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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. 

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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.

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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.”


author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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