DUBLIN, Ohio – Call it quarantine, PGA style.
The PGA Tour this week adopted a policy in which asymptomatic golfers who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 can still play. Thus, on Wednesday night, Nick Watney, Dylan Frittelli and Denny McCarthy were placed in a threesome for the first two rounds of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
The three teed off starting on the back nine Thursday at 9:13 a.m., a tee time that hadn’t been on the schedule. All three finished above par on a hot, steamy day, with Frittelli and McCarthy posting 1-over-par 73s and Watney struggling to a 77 in a round that included three double-bogeys.
“Firstly, I’m happy to be playing golf again,” Frittelli said after the round. “I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to get over everything and get back on the course, but I’m super happy to be playing again.
“It’s been pretty boring the last five or six days just sitting around doing nothing. It was fun to get out there. Obviously, (I had) a few hoops to jump through yesterday. It was a little tricky situation. But that’s fine. Life is full of surprises, so we’ll move on from there and hopefully get everything cemented in the coming weeks.”
Watney became the first player to be sidelined by the virus after the PGA Tour resumed play after a 13-week break when he tested positive at the RBC Heritage. McCarthy tested positive at the Travelers Championship while Frittelli tested positive at thee Rocket Mortgage Classic. Other players who have tested positive are Cameron Champ, Chad Campbell and Harris English.
Frittelli, McCarthy and Watney also tested positive this week ahead of the start of the Workday Charity Open. But they were permitted to play because they passed the PGA Tour’s protocol for returning from the coronavirus.
The Tour clarified its policy for players and caddies who tested positive for COVID-19 and were asymptomatic in accordance with the CDC’s “Return to Work” guidelines. Golfers may compete if at least 72 hours have passed since their recovery (no fever without using fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms, and 10 days have passed since the symptoms began).
Frittelli said his symptoms were minor.
“Sunday night I had started basically getting some nasal congestion just like you would from an allergy, just had some kind of constriction in the tubes up there,” he said. “But then I had slight muscle ache for an hour that evening.
“I worked out Saturday morning, so those same muscle groups that I worked out were a little bit sore, and then I had two headaches in three days that lasted about maybe 20 or 30 minutes. Besides that, it was really nothing. I did feel a little lethargic and slow, but that’s normally the case when I don’t work out or I don’t get outside or I’m not busy.”
Watney and McCarthy did not talk to the media afterward.
But Frittelli said he wasn’t surprised he tested positive again this week.
“I spoke to my physician and quizzed him on how it works, and he said, ‘Oh, there’s a chance that you could be testing (positive) for up to a month,” Frittelli said. “I’ve got a friend in Japan who chatted to me, he said, ‘Dude, I’ve been testing for 28 days, I still haven’t got a negative.’ I knew that was a possibility.
“According to the CDC guidelines, if you don’t have any symptoms on day 10 and you’re perfectly healthy and you’re not showing any declining conditions, then you’re free to go back to work.”
Frittelli said he drive straight from his housing to the golf course – with his golf shoes on – and went straight from his car to the practice ground.
“I stretched at home. I ate breakfast in my hotel room and then straight to the parking lot and felt like Walter Hagen, just walked straight on to the driving range,” he said with a smile.
Frittelli said he’s talked to a few players about the situation.
“A lot of guys were intrigued, they were all asking me questions,” he said. “I told them the truth. I told them what happened and I tried to give them my best biology lesson that I could. But it spread like wildfire, and when it goes to a third, fourth, fifth source, then you hear some funny stories, so I think that’s what happened yesterday and guys started freaking out, obviously, but I guess that’s all been quelled now by the Tour.”