The first positive test, Sergio Garcia's astonishing claim, and Justin Thomas slams Hilton Head 'zoo'. It's been quite a week at Harbour Town

Webb Simpson won the RBC Heritage, though you would be forgiven for not noticing in the week dominated by coronavirus after Nick Watney became the first PGA Tour player to test positive.

There was a lot of confusion at Harbour Town on Friday. Watney, who had tested negative on Tuesday, showed symptoms ahead of the second round and was ordered to take another test. That one showed up positive and Watney withdrew from the event – the second of the PGA Tour’s behind-closed-doors return after a three-month break.

Then the wave of concern spread.

Rory McIlroy revealed the American had called him following his round because the pair had spoken on the practice green on Friday morning.

The World No 1 explained: “I said, ‘Look, it’s fine, you never know. If I was in your position, I probably would have been here too. You just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy.’

“I think he just wanted to tell me personally instead of having to read it through the news, so I appreciate that.

“Look, the consensus was someone is going to get it at some point, and Nick’s the one and he’s self-isolating and doing what he has to. It’s a shame, but the show goes on.”

And the show did go on, much to the disbelief of millions watching at home.

As for the PGA Tour, they seemed keen to sweep it under the rug. A statement issued said they “have no additional comment at this time and we ask media and fans to respect the privacy of Nick and his family.”

Then the story got even more bizarre. Sergio Garcia, of all people, revealed it was actually Watney’s fitness watch that made him get the test. The device showed an elevated respiratory rate and that’s what caused his initial concern.

“If he would have not had that he would have played and nobody would have noticed,” Garcia, who also revealed he had given Watney a ride to the course earlier in the week, said. “It shows the kind of person he is.

“A lot of other people would have just gone on without even thinking about it. But he was worried about not only himself, but all of us, and he got out and tested.

“Nick is unbelievable. He’s a good friend. He was very worried about me. He sent me several texts. He must have said sorry to me 25 times. I told him that it’s all good. Whatever it is, it is. Hopefully his is not bad and we can have him back as soon as possible.”

Garcia, along with 10 other players and caddies who came into close contact with Watney during the week, all took a second test following the news and all came back negative.

The Spaniard then blurted out one of the most ridiculous statements ever uttered in a golf press conference.

“Unfortunately, it had to happen to him,” he said. “There’s a lot of other people that probably deserved it a lot more than him, and he’s the one that got it.”

Which begs the question: Who DOES Garcia think should have got this life-threatening disease instead of his mate?

Justin Thomas was quite outspoken on the matter too, accusing Hilton Head, the small island on which Harbour Town Golf Links is situated, as not treating the virus with respect – especially as South Carolina is one of the coronavirus hotspots in the US.

“No offence to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously,” Thomas explained. “It’s an absolute zoo around here. There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded. So I would say it’s no coincidence that there’s got to be a lot of stuff going on around here.”

Brooks Koepka, another player who came into close contact with Watney ahead of the opening round, was far more reserved than he has been in recent times.

“We’ve got to see what happens,” he said. “It’s unfortunate Nick got it but, at the same time, hopefully it stays with just him and doesn’t spread.”

And less than three weeks until the first event where fans will be allowed on site, Koepka noted: “I think we’ll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue.”

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Alex Perry


Alex has been the editor of National Club Golfer since 2017. A Devonian who enjoys wittering on about his south west roots, Alex moved north to join NCG after more than a decade in London, the last five of which were with ESPN. Away from golf, Alex follows Torquay United and spends too much time playing his PlayStation or his guitar and not enough time practising his short game.

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