Nick Watney 1st player on PGA Tour to test positive for coronavirus

HILTON HEAD, S.C. — Nick Watney became the first player on the PGA Tour to test positive for the coronavirus, and he withdrew from the RBC Heritage before his Friday afternoon tee time.

Watney, 39, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, indicated before arriving at Harbour Town Golf Club that he had symptoms consistent with the virus. He consulted with a physician, was given a COVID-19 test and was found to be positive, according to a PGA Tour release.

Watney did show up to the course Friday before withdrawing.

“I was right next to him in the parking lot,” Brooks Koepka said.

The tour issued a statement outlining what would happen next.

“Nick will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines,” the statement said. “For the health and well-being of all associated with the tournament and those within the community, the tour has begun implementing its response plan in consultation with medical experts including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick.”

Watney traveled privately to Hilton Head, according to the PGA Tour, and was not on the tour-sponsored charter flight from last week’s tournament in Texas. That means he was tested upon arrival earlier this week and was negative.

According to the tour, a total of 369 players, caddies and essential personnel underwent on-site testing before the start of the tournament with no positive results. There had been 954 such tests over the first two weeks of the tour’s restart after the 13-week pandemic shutdown without a positive result.

According to the tour’s health and safety guidelines, Watney is required to self-isolate for 10 days, although it is unclear whether he must remain in South Carolina for the duration.

Watney played the first round with Vaughn Taylor and Luke List, who won last week’s Korn Ferry Tour event.

“I got the news at the turn,” Taylor said. “So I was a little shocked, to be honest. Heart started racing, got a little nervous. Just hope Nick’s doing well and we get through this.”

He said the news was definitely on his mind for the second nine.

“We were all chitchatting about it,” he said. “It’s hard not to think about it.”

Taylor said that his entire group, including caddies, was immediately tested.

“I didn’t have any close contact with Nick yesterday. We kept our space,” he said. “We didn’t shake hands. Right after the round, I washed my hands. Nick never coughed or sneezed. So I feel comfortable.”

A number of players were taken aback by the news but not totally surprised.

“There’s gonna be what, 200,000 deaths by the end of the year in the U.S.? It’d be foolish to think one of us wasn’t gonna get it,” Rory McIlroy said.

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