DETROIT — Doc Redman is playing his best golf, priming himself to perhaps earn his first PGA Tour victory.
Bryson DeChambeau, the only player with top-10 finishes in each of the past three tournaments, topped the group a stroke back.
The 22-year-old Redman closed with four straight birdies and seven over the last eight holes at the Detroit Golf Club. Last year, he went from being a Monday qualifier to finishing second at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic.
At last week’s Travelers Championship, Redman closed with a 63 to tie for 11th — his best performance this season — after tying for 21st the RBC Heritage.
“I’ve come off two good finishes and a really good finish last year at this event, which has never really happened to me,” he said. “So, I’ve never had this kind of expectation externally or even internally.”
Stallings, who tied for sixth last week, birdied his last two holes and three of four. Players with afternoon tee times didn’t fare as well, but Kisner was an exception with a bogey-free round.
DeChambeau surged up the leaderboard with four birdies and an eagle over a eight-hole stretch on the back nine. He gave a stroke back, though, with a bogey at the 18th after pushing an 8-foot putt just to the right.
“That really got me a little agitated,” DeChambeau said. “It’s going to put a little fire in my belly.”
Rickie Fowler, who has missed the cut in the two tournaments he has played since the restart, was among the many players another shot back.
Redman, DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Tyler Duncan, Viktor Hovland, Mark Hubbard and Brian Stuard have made the cut in all three events since the PGA Tour returned from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
On a quiet morning at the fan-free tournament in which the hum of generators was often the only sound, a slew of players took advantage of favorable playing conditions and one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour.
And when their rounds were complete, players took off their caps and extended fists without coming close enough to make contact with one another.
Fowler started with a birdie on his first hole and four on his first six. He pulled within a stroke of the lead when he was standing on his ninth tee and got into trouble in the rough, which appears to be longer than it was last year in the Motor City, and ended up with a double-bogey at the par-4, 465-yard 18th.
“There was probably, I don’t know, 8 inches of grass there,” Fowler said. “I thought it was going to kind of just pop up when I hit it and it kind of came out low and left.”
Defending champion Nate Lashley, who had a wire-to-wire win at the Detroit Golf Club last year, opened with a birdie before hurting his chance to repeat with three bogeys and three birdies the rest of the round.
Lashley landed in a greenside bunker and holed out from 45 feet on his final hole to escape with a much-needed birdie, but just a few people clapped and several others simply stood silently.
“With no fans out here, it almost feels like it’s not a golf tournament,” Lashley said. “I need to maybe get some nerves for [Friday] and get a little adrenaline going.”
Chad Campbell on Tuesday became the sixth PGA Tour player to test positive for COVID-19.
Campbell was tested in the pre-tournament screening before the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, according to the PGA Tour.
“While the positive test result is unnerving, I am incredibly grateful to be asymptomatic and feel physically well and my thoughts are with anyone dealing with COVID, directly or indirectly,” Campbell said in a statement. “I support the TOUR’s protocol during this time and will be quarantining myself to protect others until I am well. I am looking forward to competing again once it is deemed safe for me to make my return.”
Campbell was slated to be a first alternate for the tournament.
The PGA Tour said in a statement that Campbell would have its full support, which is significant as the tour’s new policy states the $100,000 stipend available for players who test positive for COVID-19 can be withheld if it’s determined the player didn’t comply with protocols put in place.
Campbell last played in The Charles Schwab open, where he missed the cut. His positive test comes one day after Harris English tested positive, and both join Nick Watney, Cameron Champ, Denny McCarthy and Dylan Frittelli as players who have tested positive.
In addition, the Korn Ferry Tour announced tour members Brandon Wu, Taylor Montgomery and Jonathan Hodge have withdrawn from the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes before the first round. The Korn Ferry Tour says a total of 247 players have been tested since the tour’s return and Wu, Montgomery and Hodge are the only three to test positive.
Monday marked the 10th day of self-isolation for Nick Watney, the minimum required for PGA Tour players who test positive for the coronavirus.
