World No. 5 Webb Simpson cleared for RMC; PGA Tour bracing for more positive tests in Detroit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — A negative test provided to be a big positive for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Webb Simpson, who withdrew from this week's Travelers Championship over COVID-19 concerns, was a last-minute commitment Friday into next week's Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, giving the tournament its highest-ranked player.

Webb Simpson will compete in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Simpson, who won two weeks ago at the RBC Heritgage in South Carolina, is ranked No. 5 in the world. He's a former U.S. Open champion.

Simpson withdrew from the Travelers Championship on Wednesday, out of caution after a family member had recently tested positive for the coronavirus. He then traveled home to North Carolina, where he was tested along with his family members. All of the tests came back negative, Simpson said on Twitter this week.

Simpson tested negative multiple times at the Travelers Championship.

"I feel like it is my responsibility to take care of my family and protect my peers in the field," Simpson said in a statement Wednesday, adding he was going to quarantine in North Carolina. "I look forward to returning to competition after that time period."

That time period, apparently, didn't last long.

Simpson, No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, will be among the headliners at the second annual Rocket Mortgage Classic.

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Simpson issued another statement Saturday.

"The last week has been a roller coaster of emotions," Simpson said. "From the high of a great week in Hilton Head to the realities of COVID-19 and the impact it can have on a family. Thankfully, I am happy to report the Simpson family has all tested negative for COVID-19.

"We appreciate the outpouring of support from fans, friends and family."

A message left with Simpson's agent seeking comment wasn't returned to The News. Rocket Mortgage Classic officials haven't commented on Simpson's situation.

At the Travelers, two players, Cameron Champ and Denny McCarthy, and two caddies tested positive, leading to WDs for a number of players, including superstar Brooks Koepka and former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Champ and McDowell were scheduled to tee it up in Detroit, but had to pull their commitments.

More: Series of unfortunate events costs Rocket Mortgage Classic many of the bigger names in golf

Former PGA champion Jason Day, committed to Detroit, felt symptoms Saturday morning and requested a COVID-19 test, which came back negative. Out of precaution, Day was sent off on his third round at the Travelers as a single. Day is still scheduled to play in Detroit.

Both Simpson and Day, as well as the rest of the 156-player field, will be tested upon arrival at Detroit Golf Club, and won't be given access to the grounds until their tests come back negative. Under previous stops, the PGA Tour didn't restart any of the players who had been tested before boarding the tour charter at the previous stop, but stricter measures were put in place starting with Detroit's week.

The PGA Tour is administering more than 400 tests a week, to players, caddies and essential staff, and have significantly limited who is allowed on the grounds. No fans are allowed until the Memorial in Ohio in three weeks, and even the media contingent has been cut way back, from more than 500 to less than 50.

On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said through the first three weeks of the PGA Tour's restart, it had administered 2,757 tests, with seven positives. That positive number grew by one since then.

More positive tests are expected each week, including in Detroit.

"I think this is the reality we're all living under," Monahan said. "We're doing everything we can to make that not be the case, but I don't think anybody should be surprised.

"To be able to say we're not going to have any cases and be able to look you in the eye, I think that would be disingenuous."


Rocket Mortgage Classic

When: July 2-5

Where: Detroit Golf Club

Defending champion: Nate Lashley

Tickets: None; the event will be held without fans because of COVID-19 precautions.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984