positive for coronavirus while at RBC Heritage

Tribune Content Agency

A PGA Tour player on Hilton Head Island has tested positive for the coronavirus, the tour said Friday.

Nick Watney withdrew from the tournament Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus, the tour said in a statement Friday afternoon. Watney is the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus as the United States is still amid the global pandemic.

Watney consulted with a doctor about symptoms consistent with the virus before arriving Friday at the golf course for the second round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, being played at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island.

A test showed him to be positive. Watney will isolate himself during recovery according to federal health guidelines, the tour said. Tour officials have begun investigating who Watney has had close contact with at and around the tournament.

Vaughn Taylor, who along with Luke List played with Watney during the first round Thursday, said a rules official told the group halfway through the second round Friday of the positive test. Taylor, List and their caddies will be tested again as part of protocol.

Taylor said the players maintained proper distance Thursday and didn’t shake hands.

“So I was a little shocked, to be honest,” Taylor said. “Heart started racing, got a little nervous. Just hope Nick’s doing well and we get through this.”

Golfer Brooks Koepka said he learned about the positive test on the 17th hole Friday. He said he had seen Watney in the parking lot Friday morning and “was right next to him.”

Watney flew privately to Hilton Head and wasn’t on a flight the tour chartered for players, the PGA Tour’s statement said. He tested negative after arriving.

In all, the tour said it tested 369 players, caddies and other personnel before the tournament without a positive result. The tour declined further comment Friday and asked for privacy for Watney and his family.

Brian Wacker of Golf Digest initially reported the positive test, citing sources.

“Multiple sources have confirmed a player on the PGA Tour has tested positive for COVID-19,” Wacker posted to Twitter. “Sources have also confirmed that contact tracing has begun on the PGA Tour after the positive coronavirus test.”

The report of the positive test broke Friday afternoon as many players were still on the course.

The tour announced Tuesday that Kevin Na and Scottie Scheffler withdrew from the Heritage. Cameron Trinagle withdrew on Wednesday. No reasons were offered. The field included 152 golfers after those three withdrawals.

The 39-year-old Watney shot a 3-over 74 before withdrawing from the tournament.

The second round was suspended at 5:45 p.m. Friday due to lightning in the area.

“PGA TOUR member Nick Watney has withdrawn from the RBC Heritage prior to the second round after testing positive for COVID-19. On Friday, prior to arriving at the tournament, he indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness and after consulting with a physician, was administered a test and found to be positive.

Nick will have the PGA TOUR’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines. For the health and well-being of all associated with the tournament and those within the community, the TOUR has begun implementing its response plan in consultation with medical experts including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick.

Watney, who traveled 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.

The PGA TOUR will have no additional comment at this time and we ask media and fans to respect the privacy of Nick and his family.”


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