On Friday afternoon during the second round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., it was reported that Nick Watney was the first PGA Tour player to test positive for COVID-19.
Watney shot a 74 in Thursday’s opening round and then withdrew prior to the start of Round 2. The Tour ultimately released a statement to say that Watney — who tested negative earlier in the week — did indeed test positive on Friday after taking another test when he expressed he had been experiencing symptoms consistent with the illness.
Here’s the statement the Tour put out at 3:46 p.m. ET:
PGA TOUR member Nick Watney has withdrawn from the RBC Heritage prior to the second round after testing positive for COVID-19. On Friday, prior to arriving at the tournament, he indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness and after consulting with a physician, was administered a test and found to be positive.
Nick will have the PGA TOUR’s full support throughout his self-isolation and recovery period under CDC guidelines. 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.
Watney, who traveled privately to Hilton Head Island for the tournament and was not on the PGA TOUR-provided charter flight, tested negative upon arrival. He is the first PGA TOUR member to test positive for Coronavirus. A total of 369 individuals (players, caddies, essential personnel) underwent on-site testing prior to the start of the tournament, with zero positive results.
The PGA TOUR will have no additional comment at this time and we ask media and fans to respect the privacy of Nick and his family.
Contrary to the Tour’s statement, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka both revealed they had contact — at a distance — with Watney at the course on Friday.
Watney’s positive test quickly took over the headlines in the sports world.
We reached out to Scott Sajtinac, caddie for Jason Dufner and president of the Association of Professional Tour caddies — who is at the RBC Heritage — to get his perspective on Watney’s positive test.
“I feel bad for Nick that he’s the first one, but the statistics say some of us are going to get it,” Sajtinac said.
Sajtinac also told us that he came in contact with Watney at the Omni hotel players and caddies stayed at in Fort Worth for the Charles Schwab Challenge. Sajtinac had a quick conversation with Watney from about 15 feet and said Watney was wearing a a mask and taking the protocols seriously.
“Nick did all the right things, socially distanced, wore a mask, wasn’t out and about, and he somehow got it.
“Having said that, it appears through immediate contact tracing testing by the Tour, he’s an isolated case, and everyone that was potentially around Nick has tested negative which is a great sign that the Tour’s safety protocols are working,” Sajtinac said. “And the ability to test quickly and identify those that may have had contact with Nick gives me a little comfort, while competing during this pandemic. The system worked.
“I wish Nick a speedy recovery, he’s such a great guy.”