Excitement is in the air this weekend in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The weather is finally warm, Saturday marks the first day of summer and the PGA Tour is in town after a three-month break.


But the world is still in the midst of a pandemic.


After finishing his third round at the RBC Heritage, Justin Thomas said he doesn’t see residents and visitors on Hilton Head Island adhering to social distancing guidelines.


“I mean, no offense to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously. It’s an absolute zoo around here,” Thomas said. “There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded. So I would say it’s still coincidence that there’s got to be a lot of stuff going on around here.


“Unfortunately, that’s not on Nick because I know he’s very cautious and has done everything he can, but I would say a lot of people in this area of Hilton Head just aren’t.”




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Since the Tour season restarted last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, Nick Watney became the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the virus. Watney tested negative earlier in the week along with all other players, caddies and Tour personnel, but felt symptoms Friday ahead of the second round and took another COVID-19 test. This one came back positive.










Players like Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka said they saw Watney Friday before it was confirmed he had the virus. Thomas publicly responded to Watney’s positive test Saturday.


“Yeah, obviously, I was bummed. … It’s a shame because we have done such a great job these first two weeks,” Thomas said.










Beaufort County, the county in which Hilton Head Island is located, has 760 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 resulting deaths as of Saturday afternoon, according to USA Today. The county’s numbers have risen significantly over the past week. The state of South Carolina has 23,756 confirmed cases and 643 deaths as of Saturday.


Since June 5, more than 10,000 new cases have been reported statewide.


Watney’s positive COVID-19 test reminded Carlos Ortiz, who finished the third round 8-under 63 and tied for the lead at 14 under when he walked off the course, to stay vigilant.


“I heard about (Watney), and I’m like, ‘Oh, I almost feel like paranoid now, feel my temperature, my throat is itching.’ I think it’s just a warning,” Ortiz said Saturday. “We just need to be more careful. Sometimes I feel like they loosen up the restrictions, and everybody just feels free. Especially here, we’ve been out to dinner a couple of times, and it’s been so packed that we have to leave. So we just have to be careful and keep following what the PGA Tour guidance are.


“It’s just a tough situation, but I just hope we can get through this. Hopefully, nobody else tests positive.”


Ortiz said when he has gone out to dinner on Hilton Head Island, he’s been astounded at the lack of precautions fellow patrons are taking. Most don’t wear masks, there is little to no social distancing and up to 30-minute waits at restaurants.


Regardless of what occurs outside the PGA Tour’s protective bubble and the one positive COVID-19 test inside that bubble, Thomas said he felt comfortable at Harbour Town and playing during the pandemic.


“I feel very safe. I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t. … What I’ve done is I stay in a house with a chef each week with a couple of guys and keep it in that small circle,” Thomas said. “So I feel very, very safe in that regard. Outside you can’t control what other people have done, and I think that’s what happened to Nick. He was very unlucky.”


Thomas finished Saturday 5-under 66 to sit at 9 under, six shots back from third-round leaders at 15 under. Thomas shot rounds of 72 and 66 headed into the weekend at Harbour Town.