After weeks playing in front of large galleries with relaxed COVID restrictions, PGA Tour players headed across the ocean for the Open Championship are about to face the kind of stringent COVID protocols they haven't seen in months.
In a "Player Information Update" obtained by several outlets, the R&A, which runs the Open, will be maintaining strict lodging and contact regulations for players and their entourages. However, at the same time, the R&A will be allowing up to 32,000 people per day onto the grounds at Royal St. George's.
"I’m going to go because it’s the British Open," one anonymous player told GolfWeek. "But I certainly thought about not going. I just can’t believe with the numerous examples of successfully run, safely held tournaments and majors here that they can’t figure out a better situation."
Players will not be allowed to share accommodations, and must submit to COVID testing even if they've already been vaccinated. They will not be able to visit grocery stores, restaurants or pubs, even though they've been able to do so on Tour for several weeks.
"All accredited players, caddies and player support team members including family members will be subject to strict 'inner bubble' restrictions for the duration of their time at the Championship and must not mix with members of the general public in restaurants, supermarkets or other public areas,'' the update said. "No one outside the accommodation buddy group is permitted to visit others in self-catering/private accommodation. This would be seen as a breach of the COVID-19 protocols and could lead to withdrawal from the Championship.''
The accommodations issue is a significant one for the players, many of whom share residences for the duration of the tournament. The players must now scramble to find hotels or other lodging, and they are only permitted to bring their caddy and two support personnel (therapist, instructor, etc.) and one family member. However, that family member must go through the full U.K. quarantining process.
Players can also be removed from the tournament if contact tracing determines they've been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. The R&A can disqualify the player even without a positive test.
The regulations have led to considerable frustration among players and their entourages.
"There are going to be 32,000 fans allowed in every day and they're saying we can't stay in anything other than the dedicated hotels — most of which are already sold out — because we'd be mixing with the public," said Pete Cowen, an instructor who's worked with multiple players, including Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. "And we can't stay together, like we have on the PGA Tour for the last year. We have all been vaccinated and will have been tested before we are allowed in. This 'bubble' we have created between ourselves has produced no problems at all."
The Open Championship begins July 15. The U.K.'s masking and distancing restrictions are in place until July 19 to help combat the spread of COVID's Delta variant.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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