Martin Slumbers: Players who violate Open 'bubble' protocols could be disqualified

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SANDWICH, England – Following last year’s cancellation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Open Championship returns with dramatically increased scrutiny.

With the United Kingdom still adhering to strict pandemic restrictions, players, caddies and officials have been forced into a bubble similar to that used when the PGA Tour restarted its schedule last year. Players are not allowed to socialize outside their “buddy bubble” and to stay within their own “exclusive use accommodation at all times (including dinner)” when not playing or practicing at Royal St. George’s.

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But even with those increased protocols, the R&A is bracing for what they concede is inevitable.

“There’s a different set of rationales for the players and for the spectators. But I think it’s probably inevitable that we will have some problems, and we understand that, so does government, and we’ll work through that,” said the R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumbers.

The championship’s code of conduct warns that a player who violates the code of conduct may have their “accreditation deactivated and may be removed … If you are a player, this means that you may be withdrawn from The Open.”

When pressed for what exactly would happen if a player violated the policy, Slumbers was equally vague.

“I think he would be at risk of being disqualified,” he said. “I’ve learnt being in officiating and rules that you want to understand the circumstances, but I don’t think that will be an issue. I think players know the risks.”