Covid-19 sidelines two, hinders others as Masters looms

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Covid-19 safety protocols enabled Augusta National to stage the 84th Masters this week, but two players who contracted the virus withdrew and others have been impacted by it.

A Covid-19 test, masks and social distancing are required for those entering Augusta National for the 84th Masters.

"Covid-19 has been a health crisis unlike the world has faced in our lifetimes," said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, whose club contributed $2 million to local efforts to combat the deadly virus.

"Our first responsibility is just to do everything we could to protect our Augusta National family and that started many months ago."

Daily symptom and temperature checks help safeguard the year's final major event, postponed from April due to the virus pandemic.

"There's just a lot of uncertainties, and we're facing it like everybody else," three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said. "Every organization is doing the best they can to accommodate this time.

"But we're having the same challenges that everybody else has."

Spain's Sergio Garcia, the 2017 champion, and Chile's Joaquin Niemann were forced to withdraw from the Masters after testing positive for Covid-19.

World number one Dustin Johnson and 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia have already tested positive this season, Johnson returning to the PGA Tour only last week.

"I had very minor symptoms," Johnson said. "I felt like I had a cold, a little bit of a fever for maybe 36 hours. But after that, I felt fine. The worst part about it was the quarantining in the room for so long."

That 11-day shutdown for the PGA Player of the Year and 2020 Tour Championship winner didn't prevent a runner-up effort at the Houston Open last week.

"All the guys out here take it seriously," Johnson said of safety precautions. "They do a really good job and that's why we haven't had a problem."

Scott missed two starts last month after testing positive and doesn't feel his game has recovered fully even though he only had mild symptoms for a couple of days.

"It has been very challenging for me personally," he said. "It has really affected my preparation and my practice and many things since returning.

"Certainly my form hasn't been as good since. Everything has been very inconsistent."

Scott has no easy answers about Covid-19 concerns.

"We just have to learn to live with it for the moment," he said. "Fingers crossed a vaccine comes and can be effective for the people who really need it."

Third-ranked Justin Thomas has his father, girlfriend, chef and trainer in his house this week but, "I don't see my buddies, have them over for dinner."

- Bedroom-course-airport -

World number two Jon Rahm of Spain has been extra cautious since the US PGA's three-month shutdown ended in June.

"Since we restarted the season, my life has basically been from the bedroom to the golf course, maybe to the gym, and to the airport. And that's it," Rahm said.

"Barely gone out to any restaurants, only if we're back home and we know we can make it safe. Haven't really seen that many friends. And even when I go play, I have my own cart back home and I don't allow anybody in my cart and I try to really stay away from everybody. I use my own towel.

"If you actually take care of things and do what you're supposed to do, you actually somewhat control this."

Mickelson is happy golf can become a socially distant activity during the pandemic for pros and people needing an outdoor option.

"I'm appreciative and thankful that golf has been able to go on. I'm appreciative of being able to still play and do it socially responsible," he said.

"This is a unique time for the game of golf to be able to grow. Our ratings are up. Our participation is up. It's an opportunity for the game of golf to be shared with others."