News & Opinion

Brooks Koepka leads exodus at PGA Tour’s Travelers event

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka

Koepka didn’t test positive for coronavirus, but his caddie did, so the world’s 4th-ranked player opts to ‘protect everybody else’ with withdrawal. Recent winners Daniel Berger and Webb Simpson also pulled out

Brooks Koepka led a revolving door of withdrawals Wednesday at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship as coronavirus testing took a toll on perhaps the strongest field in history at New England’s annual Tour stop.

Koepka did not test positive for the virus, but his caddie did, prompting the four-time major champion to leave. Ricky Elliott, who caddies for the four-time major champion Koepka, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning at TPC River Highlands, the site of the Travelers. Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch first reported the news late Wednesday morning, before the dominoes started falling.

Upon arrival at the tournament site 48 hours earlier, Elliott tested negative for the virus, which has infected 2.4 million and killed more than 123,000 in the U.S.

“I’m going to pull out to protect everybody else,” Koepka told Golfweek. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions. The only way this Tour can continue is if guys do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”

Late Tuesday, Graeme McDowell withdrew as a precaution after his caddie, Ken Comboy, tested positive for the virus. Comboy is under isolation in Florida and had not traveled to Connecticut. McDowell tested negative on Monday upon arrival at TPC River Highlands. He planned to return on a private plane to his home in Orlando, according to the report.

On Monday, Cameron Champ tested positive for coronavirus and withdrew from the Travelers.

Within 24 hours of today’s start of the tournament, however, the pace of withdrawals accelerated. In addition to Champ and Koepka, others to withdraw (none tested positive) included the winners of the past two Tour events since the season restart: Daniel Berger and Webb Simpson. Others to leave: Koepka’s younger brother Chase Koepka, Chesson Hadley, Nate Lashley, Adam Putnam and Steve Stricker. The Tour went deep into its alternate list to replace them, with Sebastian Cappelen, Cameron Davis, Fabian Gomez, David Hearn, Tyler McCumber, Rob Oppenheim, Cameron Percy, Robert Streb, D.J. Trahan and Tim Wilkinson earning starts Thursday (tee times).

The news comes as a swift interruption in the PGA Tour’s return to competition after a three-month suspension in play because of the pandemic. The Tour restarted two weeks ago in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, before moving to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. The first six tournaments were set to be held without fans.

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