What happens if a Ryder Cup player gets Covid-19?


The Ryder Cup was delayed from 2020 due to Covid-19. But what will happen if a player tests positive at Whistling Straits? We explain the "Covid envelope".

Today's Golfer's 2021 Ryder Cup coverage is brought to you in association with PING.

Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington has revealed there will be a "Covid envelope" at the Ryder Cup, just in case a player from either team is forced to withdraw from the event after a positive test.

The "envelope rule" isn't anything new having been used at the Ryder Cup for the last 40 years. However, it is usually reserved for injuries and only comes into play if a member of either team cannot compete in Sunday's final singles session.

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Bryson DeChambeau missed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a positive Covid-19 test.

As part of the 'Captains' Agreement', each captain writes the name of one nominated player and puts it into an envelope prior to the singles matches. Only they know the name of the player and the envelope is destroyed if it is not required.

However, as part of the agreement for the 43rd Ryder Cup, there are two names, one for an injury and one in case any member of a team tests positive for Covid-19.

Replacement players will not be allowed to play in the foursomes or fourballs as each team has four players sitting out each session anyway, but they would take the withdrawn team member's place in the vital singles matches.

"Just like an injury name in the envelope, there's a Covid name in the envelope," explained Harrington.

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"While we've asked, it's still not completely clear what happens if we have a Covid outbreak of a number of players, but for one player it's pretty straightforward. Obviously the first two days, it's 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."

Jon Rahm has twice tested positive for Covid-19, forcing him to withdraw while leading the Memorial Tournament and miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Also according to the captains’ agreement, any player who tests positive for Covid, even while playing a match, is immediately ineligible for the remainder of that match and the remainder of the Ryder Cup.

But what would happen if one team lost two players, one with injury and one with Covid?

Harrington suggested the possibility of "two different names" in envelopes in case of an injury and a Covid withdrawal.

"You have to be prepared for these things, and as I said, it's been there all along, so it's nothing really new.

"It's obviously highlighted because of Covid, but there's always been a name in the envelope for an injury, just like coming into this we were asked to be aware that having somebody as a reserve, somebody as a backup who you would bring along, and what happens if somebody pulls out because of Covid. Because, you know, it's something that could happen in these times."

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Sergio Garcia missed the 2021 Masters after catching Covid-19.

As for what happens if there's a Covid outbreak that forces several players to withdraw, that would be down to the PGA of America and European Tour. 

"“This is certainly something that I’m sure is causing a lot of thought and a lot of time thinking about; what would be too many and what would be sustainable?,” Harrington pondered.

Each of the 24 players and caddies tested negative for Covid-19 before traveling to Whistling Straits and again upon arrival.

If there is an injury or a Covid-19 positive test before the matches begin on Friday then the player can be replaced for the entire event.

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