(Reuters) – The PGA Tour will continue testing players for COVID-19 for the “foreseeable future” and until a high percentage of competitors are vaccinated, Commissioner Jay Monahan said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of this week’s Players Championship in Florida, Monahan felt there was light at the end of the tunnel regarding pandemic-related protocols but the PGA Tour was not about to let its guard down.
“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,” he said.
“It’s hard to determine when that will be, but clearly we see light at the end of the tunnel.”
There is no mandate in place requiring PGA Tour players to be vaccinated but Monahan said players are eager to be inoculated against COVID-19.
Last year’s Players Championship was cancelled after the first round because of the pandemic, which marked the start of the PGA Tour’s three-month COVID-19 hiatus.
This week’s event at Ponte Vedra Beach will feature the strongest field of the year and allow 20% of the usual crowd capacity at TPC Sawgrass.
The protocols that were in place when play finally resumed have since evolved and some, including temperature checks upon arrival at events, have been removed in recent weeks.
But Monahan, credited with salvaging a season last year that many feared would be lost to COVID-19, said the PGA Tour continued to guard itself from thinking the worst was in the past given vaccination efforts were ramping up around the world.
“We’ve seen surges, we’ve seen the unpredictable, the uncertain nature of this pandemic and this virus,” he said.
“While we see light at the end of the tunnel and there are a lot with vaccination and the progress that we’re making and the hope that’s in front of us, you take that, but you still have to remind yourself that you’ve got to focus on your plan and your protocols and make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep health and safety as our number one priority.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)