Jon Rahm’s forced withdrawal from Memorial spotlights vaccinations on a tour with barely more than half inoculated
Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.
Hawk's take: Because close to half of the tour pros remain unvaccinated at such a crucial juncture of the season, Monahan surely has pondered his options. Applying too much pressure on the men responsible for his product, however, easily could backfire, leading to a mistake no commish can afford to make. To lose the confidence of your constituency is to become a leader without a sword.
Besides, there are better ways to handle the situation, at least for now. Monahan needs to send an aggressive message without clubbing guys over the head, without threatening them of their livelihood. Wouldn’t a Tuesday morning on the telephone with some of the game’s biggest non-inoculated names serve a more valuable purpose? We’re talking about independent contractors here. We’re talking about America, a place where people are free to make their own choices.
Of course, we’re also talking about a deadly pandemic, which makes it prudent to tiptoe into the problem instead of stomping into the room with a bossy mandate. Do the unvaccinated players need a push? Absolutely, but not at the expense of excessive pushback. It hasn’t been more than a few weeks since Monahan threatened to expel anyone with designs on leaving the PGA Tour for a rival golf league. It was a fairly heavy-handed way of dealing with an opponent that hasn’t even come close to getting airborne, a cannonball aimed at a group of fellas who don’t like to have a wad of paper thrown at them.
Too much government can be much worse than a lackadaisical one. That’s why Monahan hasn’t overstepped his authoritative boundaries quite yet. And why he shouldn’t feel overly compelled to do so for now.
Purk’s take: If PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan doesn’t have the authority to require the players to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he should, and the Player Advisory Council could take care of it in a conference call.
Monahan has had enough power to make testing, withdrawals and quarantine compulsory. So why not take the next logical action and compel vaccinations? Let’s take a step back: the pandemic is not over. It showed up in all-too-startling terms when Jon Rahm was forced to withdraw from the Memorial after 54 holes with a six-shot lead after two positive tests. Had he been fully vaccinated, he probably would have won the Memorial going away. This is the first time a tournament outcome has been affected by a positive test.
The argument that PGA Tour players are independent contractors and can’t be forced to take medical treatment rings hollow in the face of the pandemic. Besides, this is not about individual players but the larger issue of the people around them to whom they could transmit the virus. Andy Levinson, the Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration, said “north of 50 percent” of Tour players had been vaccinated as of the Memorial, which could mean 50.1 percent, an alarming figure.
Besides, Rahm’s failure to vaccinate likely cost him $1.674 million. Get in Tour players’ pockets and they’ll start lining up to get the vaccine, whether Monahan insists or not.
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