Nick Watney tests positive for coronavirus, withdraws from RBC Heritage

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Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage ahead of the second round after he tested positive for COVID-19, the PGA Tour announced on Friday afternoon.

Watney is the first golfer on the Tour to test positive for the coronavirus since play resumed last week.

Watney, the Tour said, indicated that he had “symptoms consistent with the illness” at Harbour Town Golf Links in South Carolina on Friday morning and reached out to a doctor. He was then given the test, which came back positive.

“Nick will have the PGA Tours full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines,” the Tour said in a statement, in part. “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.”

The Tour said that Watney did not travel to the tournament this week on the chartered flight that it is offering players and caddies, but rather traveled privately. Watney tested negative for the coronavirus upon arrival at the course, as did the 368 other players, caddies and staff members involved with the event.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Despite the positive test, the RBC Heritage will continue as scheduled.

Brooks Koepka, who carded a 5-under 66 in the second round, said after his round that he was standing right next to Watney in the parking lot of the course on Friday morning.

“We’re doing what we can as far as players, the Tour — everybody’s doing what they can to make it safe for us, for everybody,” Koepka said. “We’ll see what happens. Obviously, testing us every week and we’re filling out surveys every day ... It’s unfortunate Nick got it, but at the same time, hopefully it stays with just him and doesn’t spread because I think we’ll have a big issue on our hands if it keeps going as the weeks continue.”

Rory McIlroy, the top-ranked player in the world, said he actually received a text from Watney apologizing on Friday, too.

“He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course,” McIlroy, who finished with a 6-under 65 on Friday, said. “I said, ‘Look it’s fine. You never know.’ So I said to him, ‘If I was in your position, I probably would have been here too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy.’

“It sucks for him especially. You know, if you contract it, that’s fine, but then it’s the fact that who have you come into contact with, and who you might have exposed and stuff. Look, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Until this thing’s over, we all just have to stay vigilant and keep your distance and wear our masks if we’re going out in public and keep washing our hands.”

Watney finished the first round of the tournament with an even-par 71, where he played alongside Vaughn Taylor and Luke List. The 39-year-old has five career wins on Tour, most recently at The Barclays in 2012. His best finish so far this season came at the Safeway Open, where he finished T10. He has missed the cut at seven of the 12 tournaments he’s played in so far this season, however, including last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.

There were more than 2.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 118,800 deaths attributed to it. South Carolina had more than 21,500 confirmed cases, though Beaufort County — where Hilton Head Island is located — had just 721 confirmed cases.

Nick Watney is the first PGA Tour member to test positive for the coronavirus since play resumed last week.
Nick Watney is the first PGA Tour member to test positive for the coronavirus since play resumed last week. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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