He said he is feeling good except for some minor fatigue, perhaps brought on by a major case of boredom, and except for the distinction of becoming the first of what now is five players and two caddies who have tested positive since the PGA Tour returned amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I will say, it’s not the greatest feeling being the first to get it,” Watney said in his first interview since he was notified June 19 at the the RBC Heritage of his positive test.
“Some things are so vague around this thing,” he said. “The symptoms … some people get this, some get that. I haven’t had a fever or cough the whole time, no shortness of breath. Maybe that’s the reason it’s so scary. I still don’t know how or where I got it.”
He lost his sense of smell, a sensation he described as “gnarly,” but said that is coming back. And perhaps the strangest sensation is being at a golf resort without playing golf.
He remains in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, as the PGA Tour has moved on to Connecticut, and now Detroit this week, and then two weeks in Ohio. The show goes on.
“Very, very boring,” he said. “Being on the road and not playing golf is a weird feeling.”
Three more players tested positive during the Travelers Championship — Cameron Champ before the tournament started, Denny McCarthy after his first round and Dylan Frittelli after he missed the cut. Two caddies tested positive, which caused a chain-reaction of withdrawals. Harris English tested positive Monday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
Watney spent part of Monday arranging for a rental car for the 17-hour drive to Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Amber, and their four children, ranging in age from 6 years to 6 months.
“I don’t want to fly at this point,” he said. “I just think all this could be a waste of time if I left early and got someone else sick. I’d feel terrible.”
He said his wife was nervous when he called her the day of the test. She managed to get herself and the children tested the following day, and the tests came back negative. A week later, none has any symptoms.
Watney laughed at the notion he might be responsible for PGA Tour players all getting a WHOOP strap, which can provide early indications of the virus. That was part of the tour trying to tighten its protocols as it continues its schedule.
The strap is what alerted Watney.
He bought one a year ago to study his sleep pattern and other health metrics, trying to do everything possible to help the 39-year-old add to his five PGA Tour victories and one appearance in the Presidents Cup.
He typically takes 14 breaths a minute. When he woke up Friday at Harbour Town, it was up to 18, which concerned him. So he asked for a test and was at the golf course when he received the call saying he had tested positive.
“Once you’re a member of the WHOOP service, they’re always talking about performance,” he said. “They also sent out data from users who have gotten the virus. A common thing was the respiratory rate. I read an article they had published, and it was alarming. I didn’t wake up short of breath. It wasn’t difficult to breath. But this thing has tracked my respiratory rate. And based on that, I thought I should be tested.”
Watney is known to be polite to a fault, and his biggest worry was spreading the virus. He texted Rory McIlroy, whom he saw on the practice green (“at a distance,” McIlroy said) before getting his result. Sergio Garcia, who flew with him from Austin to Hilton Head, said Watney texted him constantly. “He must have said ‘Sorry’ to me 25 times,” Garcia said.
The tour identified 11 people with whom Watney had contact. They were tested twice, with all results negative.
“I was very, very nervous about giving it to other people,” Watney said. “I don’t know how I got it. I don’t feel as though I was reckless. That part is scary. It’s like this invisible, silent thing.”
Watney said he went to the grocery store one time during the week of the tournament. The island was busy because of the start of summer vacation, with restaurants full and parking lots packed.
Since the positive test, Watney has been in his room. He said Bill Haas‘ wife, Julie, went to the store and brought him 10 bags of groceries. He has spent time on the phone calling those who have checked up on him — players, caddies, RBC Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot.
Watney went three months without playing and made it through three rounds — he missed the cut at Colonial — before it was time to stop. He is No. 123 in the FedEx Cup standings, and the positive test cost him at least a month of competition. No worries there — with the shortened season, his status will be unchanged for next season.
He said he would feel safe after three straight days of no symptoms. He plans to start the two-day road trip on Wednesday.
“I’ll mask-up when I find a motel,” he said.
The 34-year-old Georgian, playing a couple of holes behind Johnson, had a chance at the tournament’s second 60 of the week but missed a 10-foot putt to the left on the 18th hole.
