The PGA Tour is set to return to action next month in Texas, but the plight of international players residing overseas makes their involvement in the scheduled tournaments problematic.
Veteran Lee Westwood highlighted those obstacles in an interview with Golf Channel on Tuesday in which he said he is entered in the first two events — the Charles Schwab Challenge and the RBC Heritage — but he is unlikely to leave his home in the United Kingdom to play.
The reason? A two-week quarantine that is required of any international traveler arriving in the United States in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Westwood would be forced to isolate for another two weeks when returning to Europe.
“Right now, I won’t be playing them,” Westwood said in the interview. “Not with having to leave here two weeks before, quarantine, then play the two tournaments, then come back here and quarantine again. It’s six weeks for two tournaments and, to me, that’s just not worth it.
“And it’s not worth taking the risk if everybody thinks that those kind of precautions have got to be in place. I don’t feel like golf’s a priority if it’s that severe.”
Westwood, 47, a 25-time winner on the European Tour who won the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier this year and is ranked 31st in the world, is one of about 25 international players, according to the PGA Tour, who are outside of the United States. There are a similar number of caddies overseas.
PGA Tour executive Andy Levinson told reporters on a call last week that the tour was “working with the federal government to facilitate the return of players and caddies” who are outside of the United States.
But Levinson also acknowledged that current rules in place require the quarantine “and it is likely to continue, and so it is imperative that those constituents that we have that need to come back in the United States do so at least two weeks prior to our return to our competition.”
That means, in order to play the Charles Schwab in Fort Worth, Texas, players would need to be in the country by Monday to give themselves the two weeks necessary to then be eligible to practice and compete in the tournament.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood is another player who said he will not return to the United States in the short term because it would mean too much time away from home. He is considering a later arrival that would allow him to stay for all of the major championships and the Ryder Cup.
Another scheduling issue for Westwood occurs later in the summer, when he is the host of the British Masters (July 30-Aug. 2). That is the week before the rescheduled PGA Championship in San Francisco. If quarantine rules are still in place, Westwood would have to miss that major championship.
And the European Tour is scheduled to be the first one played since March. He said that tournament will not allow spectators if played.
“It’s a tough situation,” Westwood said. “We can’t afford anything to go wrong and this virus to spread any more than it has done. It’s going to be a fine line, and it’s a balance between having the tournaments but limiting the spread of the virus.
“Obviously, people want something to watch, and it’s a good way to kick-start your economy. But we don’t want a second wave, so we have to make sure we are very, very safe.”