The PGA Tour is telling its players they will not have to be tested for the coronavirus if they are vaccinated, and those who aren't will have to pay for their own tests starting this summer.
In a memo sent out Monday, the tour strongly encouraged players to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The tour however stopped short of saying it would require players to be vaccinated to compete in tournaments.
Players would be deemed inoculated 14 days after the full course of the vaccine. They would no longer be subject to testing for the coronavirus and, in accordance with CDC guidelines, would be able to gather in small groups without face coverings.
Social distancing and face coverings still would be required at tournaments. Anyone who has been vaccinated and comes in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus would need to quarantine only if they have symptoms.
Players have been subjected to testing since golf's return last June. Tests were paid for by the tour, but that testing operation will stop at the end of June. After that, the tour said players or staff wanting to take part in a tournament will be required to provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving.
The tour said it would reimburse the cost of testing for players who can't get vaccinated because of a pre-existing medical condition.
While NBA and college football players who tested positive for COVID-19 dominated national headlines last year, the virus also made an impact on professional golf. The PGA Tour is allowing only a limited number of in-person fans for the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, a move that's expected to continue into next month. There were roughly 8,000 fans in attendance at Bay Hill in Florida for The Players Championship, which normally welcomes crowds upwards of 40,000.
Three golfers, including Scott Piercy and Doc Redman, tested positive and had to withdraw from the tournament. Former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland also tested positive at the Honda Classic last month. That was the most recent positive test in the last four PGA Tour events through last week at the RBC Heritage.
In the memo, the tour didn't specify which vaccine it preferred over another but did highlight Pfizer and Moderna as "two highly effective FDA-approved vaccines." The tour later said anyone already vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca would also be exempt from routine testing.
The tour said it still may conduct periodic testing after June.