A 63 from Rory McIlroy to open the Travelers Championship in Connecticut would have been welcomed by the PGA Tour as golf tries to discover a narrative separate from Covid-19. That the world No 1 used subsequent media duties to fully endorse the tour’s coronavirus strategy would have delighted the officials. McIlroy’s words represent high value currency in this sport.
Five Travelers withdrawals linked to Covid-19, added to the positive test of Nick Watney last week, triggered sceptical noises about this PGA Tour resumption. “I saw a couple of calls to shut the tournament down, which is silly from my point of view,” McIlroy said.
This theme, it must be noted, feels dominant among PGA Tour competitors. When the commissioner, Jay Monahan, portrayed positive Covid-19 tests as a numbers game, players nodded in agreement. “Jay did a wonderful job,” McIlroy said. “Just relaying the information, where the PGA Tour stands and where we’re going going forward. You hear one or two positive tests and people are panicking.
“He did a really good job explaining. There’s been almost 3,000 tests administered. The percentage of positive tests, it’s a quarter of a percent. I think, as a whole, it’s been going really well. There’s a couple of loose ends that we needed to tidy up and we’ve done that. I feel like the mood and the tone of the event was probably lifted by Jay.”
Not that McIlroy is complacent. “We’re still right in the middle of this,” he said.
McIlroy’s day one in Connecticut included an eagle, six birdies and a bogey for seven under par. Incredibly, McIlroy trails Mackenzie Hughes by three. Hughes needed a birdie at the last to shoot 59; the world No 158 did not seem overly perturbed about signing for 60 instead.
Phil Mickelson, grinning after a 64, was another to laud the PGA Tour. “They have done an amazing job of playing golf in a safe environment, given how many people are out here playing, competing and staying safe,” he said.
“When you have 400 people out here, between players, caddies, instructors, whoever else, to only have two or four people … and then I hear a couple of them are false positives or they tested negative since or what have you, I think that’s remarkable, the math on that.”
Someone should inform Mickelson the very situation he highlighted raises questions in itself.
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