News & Opinion

Did PGA Tour make right call at Travelers? It’s a split decision

2020 Travelers Championship
TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., site of this week’s Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour

John Hawkins gives commissioner Jay Monahan credit for taking ‘every possible precaution,’ but Mike Purkey counters that the prudent decision would be to halt play 'before this gets out of hand'

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Did PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan make the right call in allowing the Travelers Championship to proceed as planned, despite two caddies and a player testing positive for the coronavirus?

Hawk’s take: It’s a bold and confident decision, although not necessarily one that defies conventional wisdom. The Tour can do only so much to limit the onsite risk. Players and caddies still have to travel, and because we’re talking about grown men here, it’s fair to wonder whether some have made themselves vulnerable through independent social activity. Besides, three people does not constitute an outbreak. The total number of positive tests conducted by Camp Ponte Vedra to this point amounts to far less than 1 percent.

Realistically, this was bound to happen. The Tour wasn’t going to pitch a shutout against the pandemic. Every possible precaution has been put in place to allow the season to continue, and that’s all anyone can ask for. Monahan is a very sharp guy, with an obvious concern for the safety of everyone involved in the competitive process. There’s no way he would have consented to staging this week’s tournament without consulting a fleet of medical experts and examining his own conscience.

He did the right thing, which isn’t to say it won’t backfire. The Travelers is played in Connecticut, which has contained COVID-19 better than any other state in America, but we’re all still living in the land of the Great Unknown here. If the virus starts claiming Tour pros at a higher rate or imperiling the product in any dangerous form, you confront the problem before it gets worse.

Until then, let’s play golf.

Purk’s take: The point is not that there were three people who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Travelers Championship. It’s whom they might have infected. And whom they might infect. And so on.

Four positive tests out of 2,757 is infinitesimal. But Monahan said Wednesday, “Each positive hurts.” Which is why he would be wise to shut down the Tour now, before this gets out of hand.

So far, in the two-plus weeks that the PGA Tour has resumed play, many of the players have acted like much of the nation has responded to a gradual re-opening of the country. If I don’t have the virus, I can go back to doing anything I want, they seem to say. So, face masks and social-distancing practices are tossed, and the new normal looks a lot like the old normal.

Except it’s not. And Tour players are discovering they are neither invincible nor immune. Brooks Koepka withdrew because his caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive. Koepka’s brother, Chase, withdrew because he probably was in close proximity to Brooks and Elliott.

Graeme McDowell withdrew because his caddie was positive. And Cameron Champ is positive, too. Webb Simpson withdrew because a family member is positive, even though his tests are negative.

You can see where this is going. It was going to be impossible to keep a bubble intact on Tour. Everyone knew that. But how many people will be infected from these three? The return of the PGA Tour is important. Just not that important.

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