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Vaccinated PGA star tests negative for Covid, still forced to miss big tourney after contact with someone positive

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PGA mega-champ and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson said on Sunday he’ll have to skip a major upcoming tournament because he was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, despite the fact that he’s been vaccinated against the virus.

Watson was to play in The Open Championship scheduled to begin on Thursday at the Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, but announced earlier this week he’ll be skipping the event due to his exposure.

The Open is one of pro golf’s most prestigious annual “majors,” so missing it is a big deal to players.

Watson took to Twitter to make his announcement, which was not well received by his fans and others who questioned the rationale given the fact that he is supposedly protected from catching or spreading the virus due to his vaccination status. That said, his withdrawal appears to be due, in large part, to United Kingdom COVID policies.

“I am disappointed to announce I will not compete at The Open Championship next week due to having direct exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” he wrote.

“While I am vaccinated and have passed the required pre-travel COVID test, not enough time has passed for me to comfortably join the charter flight and risk exposure to the other players and personnel on board,” he added. “I appreciate the R&A’s guidance and help navigating UK policy for such situations.”

“For those wondering, the UK and US Covid-19 guidelines are quite different. Getting on the charter or a commercial flight was not an option available to me after my recent exposure. I don’t make the rules but do have to follow them,” he noted in a subsequent tweet.

“Rules for close contacts are stricter in the United Kingdom for golfers deemed to be a close contact than in the United States. Close contacts in the U.K. are forced to withdraw from tournaments. In the U.S., close contacts undergo daily testing,” sports network ESPN added.

The network added that Watson was replaced in the field by fellow PGA pro Brendan Steele.

Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott, tweeted in response to the decision: “Bubba and I are gutted! He’s been playing great and was looking forward to returning to @RoyalStGeorges1. What a venue!! Perfect for #bubbagolf. Hopefully see ya next year @TheOpen.”

Fans and others on social media questioned, among other things, why it’s so important to get a COVID-19 vaccine while still having to face such restrictions.

“I know this is a hot topic issue, and I mean this with all sincerity, but seriously what is the point in the vax? People are not making a strong enough case for others to get vaccinated if the end result is not getting back to normal,” one fan wrote in response to Scott.

“This is a huge reason why many of the others players aren’t getting the vax. What is the point???? Bubba not being able to play while they have 30k+ unchecked fans is beyond stupid,” wrote another user.

“You’re vaccinated and testing negative. That’s ridiculous,” wrote another.

Noted another user: “This is getting stupid. We will never get back to normal with these ‘over-the-top’ restrictions.”

“I’m so sorry. You’ve been playing some great golf and the course is such a great one for you,” noted fellow PGA star Phil Mikelson.

Jon Dougherty

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