Golfers to face strict COVID-19 protocols at The Open

Shane Lowry celebrates after winning The 2019 British Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

Shane Lowry celebrates after winning The 2019 British Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club. ghows-LK-200227960-a353d92f.jpg

The Open Championship will be held next month in England under strict COVID-19 rules for players, even as 32,000 fans per day will be allowed on the grounds at Royal St. George’s.

The R&A, which runs The Open, issued a list of COVID-19 restrictions for players, Golfweek reported. And they are some of the strictest that PGA Tour players have seen in months.

Players will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing, even if they are fully vaccinated. They cannot share accommodations, nor can they go to restaurants or stores. Some players who long ago made accommodations will have to scramble to find new lodging. If they are in contact with someone who has tested positive, they will be disqualified.

According to the memo, no more than four people can stay together and they must be part of the players “own support group.” That means caddies or players who otherwise might stay together can’t.

Each player may bring one family member, as well, but the strict quarantine requirements before the tournament likely will keep them home. The players, caddies and support team aren’t subject to the quarantine.

“I’m going to go because it’s the British Open,” one unnamed player told Golfweek. “But I certainly thought about not going. I just can’t believe with the numerous examples of successfully run safely held tournaments and majors here that they can’t figure out a better situation.”

Coach Pete Cowen, who works with Rory McIlroy and others, said he is being forced to find other accommodations.

“I was due to stay with a few of the caddies in a huge RV just by the practice range,” he told Telegraph Sport in the United Kingdom. “It wasn’t cheap, but it seemed the wisest option in the current climate. But we’ve just found out that we are not allowed to stay together because it breaks the government protocols.”

He continued: “There are going to be 32,000 fans allowed in every day and they’re saying we can’t stay in anything other than the dedicated hotels — most of which are already sold out — because we’d be mixing with the public. And we can’t stay together, like we have on the PGA Tour for the last year. We have all been vaccinated and will have been tested before we are allowed in. This ‘bubble’ we have created between ourselves has produced no problems at all.”

The number of spectators being allowed, combined with the lack of rules for them, has angered some.

“They care more about the revenue of the fans buying beers than they do about the actual people participating in the tournament,” said the player who spoke with Golfweek. “Any fan can go to a grocery store or a restaurant and we can’t. Does that make sense? And I’m vaccinated. How does that make sense?”

The tournament begins July 15. Shane Lowry of Ireland is the defending champion. The tournament was not held in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The R&A said in its update that the restrictions are required by the U.K. government.

“It makes no sense at all when there will be 60,000 at Wembley (for soccer), 140,000 at Silverstone (racetrack) and all those at Wimbledon on the weekend before — sitting next to each other,” Cowen said. “I suppose I should be grateful I am going at all, as initially the wording of the (regulations) made me believe instructors would be banned.”

–Field Level Media