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COVID-19 protocols and travel issues shrink Bermuda Championship field

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – When the first round of the Bermuda Championship gets underway Thursday at Port Royal Golf Course it will be with a smaller-than-planned tee sheet.

Because of a combination of travel issues, COVID-19 protocols and a long-term weather forecast that was less-than-inviting Thursday’s opening round will feature no more than 126 players, six less than the expected 132-player mark.

Officials began to notice an issue on Monday when a host of players began withdrawing and the alternate list began drying up. By Tuesday, the 132-player threshold, which was set last year when the event became a stand-alone tournament with the cancellation of the WGC-HSBC Champions, was in jeopardy when Jonathan Kaye withdrew. Later that afternoon, Will Mackenzie and Cody Gribble joined the list of withdrawals and when Michael Gligic informed officials early Wednesday that he wouldn’t be playing, the field had dropped to 126.

Full-field tee times from the Butterfield Bermuda Championship

For some, the primary issue appeared to be the Bermuda-mandated COVID-19 protocols. Anyone traveling to Bermuda had to provide a negative COVID-19 test within four days of arriving and they also had to be fully vaccinated.

The Tour hasn’t announced how many of its players are fully vaccinated, but Charlie Beljan tweeted that he withdrew from the event because he “didn’t take the jab.” That tweet was later deleted.

There are also travel issues at play with most commercial airlines limited to just a single flight to Bermuda per day. That schedule became problematic for defending champion Brian Gay when he wasn’t allowed to board his flight on Monday because the plane was “too heavy.”

Gay, along with at least one other Tour player, was forced to take the Tuesday flight and because of the COVID-19 testing protocols, he wasn’t allowed to go to Port Royal until Wednesday, when strong winds forced the cancellation of the pro-am and a course closure that left Gay, and others, without any practice rounds.

“I’ll try to get in that mode a little bit this afternoon with a little bit of practice, try to get my head on straight about what I want to do when I come out tomorrow morning and start the tournament,” Gay said. “It’s a little different in that sense since I haven’t really had any preparations for this event, which is kind of different for everybody.”

Officials estimate the last time a Tour event was played without a full field was the 2019 Barracuda Championship.