Sergio Garcia has reacted to the news that Nick Watney has tested positive for coronavirus, saying: "There's a lot of other people that probably deserved it a lot more than him."
The former Masters champion made the astonishing claim after carding a third round 65 to move into contention for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Watney, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, withdrew from the tournament yesterday after testing positive for COVID-19.
Garcia, 40, travelled with Watney to Hilton Head Island on a private flight from Austin, Texas, where they both live.
Asked what his reaction was when he heard Watney had tested positive for the disease, the Spaniard replied: "My first reaction was I was surprised. I felt terrible for Nick because he's probably one of the nicest guys on tour. Unfortunately, it had to happen to him. So there's a lot of other people that probably deserved it a lot more than him, and he's the one that got it."
Garcia was tested again yesterday following Watney's positive test but revealed that it came back negative.
"It was about four-and-a-half hours of waiting, very anxiously, hoping that it was negative because, obviously, after missing the cut last week by one and this week finally playing nicely in the second round and being in the middle of the pack, if I would have given positive, then I wouldn't be able to play on the weekend, and I would have been very, very disappointed.
"Nick is unbelievable. He's a good friend. He was very worried about me. He sent me several texts. I talked to him. He must have said sorry to me probably 25 times. I told him that it's all good. Whatever it is, it is. Fortunately for me, it was fine. Hopefully, his is not bad, and we can have him back as soon as possible."
Garcia added that he is hopeful that Watney's most recent test yielded a "false positive".
"I talked to him yesterday. I talked to him this morning, and he's been telling me he's feeling fine. He's got no fever. He's got no cough.
"So I'm hoping that maybe he gets tested again, and it's maybe a false positive. That would be nice because he doesn't deserve it."
Garcia also revealed that Watney was alerted to the possibility that something may be wrong by a fitness tracker app.
"If he would have not had that WHOOP or whatever you call it, he would have played, and nobody would have noticed," he said. "Nobody would have known. But it shows the kind of person he is. He saw that something was a little bit off. He commented. He talked to the doctor.
"A lot of other people probably would have just kind of gone on without even thinking about it, but he was worried about not only himself, but all of us, and he got out and tested. That shows a lot to me from him."