After spending 10 days in his hotel room because of COVID-19, Padraig Harrington was anxious to get back on the golf course Thursday for the opening round of the Genesis Invitational.
He did so after a late-night drive of more than five hours from Pebble Beach, California, to Los Angeles and the PGA Tour event at Riviera Country Club.
Harrington tested positive early last week prior to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He was not permitted to leave his hotel room until midnight PT on Thursday, and he was in a rental car and headed south a few minutes later.
“I got here in the morning, so I got a couple hours’ sleep here and that was it,” said Harrington, who admitted to being rusty and shot an opening-round 75 with six bogeys and two birdies. “It wasn’t too bad a drive, I’ve got to say, it was not a stress at all. All the sleep, I had last week. The only thing I was worried about was by 3 in the afternoon, it was my naptime.”
Harrington last week tweeted pictures from his room at the Lodge at Pebble Beach that overlooked the first hole. Upon receiving his positive test, he was required to stay in the room the entire week. As part of the PGA Tour’s testing protocols, Harrington was set to receive a $75,000 stipend for following the guidelines.
The European Ryder Cup captain, Harrington, 49, said he had some minor symptoms initially. As per CDC guidelines, he is permitted to return to work after 10 days, as he is no longer deemed contagious for the coronavirus.
“It was OK, especially the last week,” said Harrington, a three-time major winner from Ireland. “I think the first couple of days when I had a few symptoms you’re obviously worried that they’re going to get worse. As it turned out, they didn’t. Didn’t lose my sense of taste or smell. For the last four, five days I’ve been feeling okay and kind of luckily had this to look forward to, so I didn’t really have a problem staying in my room. It wasn’t so bad in the sense of I knew I was getting out.”
Harrington said he putted on his carpet in the hotel room — “That didn’t do me any good, did it?” — and was able to swing a club against an impact bag, which he described as his pillow.
“The hard thing after 10 days, you don’t lose hitting the golf ball but a little bit of the feel definitely, a little bit of the trust in it,” he said. “I did struggle with the putter not on the short putts but on the longer putts.”
Although he was allowed to leave quarantine Thursday, Harrington said he is not permitted to return to Ireland without a negative PCR test. And that could prove difficult, as several PGA Tour players have learned. Those who have contracted the virus often continue to test positive for weeks, even though the viral load that is detected is no longer considered contagious. A player who tests positive with symptoms is not required to take another COVID-19 test for three months.
“I don’t have any option but to keep going,” Harrington said. “Even [if] I wanted to stop [playing], I have nowhere to go and kind of limbo at the moment with that. Hopefully I’ll get a negative test the next few weeks, but it could be a couple of months before I get a negative test, which would allow me to travel back to Ireland.”
Harrington tied for sixth three weeks ago at the European Tour event in Dubai. He then came to the United States, where he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Before he ever could get to the course at Pebble Beach, he had tested positive.
Now he plans to play next week’s event in Puerto Rico as well as other tournaments for which he is eligible in the coming weeks.