The spectre of the pandemic continues to loom large over the Ryder Cup, with contingency measures drafted should one of the 24 players test positive for COVID-19.
Already delayed by 12 months because of the coronavirus, the 43rd Ryder Cup gets underway at Whistling Straits tomorrow morning and whilst anticipation is approaching feverish levels, it is also tinged with a genuine sense of caution.
According to PGA of America officials, players, caddies and support personnel had to take COVID tests before travelling to Whistling Straits. They were tested again when they arrived.
It’s not clear what further tests players will have to take as the week goes on but, in the event that a player comes down with the disease and is forced to withdraw, plans are in place to mitigate the impact on the match.
A COVID-specific extension of the so-called ‘envelope rule’ has been drawn up for this week. Introduced with the addition of Continental Europeans to the match in 1979, It comes into effect in the event that one of the players gets injured during the course of the contest and is unable to compete in Sunday’s final singles session.
The opposing captain can select one player from his team that he would like sit out. The nominated player is then matched up with the injured player and the match is recorded as a half. The names are a closely guarded secret and are only revealed if they are used.
Captains hand them over when the singles draw is made and, if they are not required, the envelopes are destroyed so that no-one will ever know who the “benched” players would have been.
A similar clause will be in place this year to cover withdrawals due to COVID.
European captain Padraig Harrington explained: "While we've asked, it's still not completely clear what happens if we have a COVID outbreak [affecting] a number of players, but for one player it's pretty straightforward.
“Obviously, the first two days, four players sit out, so there are no issues on those two days, but obviously on Sunday you start losing a few players to COVID, it does affect the match in some way. But one is in a COVID envelope for sure.
"It's the exact same as an injury envelope. The person that goes in the envelope, the captain decides, and nobody ever knows. We hope that stays that way. But we've had a few injury pull-outs over the year, so it would be just very similar to that. No real difference in how it works."