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PGA Tour alters COVID-19 policy, giving Cameron Champ last-second spot in Detroit field

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — The PGA Tour's ever-evolving policy on positive COVID-19 tests has changed again. But the first time since the PGA Tour's restart, the protocols got lighter, not more strict.

And that's good news for Cameron Champ, who tested positive and withdrew from last week's Travelers Championship in Connecticut.

Champ was added back into the Rocket Mortgage Classic field on Wednesday night.

Cameron Champ makes a putt at No. 18 during last year's Rocket Mortgage Classic.

“I am extremely grateful for the tireless efforts and conversations between the Tour, my team and all of the experts who were consulted in order to deliver this best possible outcome,” Champ said in a statement released through the PGA Tour.

“It is a great example of everyone being committed to working together to adapt and evolve in this constantly changing environment.

"I would especially like to thank my fellow players for their support and cannot wait to tee it up with them in Detroit tomorrow!”

Because of the late addition and all the surrounding circumstances, Champ will not replace anybody in the field this week at the Detroit Golf Club. Instead, the field will expand to 157 players, with the first round set to begin Thursday morning.

Champ will tee off at 2:10 p.m. from the 10th tee, and will play in a twosome with Canton native and Michigan State alum Donnie Trosper, whose tee tee time was pushed back 10 minutes.

Champ, 25, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour and one of the many bright young stars in the game, is one of six PGA Tour players who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the restart in early June. The PGA Tour's policy initially was that any player who tested positive must quarantine for 10 days, then be tested again before returning to competitive golf.

Now, the PGA Tour will allow any player who tests positive but is asymptomatic to return to action if he has two negative tests within a 24-hour period. Champ had three negative tests in a 72-hour period, following his positive test June 23 in Cromwell, Conn.

The same rules will apply to caddies — two caddies have tested positive — and are in conjunction with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the PGA Tour. The changes go into effect immediately.

Webb Simpson, ranked No. 6 in the world and a two-time winner this season including at Hilton Head two weeks ago, also withdrew from the Travelers Championship out of caution because of possible exposure to coronavirus on the home front.

Simpson and his family all tested negative, and Simpson quickly committed to playing in Detroit, giving the Rocket Mortgage Classic its highest-ranked player.

COMPLETE ROCKET MORTGAGE CLASSIC COVERAGE

Simpson said his daughter got a piece of banana stuck in her throat, and out of caution, was taken in for tests. She tested positive for COVID-19, but was retested and tested negative. Simpson, his wife and his four other children also tested negative back home in North Carolina, clearing the way for him to play this week. In a statement over the weekend, he called the whole experience a "roller coaster" of emotions.

"It's a bit of an odd time," Simpson said Wednesday. "The lengths that the Tour is going to make sure every place we go is safe and secure and our testing and all that, I feel very good about being out there.

"I'm just happy to be out here and playing golf."

Simpson, 34, said after the scare, he and his family are starting to dial it back at a little bit, after admittedly getting a little loose amid what many people thought was the winding down of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said they'll limit guests at their house — some had been coming over to hang on the patio, or to work out with him — and he's not even making his typical Starbucks runs anymore, traveling with his own coffee maker.

The previous change to the PGA Tour's policy began with Detroit laweek, when commissioner Jay Monahan decided all players and caddies must be tested in the host city before being allowed on-site.

Previously, those players tested before being allowed to board the PGA Tour charter weren't subject to testing in the following city.

PGA Tour players and caddies are using both at-home and in-person tests.

“Today’s changes — and those announced over the past week — illustrate our commitment to preserving the health and well-being of our athletes, constituents and our impact on the communities in which we play, as well as a willingness to make medically-sound adjustments that allow our players to compete, safely," Monahan said in a statement. "The continued success of our return to golf depends on that approach.”

This is Simpson's first appearance in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Champ finished 9 under at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019, tying for 46th place. He will be the first player who has tested positive for COVID-19 to return to action on the PGA Tour.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984