Graeme McDowell, Brooks Koepka withdraw from Travelers after caddies test positive for COVID-19
Late Tuesday night, Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch reported that 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell would withdraw from the Travelers Championship on Wednesday morning after his longtime caddie — Ken Comboy — tested positive for COVID-19.
Nick Watney became the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the illness, forcing his withdrawal at Hilton Head last Friday. Tour winner Cameron Champ and Comboy each tested positive on Tuesday.
“For the protection of the field and for my own physical and mental well-being, I’m going to take a test tomorrow morning then jump on a private plane,” McDowell said Tuesday night. “I’m going to get myself out of here, home to Florida and decide whether I need to quarantine myself from my family.”
Comboy suspects he may have been exposed to the virus after the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas two weeks ago. McDowell’s private plane was too small for his party, so his longtime bagman took a commercial flight to Orlando that he described as “packed” with passengers. On Monday, he and McDowell attended the funeral of a friend, then drove to Hilton Head, S.C. for the RBC Classic.
Lynch reports that Comboy was bothered by a mild sore throat last Thursday and after missing the cut at Hilton Head Friday, he and McDowell drove six hours home to Orlando along with McDowell’s trainer. His only other symptom, Lynch wrote, was losing his sense of smell.
Comboy woke up Saturday with the sore throat and reported it in the daily questionnaire players and caddies receive from the Tour. After consulting a doctor, Comboy was advised to take a test. He drove six hours back to Hilton Head to take the test, which came back positive on Tuesday.
Comboy had not traveled to Connecticut and, according to Lynch, is quarantining in Orlando.
McDowell, meanwhile, did travel to Connecticut and tested negative, but will withdraw out of caution.
“I’d been through a huge amount emotionally and mentally, and a couple of weeks back into it after a few months off you’re going to be a little tired getting your golf legs back,” he told Lynch. “But the alarm bells have started to ring now that Kenny has failed this test.
“We’re a close-knit team. We roomed together last week, we spent six hours in a car. He’s carrying the virus so in some way I have to be carrying it too.”
Lynch said McDowell has reported to the Tour those he came in close proximity with while at the Travelers, including those in his Tuesday practice round — Brooks Koepka, his brother Chase and Shane Lowry. Ricky Elliott — caddie for Brooks Koepka — and coach Claude Harmon III plan to get retested as a precaution as well.
Despite his negative test, the 2010 U.S. Open champion said his immediate priority was to protect other players and caddies in Hartford. “I’m just uncomfortable being here,” he said.
The Tour had advised him to get tested every 48 hours. He said he does not expect to play again until at least the Workday Charity Open in Ohio in two weeks.
Here’s the statement the Tour put out after Champ’s positive test on Tuesday:
PGA TOUR statement on Cameron Champ WD: pic.twitter.com/ZeT0EAWhT0
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) June 23, 2020
NEW: Later Wednesday morning, Lynch reported that Koepka also withdrew from the Travelers following a positive test for his caddie, Ricky Elliott.
Elliott tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning at TPC River Highlands having previously tested negative 48 hours earlier when he arrived at the tournament.
“I’m going to pull out to protect everybody else. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Koepka said. “I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions. The only way this Tour can continue is if guys to do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”