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After a free year and still with strict player restrictions, The Open is ready for its complicated return

SANDWICH, England – Before COVID-19 intervened, the 149th Open thinks that his peculiarities and peculiarities are on a path known for his peculiarities.

Royal St. George’s is the closest place to London and probably the furthest from the top list of anyone’s open list of courses. This is not to say that the links in the south-east of England, which had to host the event in 2020 before being canceled due to the coronavirus, are not an excellent test.

But what it lacks in, for example, the beauty of Turnberry, the history of St Andrews, the fairness of Muirfield, compensates for it with a peculiarity that is probably unpredictable in the big championship golf course.

Considering the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, we are on the lookout for an interesting week, which will no doubt include the challenges for players off the field.

‘I am [fully] vaccinated, but unfortunately I know I’m going there, it does not matter if you are vaccinated or not, ” he said Rickie Fowler, referring to some of the restrictions that players face this week. “There are definitely some concerns. There are multiple things that seem like there are some people on the plane who are positive when you get there, what happens to that?

“It’s clear we’re all going into our own little bubbles, we can ‘t be with other players. It looks like we’re like players, we jump through some hurdles and dodge bullets, and they have 32,000 fans. per day at the tournament. ”

Fowler did not complain, but only responded to a question about the protocols for The Open which, given what players have become accustomed to, especially lately at the PGA Tour, is relatively strict.

For the first time since World War II, The Open was not played last year. It was the only major championship canceled. R&A chief Martin Slumbers has revealed that an insurance policy was called for such a cancellation rather than playing the tournament without spectators and corporate hospitality and maintaining the financial hit for the organization.

It has driven back many plans, including the scheduled 150th play of The Open this year at the home of golf, St. Louis. Andrews. It was also delayed by a year.

So here we are, a year later than expected, at Royal St. George’s, a place known for its strange reflections due to wild hills – unusual even for a link course. Royal St. George’s is hosting the Open for the 15th time, placing it fourth all-time and third in the rankings. (St Andrews leads by 29. Prestwick has 24, although he last hosted The Open in 1925.) Royal St. George’s will be just one behind Muirfield.

For the players, the type of golf is not the only significant difference. While the United States and the PGA Tour have lifted COVID-19 restrictions, the protocols for The Open remain strict.

Although players do not have to quarantine after arriving in the UK – it was a minimum of five days with several COVID tests for others – those participating in The Open are not allowed to visit restaurants, bars or grocery stores.

They are also expected to stay in a ‘bubble’ of four people that includes their caddy and two other support staff, such as a coach, trainer or manager. Furthermore, they are not allowed to visit with other players for meals. had their accommodation inspected by the R&A. If players prefer to stay in a hotel, it must also be approved.

Then there is contact detection. As Fowler mentioned, a player who is in close contact with a person who has contracted COVID-19 can be removed from the tournament. This happened recently to Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who was taken out of the Irish Open after it was determined that he was in close contact with someone who had the virus on a flight to Europe.

Put it all in the background of all the spectators that are allowed on the golf course. Up to 32,000 fans a day will be allowed inside the gates, which is actually a reduction of the capacity of 40,000. Yet The Open will have the most spectators on site at any tournament since the start of the pandemic and the return to golf in June 2020.

“I was eager to get as many spectators in as possible because I think that’s what creates atmosphere,” Slumber said. “And I actually think that’s what makes the players play a little better.”

The players are undoubtedly excited to have spectators back, especially after months of tournaments chirping under crickets and birds. But Fowler’s question is fair. Thousands of spectators are held every day by players who have not been so strict since the earliest days of the pandemic?

Brian Harman, who played the John Deere Classic last week and would plan to travel to England on the tournament’s charter flight, said he was considering skipping The Open due to the restrictions. In the end, he does not want to miss the opportunity to win a major championship.

“It’s aggravating,” Harman said. “I was vaccinated. I was vaccinated as fast as possible, so it was really nice not to have to test and not have to worry about it.

“Unfortunately, now that we’re used to the changing scenarios, we’re from different states and we’ve been dealing with different local health officials. It’s annoying. I think it’s a little silly to let in 32,000 fans, but to treat the players differently.It’s the frustrating part.I know the R&A kind of have their hands tied but we will go there and we will make the best of it.But it will also be nice to go home come. ”

While Fowler, Harman and their counterparts do not get a release if they prove they have been vaccinated, the spectators in Britain who provide proof of vaccination do not have to do a COVID-19 test. Of all, a test must be within 48 hours of enrollment, which means that someone who attends several days must pass several tests.

The PGA Tour has never tested for its fans.

“You can argue or complain as much as you want, it will not change,” said the US Open champion. Jon Rahm said. “Just take what it is and it’s about it. I feel a lot of the family constraints, every player’s team constraints, it’s a little too much.

“But I understand why they want us to stay at home and why they want to keep the players as safe as possible. It does not change my mind so much. I usually go to a big championship, I will be in a house and go to the golf course and come back to the house. I do not go out and view or anything else. In that sense it has not changed. “

Players may only attend one family member, and the person must endure the quarantine, which means they must arrive at least five days before the start of the competition.

This provision means that many players simply go with their team.

In the case of Xander Schauffele, who got married on June 26, means there will be no honeymoon of the Open Championship.

“I’m alone here, so it’s definitely not a honeymoon,” Schauffele said during last week’s Scottish Open. ‘No one will be offended here, but I would not choose a place that rains so much to take my honeymoon.

“It’s different. It’s definitely a tight bubble. But for the most part, I brought along a few extra books to read, so I take the standstill as a positive position.”

The PGA Tour has had a steady increase in spectators since March. The PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in South Carolina had more than 10,000 spectators a day, which was the number one for the US Open.

Recent tournaments in Detroit and Connecticut have also had good returns a year after they were forced to play in silence.

“I think that since we’re all been through the last 15 months, the most important thing for me was that each country handled the situation in their own way,” Slumbers said. ‘I was actually quite recently in America for the Walker Cup [at Seminole in Florida], and it is more advanced in terms of opening restrictions. It felt quite unusual after what we were used to here. ‘

The players might say the same thing this week.

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