He finished with a 54-hole score of 192, 18 under par, after shooting 66-65 the first two rounds. Johnson, who is looking for his 21st win on tour, also has improved each day, opening with a 69-64.
Both shot bogey-free rounds, with Todd making five birdies on the front nine and Johnson five on the back. Todd said the round became a game of whatever you can do, I can do just as well.
“It’s hard to miss the leader boards obviously, so (Johnson’s) name was up there from a pretty early point,” Todd said. “Again, I just use it as motivation to go out there and make some more birdies.”
Todd is looking for his third win of the season but his first since the fall, when he went back-to-back at the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
“Whenever I get a two- or three-week stretch in a row, I tend to be playing better by the end of it,” he said. “That’s just something I’m using to my advantage now after missing two cuts. I’m peaking in the third week and hopefully I can get it done tomorrow.”
Despite going 9 under for the day, Johnson lamented missing several birdie chances and and eagle attempt on the par-4 ninth, when his ball stopped six inches from the pin.
Just two of his birdie putts, an 18-footer at the 10th hole and a 21-footer on the 12th, were longer than 9 feet.
“I really felt like I controlled the distance with my irons really well and hit tons of good shots,” he said. “I had a lot of really good looks at birdie.”
Kevin Streelman fired a 63 after two straight rounds of 66 and was just three shots back. Mackenzie Hughes, who led after a 60 on Thursday, shot his second straight 68 for sole possession of fourth place.
“Today if I had putted like I did the first day, I could have shot low 60s for sure,” Hughes said. “Play the same as I did today tee to green and roll in a few putts and it’ll be awesome.”
Phil Mickelson, who celebrated his 50th birthday on June 16, began the day with a 1-stroke lead but struggled, finishing tied for seventh in a group six shots back. He made just his second bogey of the week on the third hole and also dropped strokes on the seventh and 13th before finishing with a 71.
Mickelson, looking for his 45th win and third on this course, has mostly struggled. He missed the cut in his previous three tournaments.
“I haven’t played great this year,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of cuts, and the next thing I know my game is starting to come back and I can sense it. I played two great rounds, and this is really a lot of fun.”
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who opened the tournament with a 63, said he feels he is too far back to contend for the title after rounds of 68 and 69. He bogeyed two of his final four holes — his tee shot landed in the water on the course’s signature 15th hole and he also made bogey at 18 — to finish in a group eight shots back.
“I guess, if I had have been able to sneak a couple more over the last few holes, get to 14 and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re right in it. But I went the other way those last few holes, and that’s what took me out of it,” he said.
Jason Day requested to be tested for COVID-19 on Saturday morning just before his round. Officials decided to have him play as a single on Saturday as a precautionary measure. He shot a 69 and is 5 under par headed into Sunday.
There have been seven COVID-19-related withdrawals from the Connecticut event.
McCarthy was the third PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus since its restart and the second this week, joining Cameron Champ, who withdrew Tuesday.
Nick Watney withdrew just before the second round of last week’s RBC Heritage Championship. Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell, Brooks Koepka and his brother Chase also withdrew from the Travelers after coming into contact with people who had the virus.
McDowell’s and Koepeka’s caddies both tested positive. Simpson cited the positive test of a family member.
The PGA said because of the positive tests this week, players, caddies, and anyone else “inside the bubble,” will not be allowed on the property at future tournaments until first being cleared with a negative test for the coronavirus.
Officials said Saturday that all of the follow-up tests as a result of potential contact with McCarthy came back negative.
The round began early in the day because of threatening weather, with golfers going off both the first and 10th tees. It finished just before the skies opened. A forecast for more rain on Sunday will mean another early start.
CROMWELL, Conn. — Mackenzie Hughes shot a career-low 60 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Travelers Championship as the PGA Tour tried to switch its focus back to golf amid growing concerns about the coronavirus.
Hughes, a 29-year-old Canadian, had a chance to shoot the 12th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history, but his 40-foot birdie attempt on his final hole came up short. Jim Furyk shot a 12-under 58 on the same TPC River Highlands course four years ago, the lowest score in a tour event.
