Dr Andrew Murray, the man at the heart of delivering the safe return of professional golf in Europe, is bracing himself for the first positive Covid-19 test from either a player or caddie, but feels confident that can be avoided over the next two weeks in Scotland.
In his role as the European Tour’s chief medical officer, Edinburgh-based Murray delivered the health strategy to get the full circuit up and running with a new six-event UK Swing and is now leading the teams delivering a carbon-copy version for both this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and next week’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon.
In the first six weeks of its return to action in the United States, the PGA Tour reported nine positive cases among players and caddies, with 12 more on its development circuit, while Frenchwoman Perrine Delacour is in quarantine after being forced to withdraw from last week’s LPGA Tour event in Ohio when her caddie tested positive.
“There have been no positive tests on site,” reported Dr Murray of the European Tour having staged two events in Austria and three in England since its restart. “Our players and our caddies have been hugely responsible. They have checked for symptoms consistent with coronavirus prior to travelling and there have been a small number of positive tests at home before they were leaving to come to the tournament. That’s helped us not have any positive tests on the European Tour thus far out of in excess of 2,500.
“With coronavirus being very common globally, we would expect to have positive tests at golf events at some points in the future, as has been the case with other major sports. We do expect that to occur at some point in time, but we can do everything we can to decrease that. It’s reassuring that so far we haven’t had positive tests on site.”
This week’s event, which marks the return of international sport to Scotland since the world was turned on its head by the coronavirus, is being held in a “bio-bubble”. With the exception of Catriona Matthew and Beth Allan, who have been allowed to be at home but in strict isolation, the players are all staying in the same hotel in Edinburgh and are only allowed to leave there to travel to and from The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.
American John Caitlin and his caddie were kicked out of last week’s European Tour event, the English Championship, at Hanbury Manor, after they breached the protocols by visiting a local restaurant and, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon having showed Scottish football a yellow card following Aberdeen and Celtic players stepping out of line, tournament officials are urging golfers in a star-studded field not to let their guards drop.
“I think the LET, LPGA, IMG and all the stakeholders this week have been really consistent for some weeks in providing information to our players as to what is expected,” added Dr Murray. “People are loving being back in Scotland, which is great, but we are making them aware of what everyone needs to do in terms of meeting our obligations in order to proceed with this event in recognising the fact that people are coming from all over the place.
“I have been so impressed with the questions people are asking and also their behaviour in terms of social distancing, wearing face masks in all indoor areas while I have enjoyed seeing the hand sanitiser pump go up and down. I believe there are 750 litres of hand sanitiser on site and that will be used extensively during the week to keep people safe.
“Humans are humans, but I think all of our players, caddies and staff recognise their obligations. Their behaviour has been very strong and impressive so far. We need to be on our guard and, if that is the case, then we will have a hugely enjoyable golf event.”
For her plane journey over from the US, former Solheim Cup player Christina Kim decided to take no chances by wearing goggles and a mask, but, according to Matthew, everyone seems happy about being in a safe environment at The Renaissance Club.
“If she wants to take those precautions, extreme precautions, that’s great,” said Matthew. “I was a little nervous to start with. But I think all the measures that have been put in place have put my mind at ease.
“There are a lot of players coming from other countries where the virus rates are higher, but now you are here and see all the hard work that has been put in by various bodies is paying off and I feel very happy and excited to be starting playing.”
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