Rickie Fowler expresses frustration with Open Championship Covid policies

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler hits a shot on Sunday on the 3rd hole at Detroit Golf Club.

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Rickie Fowler, who has missed two of the year’s first three majors due to on-course performance, has off-course “concerns” heading into the fourth and final. 

The eight-time winner internationally took issue Saturday with the Covid protocols at the Open Championship, which will be played in two weeks at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England. Among the guidelines, which were first reported by the Telegraph and come as the PGA Tour relaxes their own, are testing before and upon arrival at the tournament; restrictions on where players can stay and go before and after; a limit of four people per accommodation; and an “inner bubble” at the event. In addition, 34,000 people, nearly 80 percent capacity, will be in attendance.   

Breaching the protocols, which are for both vaccinated and unvaccinated players, could lead to withdrawal from the tournament.

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Before Friday’s second round at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, one of Fowler’s playing partners, Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, tested positive for Covid and withdrew, and Fowler was asked Saturday “if he had any concerns traveling to the British.”

“No. I mean, I’m vaccinated or whatever you want to call the shots. I guess they’re not — they’re vaccines, but unfortunately I know going over there, it doesn’t matter if you’re vaccinated or not,” Fowler said.

“Yeah, there’s definitely some concerns. Guys have been talking to me or have been talking to other guys, been making calls or sending texts back and forth with some of the people with the Open just with any questions or concerns that we have because there’s multiple things that come up as far as if there happens to be a couple people on the plane that test positive when you get there, you know; what happens with that? Obviously we’re all going into our own small bubbles, can’t be around other players.

“It seems like us as players, we’re jumping through some hurdles and dodging bullets and they’re having 32,000 fans a day at the tournament, so I don’t know. I can’t really answer questions clearly with all that going on.”

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According to both Golf Digest and the Guardian, Fowler is not alone in his frustration, with Golf Digest reporting that one person said: “Don’t be surprised if some eligible players say f*** it and don’t play.” Still, on the heels of recent solid play, Fowler will be at Royal St. George’s, where he tied for fifth in 2011.

“I remember it decently well, but it wasn’t like it was just a couple years back. It was a while ago,” Fowler said. “I mean, just like every Open Championship, it’s really just keep it moving forward. I remember that was my second Open. I actually made it through St. Andrews and then the first round and a half without hitting in a bunker. I laid up in a bunker with a 6-iron at Royal St. George’s, that was the first bunker I was in in an Open Championship, so we’ll see if we can stay out of those. That’s a big thing in links golf, as you know.

“But I think a lot of the stuff that I was kind of focusing on this week with setup and making sure my grip’s in a good spot so I’m able to get through it and release properly, a lot of that will kind of be some preparation moving forward thinking of shots that I’ll be hitting at the Open as well.”

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