"It's a zoo" - Justin Thomas critical of this week's PGA Tour stop

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas has criticised the residents of Hilton Head Island, the host destination for this week's PGA Tour event, for a lax approach to coronavirus.

Thomas' fellow American Nick Watney yesterday became the first player to test positive for COVID-19 at a tournament.

That has resulted in fresh scrutiny of the sport's protocols for mitigating the spread of the disease in the midst of just the second PGA Tour event since lockdown restrictions began to ease.

Thomas, however, is more alarmed with what he has seen from locals in South Carolina this week. 

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Speaking after a third round 66 at Harbour Town Golf Links, the world No.3 said: "No offense to Hilton Head but they're seeming to not take it very seriously. It's an absolute zoo around here.

"There's people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I've seen when I've been driving by, is absolutely crowded."

Thomas, 27, defended Watney, saying that he's "very cautious" and has "done everything he can". However, he added: "I would say a lot of people in this area of Hilton Head just aren't."

The data supports Thomas' observation. Today, it was reported that South Carolina has set another daily record for coronavirus cases, topping 1,000 cases for the second day in a row. 

The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced 1,157 new confirmed cases on Saturday, leading to fears that restrictions might be re-imposed. Indeed, it has been reported that tech giant Apple has already responded to the spike by closing some of its retail stores in South Carolina.

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Despite his misgivings regarding goings-on outside the golf tournament, Thomas said he still feels safe playing this week in spite of Watney's positive test.

"I wouldn't be playing if I didn't," he added. "The tour have done all the protocols they can.

"Unfortunately, you can't control guys going to get something to eat or whatever it might be, if you're staying in a hotel or room service or whatever it might be."

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour has announced that 11 people who were tested for the virus after being in "close contact" with Watney have all returned negative results.

Vaughn Taylor and Luke List, who played with Watney in the first round prior to his withdrawal ahead of Friday's second round, were amongst the 11. 

Five-time PGA Tour winner Watney remains in self-quarantine on Hilton Head Island as per the tour’s protocols.

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