Golf: Covid-19 adds to worries for Ryder Cup captains

This week's matches between US and European squads feature special Covid-19 envelopes from each team. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A small Covid-19 eruption at the Ryder Cup would be handled by a special clause in the captains' agreement but organisers said on Tuesday (Sept 21) that a major outbreak's impact would be decided by the PGA of America and the European Tour.

Covid-19 forced a one-year delay in staging the event and saw the virus clause inserted into the captains' agreement between American Steve Stricker and Europe's Padraig Harrington.

This week's biennial team golf matches between US and European squads at Whistling Straits feature special Covid-19 envelopes from each team with the names of three players who could be forced to sit out if rivals must withdraw after testing positive for the deadly virus.

The Covid envelope follows the pattern of having an envelope for Sunday singles matches with the name of a player who must sit if a rival is ill or injured, their match declared halved and re-pairing done as needed.

"Just like an injury name in the envelope, there's a Covid name in the envelope," Harrington said.

"While we've asked, it's still not completely clear what happens if, God forbid, we had a Covid outbreak of a number of players, but for one player it's pretty straightforward.

"Obviously on Sunday, you start losing a few players to Covid, it does affect the match in some way."

With foursomes and four-ball matches on Friday and Saturday not requiring full squads, substitutes would be available from those not playing.

A few hours after Harrington raised the issue, organisers issued a clarification of Covid protocols.

"In terms of multiple players testing positive, from one or both teams, while not speculating on precise numbers, the exact details of the scenario would be assessed by both organisations in order to determine its impact on the overall playing of the Ryder Cup," the clarification concluded.

The clarification also revealed that if either team has a player test positive prior to Thursday's opening ceremony, the team captain involved would pick a replacement.

Harrington said the captains were asked to keep a reserve in mind in case a player tested positive before the Cup.

"We were asked to be aware that having somebody as a backup who you would bring along, and what happens if somebody pulls out because of Covid, because it's something that could happen in these times," he said.

Stricker said the US squad is making Covid-19 safety a priority.

"We're doing the sensible things," he said. "We're doing the proper things to stay safe within our team zone and within that bubble.

"Just trying to make sure that no one gets sick. We want to play. We don't want anything to jeopardize the health of any of our players or captains. We're paying attention to that and we're trying to do the right things."

The Covid-19 substitution policy covers any players who must withdraw from the Cup after a positive Covid-19 test. Players, caddies and support personnel were tested before leaving for the venue and upon arrival, the PGA of America said.

Any player who has a test come back positive, even while playing a match, "is immediately ineligible for the remainder of that match and the remainder of any other Ryder Cup matches", the PGA of America said.

Harrington said the "detailed and complicated issue" of coping with an outbreak "is possibly above the pay grade of the two captains. This is why we have the Covid protocols".

"This is certainly something I'm sure is causing a lot of thought and a lot of time thinking about what would be too many (withdrawals) and what would be sustainable."

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