Not even two rounds of 61 at the Travelers Championship could overshadow the continuing battles – and outright confusion – between the PGA Tour and Covid-19.
Webb Simpson, who withdrew from the tournament after revealing a member of his family tested positive for coronavirus, intends to play next week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “I am happy to report that the Simpson family has all tested negative for Covid-19,” he said.
If that raised eyebrows, Cameron Champ’s subsequent bulletin took matters to another level. Champ had tested positive for coronavirus at the start of the week. But on Saturday, he explained he had now returned three negative tests in 72 hours. “I’ve felt great the whole time and experienced no symptoms,” said Champ, who added that he was heading home with the Tour’s mandatory isolation policy apparently no longer relevant. The validity of testing very much is.
Jason Day, meanwhile, requested a Covid-19 check before his third round in Connecticut. It came back negative but as a precaution the Australian played as a single at the tail-end of the field. Seven players, including Simpson and Champ, had been removed for coronavirus-related matters.
The PGA Tour, doubtless aware of increasing focus from the outside, has tightened protocols as the third event of its return hurtles towards its conclusion. “Players and caddies, along with all other individuals ‘inside the bubble,’ will not be allowed on property until first being cleared with a negative in-market test,” said the Tour in a statement.
“Previously, players and caddies could be on site to practise as they awaited their arrival testing results. The Tour is taking that precaution one step further to add an additional safety measure in that no player nor caddie will be on site – anywhere – to start the week, without first being cleared through Covid-19 screening.”
Dustin Johnson, seeking a first win since early 2019, signed for a 61 to claim the lead at 16 under par. Brendon Todd duly matched Johnson’s Saturday score, which afforded the former a two-stroke advantage with 18 holes to play. Rory McIlroy endured a frustrating day three, with his 69 leaving him eight adrift of Todd.
Phil Mickelson’s hopes of becoming just the eighth player to win a PGA Tour event in their 50s appear forlorn after a 71 shuffled him back to minus 12. “I’ve missed a lot of cuts,” Mickelson said. “Next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it.”