Like Six Degree of Separation, Virus Travels on Tour
This isn’t supposed to happen with professional golfers. They represent such a clean, pristine group, the white coat and stethoscope club of the sports world. However, a little ways into the tour restart, and moving cautiously up to the time in which the fans can return, some of the players are dropping the ball. Even if it’s a now-and-then moment when someone forgets to socially distance, or goes places they’re not supposed to go, or goes to the store just one time without a mask, it can ripple through the entire industry. That appears to be precisely what could start happening with the Covid-19 virus.
The Travelers’ Championship is up this week, and a lot of folks were looking forward to it, but suddenly as many as six players have withdrawn from the tournament. One simple mistake, and there go the golf dominoes. Among the withdrawals are Brooks Koepka, Cameron Champ, Graeme McDowell, and Webb Simpson. You remember him from last week, right? Not a good person to be without if you’re hyping a PGA tournament.
Here’s how it goes in the “Six Degrees of Separation” virus process. Nick Watney tested positive, although we are not sure where he got it. Then Champ tested positive,. McDowell played a practice round with the two Koepkas and Shane Lowry when his caddie tested positive in Florida. Then Koepka’s caddie came down with it, and things began to go haywire where people meet the same people every week in different venues. Webb Simpson isn’t coming this week, either, because a loved one at home tested positive, and he thought he should be there. Emotionally, that’s true, but technically, it is not. Still, he made the right decision. All the press conferences were cancelled, knocking out Rory, and Jay Monahan got a little irked.
The safety protocols have been carefully set up so that the tour can continue, but there’s always someone who gets lax once in a while, even with a virus this proficient on the loose. The caddie-player relationship is a prime suspect, and golfers have been cautioned in the handing off of clubs from one to another. So, how do you prevent that? How about, “You want a six-iron? Get it yourself…all done? Put it back yourself, and wipe it off first.” Or, if the caddie touches the club first, he has to take the shot instead of the pro? How does that sound?
Monahan says that if people start testing positive, and it comes to light that they’ve been blowing off the virus rules, they’re in big trouble. That, he says, includes the $100,000 stipend for tour players. What? I didn’t know anybody got money from the PGA for just showing up. I mean, it’s a very nice gesture. Golf is hard to survive in, but a $100,000 impetus should take away some of the pain.
There’s another thing about the Covid-19 virus that doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Some of the golfers are no longer wunderkinds, or even thirty-somethings. Older players on the PGA or even much older players on the Champions Tour can be fifty and older, moving them closer and closer to the most dangerous age categories.
I wonder if we shouldn’t make an adjustment to the way caddies do their work. Obviously, they make up a good part of the program because they’re so much more social than everybody else (tongue-in-cheek – no letters, please). Load those clubs onto a golf cart, and keep your distance from each other. Let the pro take the club out and put it back. And that six foot thing. Some people have a mobile perception of how far that really is. I saw a chart today that recommended keeping one alligator’s worth of distance to keep the virus at bay. Now, that way of looking at it should stick in the mind.
Remember, one caddie or player has a forgetful moment, and a week later, a tour can disappear and a major city can be brought to a standstill.