Brooks Koepka’s WD marks latest chapter in PGA Tour’s growing coronavirus problem

brooks koepka caddie coronavirus ricky elliott

Brooks Koepka withdrew from the Travelers after his caddie Ricky Elliott tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Brooks Koepka became the third PGA Tour player to withdraw from this week’s Travelers Championship due to the coronavirus.

Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott tested positive for Covid-19 Wednesday morning, as first reported by Golfweek. Koepka immediately made the decision to WD, telling Golfweek it was “the right thing to do.”

“I don’t want to risk anyone’s life if they have respiratory issues or underlying conditions,” he said. “The only way this Tour can continue is if guys to do this sort of thing and be proactive about it.”

On Tuesday morning, Koepka made it clear that he and his team were taking the coronavirus seriously, speaking at length about precautions they’d taken. It’s worth reading the whole thing as a reminder of the precariousness of the Tour’s “bubble.”

“I’ve told everybody on my team they’re pretty much on lockdown. If they don’t want to do that, then they don’t have to be with us,” Koepka said. “It’s pretty simple. I told [coach] Claude, I’ve got my chef that’s traveling with me, and I brought basically my own gym, I brought free weights, bands. Everything you see in a gym, we’ve brought. There’s no reason that anybody should leave the house. The chef obviously leaves the house to go get food, but that’s about it. But she’s still using the best face mask, everything she can when she gets back, washing her hands, doing all these things, and just trying to limit our exposure. I think that’s been the big thing.

“I’m taking this seriously. I’ve had three months off with an injury, four months off with injury, three months off with sitting at home because of Covid, so there’s no — I’ve been eager to go play. I’ve been dying to get out here and do what I do, and I love playing, I love competing, and there’s reason for me to go out and do anything other than come to the golf course. I mean, I don’t come in the clubhouse at all unless for this interview. I’ve been staying outside, just going to my house and that’s it. I’m not hanging around guys. I don’t really feel like doing much, just hanging around my team.”

Here’s the timeline of potentially connected events, as laid out by Golfweek:

June 15: The only time Koepka said his team broke “the bubble” was when Elliott attended the funeral of a close friend in Orlando. He joined fellow PGA Tour pro Graeme McDowell and his caddie Ken Comboy at the funeral.

June 19: Nick Watney became the first PGA Tour player to test positive and pulled out of the second round of the RBC Heritage.

Monday: Koepka, his coach Claude Harmon, and Elliott each tested negative for the coronavirus. Koepka and Elliott traveled to Ellington Ridge Country Club to cheer on Brooks’ brother Chase, who made it into the field through the Monday qualifier.

Tuesday: Koepka and Elliott played a practice round with McDowell. After the practice round, McDowell found out Comboy (still in Orlando) had tested positive for coronavirus. McDowell announced he was withdrawing from the event. Cameron Champ also announced he had tested positive and was withdrawing from the Travelers as well.

Wednesday: Koepka, Elliott, Harmon and McDowell went back for additional tests after hearing of Comboy’s positive result. Elliott’s returned positive, while the other three tested negative. McDowell returned to Orlando via private plane while Koepka and his team ponder next steps.

What’s next? Koepka said that he was still determining the next move, trying to decide whether he should travel back to his home in Jupiter, Fla. or stay in Connecticut and quarantine.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” he said.

The PGA Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Dylan Dethier

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Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, where he’s told the story of a strange cave in Mexico, a U.S. Open qualifier in Alaska and plenty in between. Dethier joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. He is a Williamstown, Mass., native and a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English. Dethier is the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.