“I kind of joked walking off there that 59 wasn’t even the record because of Jim’s 58,” Hughes said. “It’s probably not even that special around here. But as a personal milestone it would have been neat.”
There were 106 players who broke par. The record for a day at TPC River Highlands was in 2011, when 111 players were 1 under or better in the second round.
Hughes’ bogey-free round included a 30-foot birdie putt on his second-to-last hole, the par-3 eighth. Patrick Cantlay was the most recent player to shoot 60 at TPC River Highlands, as an amateur in 2011.
McIlroy, who also started on the back nine, eagled the par-5 13th and followed with two consecutive birdies. He made four more birdies on the front nine for a 31.
“It’s just been nice to get back into some competitive golf again,” McIlroy said. “You know, it doesn’t feel the same because you’re not having thousands of people reacting to your birdies and getting that going. I felt the weekends have been a little flat for me just because that’s when you’re in contention and that’s where you sort of start to feel it. Thursdays and Fridays don’t feel that different to be honest, but into the weekends they do.”
Mickelson learned earlier Thursday that he was granted an exemption into this year’s U.S. Open for being in the top 70 in the world on March 15, when golf was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“That worked out great, to be able to know that I have a chance to go back to Winged Foot and give it another shot,” said Mickelson, who finished second at Winged Foot in 2006 after a double bogey on the 72nd hole. “But I’ve had 30 U.S. Opens. I’ve had plenty of opportunities, and so if I don’t qualify, I want somebody else who deserves a spot, too, to play. As long as I’m playing well enough to compete to earn my way into the field, then I want to play and keep trying to win that tournament.”
Schauffele and Hovland were the best among the afternoon wave. Schauffele was 8 under through 16 holes but missed a 7-footer for par on the 17th.
“The greens firmed up a little bit,” he said. “The wind, just a little bit of wind can make any course hard, so in terms of hitting it really tight, it got a little trickier late in the day.”
Hovland made a sloppy bogey on 17 but rebounded with a wedge to 4 feet on the par-4 18th for birdie.
Abraham Ancer, the runner-up at last week’s RBC Heritage, aced the 155-yard 16th. His 8-iron landed just over the pond guarding the green and rolled 6 feet into the hole.
“It was very anticlimactic because there was nobody out there and we couldn’t high-five or anything, but still, it was awesome to have my first PGA Tour ace,” said Ancer, who shot 67.
The run-up to the tournament was consumed by news about the coronavirus and questions about how long the tour can continue after two players — Nick Watney and Cameron Champ — and the caddies for Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell tested positive. Those were the only four positive tests among the 1,382 conducted by the tour since its return.
Players who test positive are required to withdraw. Koepka, his brother, Chase, McDowell and last week’s winner, Webb Simpson, withdrew because of concerns about the virus. The Travelers is the third event on the tour calendar since golf resumed.
The withdrawals opened the door for alternates including Tyler McCumber, who arrived Wednesday night from his home in Florida and shot 65.
McCumber missed the cut on the Korn Ferry Tour last week and then went camping for a few days in North Carolina’s Pisgah Forest.
“I got back Tuesday, thinking that I had no chance of getting into the tournament, and then got the call from the tour about the option of possibly getting up here,” he said.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday that extra testing and stricter monitoring of protocols that could result in “serious repercussions” for offenders will go into effect in the wake of three positive coronavirus tests this week at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.
Monahan said that across both the PGA Tour and the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, there have been 2,757 tests, with seven coming back positive.
“It’s a low number, and it’s a low number on a percentage basis. But every number hurts,” Monahan said at TPC River Highlands, where the Travelers Championship begins Thursday. “As we look at where we are now, I think we all need to remind ourselves that we’re learning to live with this virus, and we all need to learn to live with this virus — as individuals, as family members and certainly within our businesses.
“It’s pretty clear that this virus isn’t going anywhere.”
Chase Koepka, Brooks’ brother, withdrew after getting into the field via Monday qualifying despite testing negative. Webb Simpson, who won the RBC Heritage on Sunday, also withdrew although he also tested negative.
