Lee Westwood: 'Not worth it' to play early PGA Tour events with travel restrictions

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Lee Westwood is excited to get back to work, but he knows a return will have to wait if current international travel guidelines remain in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westwood won earlier this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a victory that pushed him back inside the top 50 of the world rankings. Both the Charles Schwab Challenge and RBC Heritage have provisions that allow top-50 players to enter, and Westwood is currently penciled into the field for each of the first two PGA Tour events back from a two-month hiatus.

But the Englishman is one of what the Tour estimates to be 25 players currently living outside the U.S., and in speaking with Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis he shared that the current quarantine restrictions surrounding international travel will likely preclude him from playing either tournament.

“Right now I won’t be playing them, not with having to leave here two weeks before, quarantine, then play the two tournaments, then come back here and quarantine again,” Westwood said. “It’s six weeks for two tournaments, and to me that’s just not worth it. And it’s not worth taking the risk if everybody thinks that those kind of precautions have got to be in place. I don’t feel like golf’s a priority if it’s that severe.”

PGA Tour working to keep all safe and get foreign players on U.S. soil

Last week PGA Tour officials shared that current federal quarantine guidelines are “likely to continue” beyond the Tour’s return to competition June 11-14 at Colonial, putting the onus on international players to arrive back in the U.S. in enough time to complete a potential two-week quarantine prior to competing.

“We are working with the federal government to facilitate the return of players and caddies who are currently residing outside of the United States, and we’re optimistic that that’s going to occur,” said Tour senior vice president of tournament administration Andy Levinson.

Westwood is also facing further scheduling issues later this summer. He is the host of the BetFred British Masters, which is slated for July 30-Aug. 2 and is expected to be the first European Tour event to be played since March. With the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park the next week, Westwood realizes that he’ll likely have to skip a major championship in order to host the event at Close House if the current quarantine guidelines remain in effect.

“It looks that way,” he said.

Westwood described the role of being the first European event in nearly five months as “a mix of excitement and trepidation,” and confirmed that the event will not allow fans if it’s held as currently scheduled. But he supports a cautious approach as the global sport looks to return from a pandemic.

“It’s a tough situation. We can’t afford anything to go wrong, and this virus to spread any more than it has done,” he said. “It’s going to be a fine line, and it’s a balance between having the tournaments but limiting the spread of the virus. Obviously people want something to watch, and it’s a good way to kick-start your economy. But also we don’t want a second wave (of the virus), so we have to make sure we’re very, very safe.”