A year after the PGA Tour shut down for three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, protocol seems to be easing a bit internally. According to a memo obtained by both Golf Digest and ESPN, the PGA Tour will no longer test golfers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, golfers are tested (and cleared) before they are allowed on property for an event.
According to the report, golfers will not be required to test after 14 days have passed from their final vaccination shot. There have been several golfers since the sport returned last June who have tested positive and been forced to skip events. The biggest of those was probably Sergio Garcia, who did not get to play in the 2020 Masters, where he was a former champion. Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele all also missed time because of the virus.
"As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more readily available, more individuals are being vaccinated," the memo reads. "PGA Tour Health and Safety protocol requires individuals to continue testing onsite until 14 full days have passed since their second dose (Moderna & Pfizer) or 14 full days since their single dose (Johnson & Johnson). Once 14 days have passed, individuals are no longer required to take a COVID-19 test when considered 'inside the bubble' at PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions or Korn Ferry Tour events."
The PGA Tour is not requiring golfers to vaccinate, but as commissioner Jay Monahan noted at The Players Championship last month, if they could choose that route, they would.
"I think as players become vaccinated, as our constituents become vaccinated, we're hopeful that everybody will," said Monahan. "But we will continue to provide testing for the foreseeable future, and hopefully, as we get to a high percentage of our players that have been vaccinated, we can start to pull back from the program that we know it as of today. It's hard to determine when that will be, but clearly we see light at the end of the tunnel, and ... the conversations we're having with players and with everybody in our ecosystem have been very positive. I think players are eager to get vaccinated and are certainly studying this."
To the Tour's credit, as well as other organizing bodies like the PGA of America, USGA and Augusta National, there has not been a widespread outbreak among players, caddies and essential personnel at any of the dozens of events that have taken place.
This extends beyond just players, too. The PGA Tour has teamed with the NBA, NFL, MLB and several other sports leagues in the "It's Up To You" PSA to encourage the general public to gather information about the COVID-19 vaccines as leagues begin to allow more and more fans back into their arenas, stadiums and courses.
"It is critical that all groups are educated about the COVID-19 vaccine in order to make smart and informed decisions," said Monahan. "As one of the first sports to return to the field of play last year, the PGA Tour is proud to collaborate with the Ad Council and other major professional sports to continue to unify and inspire through this important next step for our communities."
There has not been a full-capacity golf event since the sport returned to play at the beginning of June 2020, although most events have been held at some percentage of their former capacity.