Three positive tests — none by players — came on the first week back for the Korn Ferry Tour.
Monahan said there was no consideration of shutting down the Travelers Championship, nor would he give a number of positive results that would cause him to cancel any tournament going forward.
But he did stress again in the news conference and to players and caddies and those working the events that following the various protocols is essential to the tour being able to proceed in a safe manner.
Among the changes:
Players who take tour-arranged charter flights between events — in addition to a Saturday test that must be negative for them to board on Monday — will be required to take another test at the tournament site, just as others who traveled on their own are doing.
Instructors, who have been permitted on site and on the driving range, will now be part of the same testing protocols as the players. For the first three events of the revised schedule, they were not required to be tested.
The tour’s fitness trailer will be on site starting at next week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic with protocols in place for use. The decision was made to keep players from visiting local gyms. “All of our players entering those trailers will be wearing masks,” Monahan said.
The tour provides a stipend to players and caddies who test positive and are required to self-isolate. Monahan said that the players and caddies will need to follow its protocols in order to receive that stipend.
“All of us have an extraordinary responsibility to follow those protocols,” Monahan said. “For any individual that does not, there will be serious repercussions, and I’m not going to get into the specifics of it.
“But everybody knows and needs to know that our future, our ability to sustain this business and to impact the communities where we play and to create so many jobs is contingent on our ability to follow those protocols. So when we have instances where someone hasn’t, they will be dealt with. And as I said, the consequences will be significant.”
Monahan and the PGA Tour have sent constant reminders to the players and caddies about their duties to socially distance on the driving range, putting green and golf course, and to take sanitary measures with the flagstick and rakes.
Anecdotally, those warnings have been mostly ignored. During a weather delay Sunday at the RBC Heritage, dozens of players and caddies congregated at an outdoor patio area of the clubhouse. On the course, there is little regard for distance. And instances of flagsticks or rakes being wiped are rare.
And yet, the four positive cases associated with the PGA Tour can likely be traced to off-the-course interactions and do not appear to be due to any on-site interaction.
Watney, who had been home in Austin, Texas, after missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge, tested negative when he arrived at Harbour Town last Tuesday. On Thursday, he had slight symptoms and an elevated respiratory rate on the Whoop fitness strap that he wears. He tested positive Friday.
Whoop, the company that manufacturers the wearable strap that tracks vital statistics, including respiratory rates, said the PGA Tour has procured 1,000 straps for players on the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry and Champions Tour. The device will not be mandatory, but it will be available.
“We are rapidly onboarding everyone in the PGA Tour universe and respect the measures that they are taking to keep the Tour safe,” Whoop CEO Will Amed said on Twitter.
According to Golfweek, Elliott was tested yet again after the positive test — his third test overall at the Travelers — and it came back negative. However, because of the first positive test, Elliott would not be permitted to work.
Monahan would not confirm Elliott’s third test was negative.
“Our medical advisors, our medical experts, have suggested to us that based on the timing and the incubation period, you could have scenarios like that,” Monahan said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something like that that had happened, based on what we’ve learned from our medical advisors.”
Monahan admitted that the lack of spectators — and that caddies and players know each other — has likely led to some complacency.
“I think over the first couple weeks, we’ve seen some instances where … let’s say we’ve gotten a little bit lax or away from protocol,” Monahan said. “Full disclosure: I’ve done it myself, and I think that’s the kind of tightening that we need to do in order to make sure we continue to be in a good position to move forward.”
Monahan cautioned there are likely to be positive tests going forward. Next week is the Rocket Mortgage Classic outside of Detroit, followed by two events in Dublin, Ohio — the second of which, the Memorial Tournament, is planning to allow spectators.
“I think this is the reality of what we’re all living under,” Monahan said. “For us, we are doing everything we can to make that not be the case. I don’t think anybody should be surprised. I’m certainly hopeful we won’t. But to be able to say that we’re not going to have any cases, and to be able to look in the eye and say we’re not going to have any cases would be disingenuous because we are all learning as we are going.”
ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.