07/09/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/09/2020 15:56
DUBLIN, Ohio - If this were a normal year, which is certainly isn't, Dylan Frittelli would have been defending his title at the John Deere Classic this week.
Instead, the 30-year-old South African found himself making headlines at another PGA TOUR golf tournament in a totally different city when he teed off with Nick Watney and Denny McCarthy on Thursday in the first round of the Workday Charity Open.
Frittelli, Watney and McCarthy had tested positive for the coronavirus, the highly infectious respiratory disease that forced the TOUR to shut down in March and the John Deere Classic to be canceled last month. All three had quarantined for 10 days and had no symptoms but continued to test positive.
On Wednesday the TOUR updated its protocols to so that a player or caddie who tested positive with symptoms and continues to test positive can return to competition as long as 72 hours have passed since recovery - which is defined as resolution of fever without the use of medication and improved respiratory symptoms. In addition, 10 days must have passed since those symptoms appeared. (Click here for full details)
The clarification of the TOUR policy is in concert with the 'Return to Work' guidelines of the CDC and was done in consultation with the TOUR's medical adviser, Dr. Tom Hospel and other infectious disease experts.
So Frittelli, Watney and McCarthy played together in the final group of the morning wave on Thursday at Muirfield Village. Frittelli and McCarthy each shot 73 while Watney, who was 2 under when he made the turn, finished with a 77.
Frittelli described himself as 'super happy' to be playing golf again. He originally tested positive in Hartford, Connecticut, during the Travelers Championship. He quarantined there for six days and spent next four in isolation at his agent's house in New York.
'It's been pretty boring the last five or six days just sitting around doing nothing,' Frittelli said. 'It was fun to get out there. Obviously, a few hoops to jump through yesterday. It was a little tricky situation that went on.
'But that's fine; life is full of surprises, so we'll move on from there and hopefully get everything cemented in the coming weeks.'
Frittelli, who said he felt 'totally better' after the fourth day of quarantine, tested positive twice this week - taking a saliva test on Monday and another with a nasal swab on Tuesday. He wasn't surprised. He said his doctor had told him that he might continue to return positive tests for up to a month.
'I've got a friend in Japan who chatted to me, he said, dude, I've been testing for 28 days, I still haven't got a negative,' Frittelli said. 'I knew that was a possibility.'
He didn't know about the 10-day cycle of the virus, and the 'Return to Work' guidelines that covered repeated positive tests without symptoms, though.
'I still thought it had to come along with a negative test according to the TOUR, but obviously the TOUR is trying to monitor things as they move, and scientists and biologists are still figuring stuff out today, so this stuff is going to change all the time, and I'm glad the TOUR have kept their finger on the pulse,' Frittelli said.
Frittelli said his symptoms were minor. On the Sunday night after he was originally tested in Hartford, he had some nasal congestion and some minor muscle aches for an hour or so. He also had two headaches in three days that lasted for 20 or 30 minutes each.
'I did feel a little lethargic and slow, but that's normally the case when I don't work out or I don't get outside or I'm not busy,' he said.
Like Watney, Frittelli did lose his sense of smell about five days into his bout with COVID-19.
'I was just eating regular plain meals and then all of a sudden I took some Vicks VapoRub and smelled it and I got a little burn in the nasal cavity, but I didn't smell the menthol and I was like, that's weird,' he said. 'I was like, OK, this is the final piece of the puzzle that confirms that I had it.
'But that subsequently has come back. Yesterday I finally started tasting food and smell seems to be back right now.'
Frittelli, Watney and McCarthy are not allowed inside the Muirfield Village clubhouse and gym and the physical therapy trailers. But they do have a room underneath the old pro shop where the three of them can eat and 'chill out together,' Frittelli said. The only negative is that he can't work with his physiotherapist, who works with other TOUR pros.
'I just drove straight in this morning actually,' Frittelli said. 'I stretched at home. I ate breakfast in my hotel room and then straight to the parking lot and felt like Walter Hagen, just walked straight on to the driving range.'
While Frittelli admitted the isolation made him feel a bit like an outcast, he understands the reasons. He said he hasn't had much contact with other players but that many of the ones he's talked to were 'intrigued' by what he had experienced.
'They were all asking me questions, hey, what's going on, how did it happen, and I just explained,' Frittelli said. 'I told them the truth, I told them what happened, and I tried to give them my best biology lesson that I could.'
While he'll have to wait another year for his John Deere Classic title defense, Frittelli has decided he is the 'defending tournament week champion' at Muirfield Village.
'I'm defending this time frame, I guess,' he said. 'But no, I'm not getting any similar vibes to Silvis, Illinois, to be honest, but hopefully I can play well tomorrow and see some more golf hopefully.'