Golf: British Open players face disqualification for coronavirus bubble breaches

Spectators watch play on the seventh hole during practice for the British Open on July 14, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SANDWICH, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) - Players that break strict coronavirus protocols at this week's British Open face being disqualified, tournament organisers the R&A said on Wednesday (July 14).

The Open championship returns on Thursday at Royal St George's in Kent after the pandemic forced the cancellation of last year's event.

Crowds of up to 32,000 will also be present for the four days' play in Sandwich.

However, players are still subject to guidelines which prohibit them from going to bars, restaurants and supermarkets during tournament week.

They also have to stay in either approved hotels or private accommodation, which can be shared with up to four members of their team, but not other players.

"I think he would be at risk of being disqualified," said R&A chairman Martin Slumbers when asked what the punishment would be for a breach of the rules.

"We've set out protocols for the championship. We've talked to all the players. We've made it very clear it is to protect them and their fellow competitors.

"It's to give them, all the players, the very best chance of all of them being here on Sunday afternoon and able to play."

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Bubba Watson and former British Open winner Zack Johnson have all withdrawn after either testing positive for Covid-19 or being deemed a Covid close contact.

Slumbers said he was particularly conscious of minimising the risk of players who have not tested positive being deemed close contacts of a positive case.

"The worst thing you can get is a player being contact traced, because as you know over here, if you're contact traced, you're out for 10 days and quarantine and you can't test out of it, so you're out of the championship," he added.

"When you go to the heart of all the protocols for the players, it's solely around contact tracing."

The stricter protocols than that many players are used to on the PGA tour in America have drawn criticism from some.

Rickie Fowler said before travelling across the Atlantic that players were "jumping through some hurdles and dodging bullets" while the R&A opened the gates to fans.

However, world number one Dustin Johnson said all players just have to accept the rules as they are.

"I think The R&A have done a great job this week. Obviously we knew what we were coming into. They did a good job of providing us all the rules and regulations prior to coming over," said the two-time major champion.

"I played a European Tour event where we were in a bubble, so it's not really that much different. Obviously it's different than back home, but rules are rules, and you've just got to go with what you've got."

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