I won’t lie, I’m not exactly a neutral observer. I get paid to write about golf and a sizeable chunk of my week is spent on my couch in front of the TV, and as much as I like to pawn it off as professional obligation, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little kick out of it.
So it probably comes as little surprise to hear me say that I rail strongly against the journalists who called for the PGA Tour to shut down once again in the wake of several COVID-related withdrawals from the Travelers Championship. At the risk of sounding a little “tin-foil hat” here, the evidence suggests that the wave of positive tests and withdrawals has been blown way out of proportion.
Does this mean that the Tour shouldn’t be criticised for the way they’ve handled the restart? Of course not. As has been written many times over the past few weeks, the notion that the Tour is in a travelling bubble is laughable. Stories of players, caddies and other behind the scenes personnel staying, travelling and socialising as and how they please were rampant in the opening two weeks, and regardless of how indefensible that is, in some ways it is understandable.
Have you ever seen cattle released into a field after spending the winter months locked in a byre? At the first sign of green grass they go into a manic craze, wildly leaping and bucking in sheer jubilation. I’m not trying to compare PGA Tour Pros’ mansions to a dank and smelly slatted shed, but you get my drift.
But how quickly this can all be taken away again is something that has to have struck a chord with even the most obstinate and pig-headed of the players and their entourages following the spate of withdrawals last week. And unless there is a significant spike in positive cases this week or next, then the positive tests can be viewed as a warning shot across the Tour’s bows.
Social distancing is not a hard thing to do. It really isn’t. You can carry a conversation from a couple of meters apart. You don’t have to constantly bump knuckles like high school kids with a constant need for affirmation of your social standing.
That being said, as blatantly as the guidelines were ignored and as lenient as the Tour have been – we’ll wait to see if Cameron Champ is punished for reportedly breaking rule number one and entering the clubhouse and receiving treatment from his trainer while awaiting test results – there have been just seven positives. And of those seven, Champ and Irishman Ricky Elliott have since tested negative multiple times which suggests they were false positives.
False positives are a problem, of course, and to be wrongly sidelined due to machine error would be incredibly frustrating, but there is no other way around it. If you test positive, you’re out. No second or third tests, just out. Immediately. False negatives are a bigger worry – and for obvious reasons – but either you trust the testing system or you don’t. You can’t view all negatives as potential false negatives because that defeats the purpose of testing.
There were always going to be positive tests; one in every 123 Americans have contracted the virus and with more than 1,000 personnel involved in staging a tournament – even in COVID time – well, the maths speak for themselves. No, you do what needs to be done. You test as many people as possible, you create as safe an environment as possible, and you stay well away from vulnerable members of society.
That’s just simple logic and as long as this is done, then there is no reason that the schedule should grind to a halt again.
And if you’re a player or caddie who doesn’t want to strictly adhere to the guidelines? Well putting an entire business at risk is effectively industrial sabotage and the Tour should treat it as such.
Either shape up or ship out.
There’ll be no trouble filling your place.