Nick Watney: Coronavirus positive test forces US golfer out of RBC Heritage

Nick Watney
Watney is the first golfer to test positive on the PGA Tour following its return
RBC Heritage, round two leaderboard
-12 W Simpson (US); -11 B DeChambeau (US), C Connors (Can); -10 R Palmer (US), M Fitzpatrick (Eng)
Selected: -9 B Koepka (US), I Poulter (Eng); -8 D Johnson (US); -5 J Rose (Eng), R McIlroy (NI),

American Nick Watney has withdrawn from the RBC Heritage after testing positive for coronavirus before round two.

Watney, 39, delivered a negative test before the tournament and shot a three-over-par 74 in the first round.

However, a PGA statement said that "prior to arriving at the tournament" on Friday, Watney "indicated he had symptoms consistent with the illness".

American Webb Simpson shot a six-under 65 to lead on 12 under, with England's Matt Fitzpatrick two back after a 66.

Fitzpatrick, whose round was interrupted by a weather delay when he was on the 16th, finished birdie, bogey, birdie to jump above fellow Englishman Ian Poulter, the joint overnight leader, who had four birdies in his final five holes as he posted a two-under 69 to improve to nine under.

Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion, leads fellow American Bryson DeChambeau and Canada's Corey Connors, who shot a bogey-free eight-under 63, by one shot.

"It's satisfying knowing I'm not nearly as long as some of these guys and I'm able to use my skills of distance control and shot shape to pick me back up when I'm 40 yards behind these guys," said Simpson who played with DeChambeau in the first two rounds.

DeChambeau, who created headlines at last week's Charles Schwab Challenge with his bulked up frame and driving average of 345 yards in round one, had six birdies in eight holes as he posted a 64.

However, the difference in their approach was neatly summed up on the ninth - their final hole of the round. Simpson drove his ball 220 yards into the fairway, while DeChambeau blasted his tee shot 308 yards into a greenside bunker.

Simpson hit a wedge from 115 yards to six feet and holed the birdie putt while DeChambeau, who was 25 yards from the hole, splashed out to five feet but missed the putt.

"I still haven't figured out something with my putting," said DeChambeau. "If I tighten that dispersion with putting, I'd be a couple more up there."

The RBC Heritage is the second PGA Tour tournament since golf restarted after a three-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic and California-born Watney is the first to test positive following its return.

Watney played with fellow Americans Vaughn Taylor and Luke List in the first round. Both were told during Friday's second round.

"I was a little shocked," Taylor, who shot a 69 to move to six under, told Golf Digest. "My heart started racing and I got a little nervous. I just hope Nick's doing well and we get through this."

List, who missed the cut after his two-over 73 dropped him back to level par overall, said he would rather have been told after his round. "It was hard to concentrate, just thinking about different stuff, and I wasn't playing my best anyway," he added.

"For the health and well-being of all associated with the tournament and those within the community, the tour has begun implementing its response plan in consultation with medical experts including working with those who may have had close contact with Nick," added the PGA.

World number one Rory McIlroy was briefly on the practice putting green with Watney. The Northern Irishman went on to post a six-under 65 to beat the cut by one shot on five under par.

"Nick texted me actually because we had a chat on the putting green before I went out to play, but we were at a distance. He was just saying 'look, I hope I didn't get too close to you'," said McIlroy.

"He feels badly that he was here at the golf course. I said 'it's fine, you never know. If I was in your position, I probably would have been here too. Look, at this point, you just have to concentrate on getting better and getting healthy'.

"But it sucks for him especially. You know, if you contract it, that's fine, but then it's the fact that who have you come into contact with, and who you might have exposed and stuff."

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