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Watney tests positive for COVID-19, withdraws from PGA Tour event

(Reuters) - American Nick Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage in South Carolina ahead of the second round on Friday after he became the first golfer to test positive for COVID-19, the PGA Tour said.

FILE PHOTO: Nick Watney of the U.S. hits off the first fairway during the third round of the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, August 9, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Watney, who competed last week in Fort Worth, Texas where he missed the cut in the PGA Tour’s return from a three-month hiatus, traveled privately to Hilton Head Island this week.

The PGA Tour said Watney, upon arriving at Harbour Town for second-round action, indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness. After consulting a physician, Watney was administered a test and found to be positive.

“For the health and well-being of all associated with the tournament and those within the community, the Tour has begun implementing its response plan in consultation with medical experts including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

Watney, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour, played the first round on Thursday in a group with fellow Americans Vaughn Taylor and Luke List.

Vaughn, who will be tested again as part of the PGA Tour’s protocol, learned about Watney’s positive test midway through his second round.

“Heart started racing, got a little nervous,” said Vaughn. “Just hope Nick’s doing well and we get through this.”

The tournament is the second of five on the PGA Tour’s revamped schedule that is being played without spectators to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to a PGA Tour participant resource guide, anyone who tests positive will be quarantined while a “disinfecting/decontaminating response” is implemented.

The guide also said at-home tests before traveling to a tournament are “strongly encouraged” but not required.

Upon arriving at a tournament, players and caddies must proceed to a testing site to receive a nasal swab test and thermal screening.

Once a negative test result is received, players will be issued a wristband or lanyard that grants them access to the locker room and clubhouse.

World number one Rory McIlroy said Watney texted him the news since the two had chatted with each other on a practice green earlier on Friday.

“We were at a distance. He was just saying, look, I hope I didn’t get too close to you,” said McIlroy. “He feels badly that he was here today at the golf course.

“I said, look, it’s fine. You never know. So I said to him, if I was in your position, I probably would have been here too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Sandra Maler/Jonathan Oatis/Ken Ferris

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