By Steve Keating
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy wants the PGA Tour to shut down if any player or caddie tests positive for the coronavirus, he said on Thursday at the Players Championship.
Speaking in the wake of news that the tour would play without fans for the rest of the Players Championship, and for the next three weeks, the defending champion urged all players and their entourages to get tested for the virus.
Left unaddressed was whether that would even be feasible, but he said he planned to be tested upon returning to his south Florida home next week.
"My mother's got respiratory issues and I certainly don't want to get something and pass it on to her and all of a sudden there's some sort of complication," the Northern Irishman told reporters after rallying late for an even-par 72 at TPC Sawgrass.
"It's in its infancy here in the United States, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.
"It's scary time, and I think that the PGA Tour have made a step in the right direction and I think we just have to play it by ear and take it day by day."
As for the tournament, McIlroy was in danger of playing his way out of contention after a double bogey at the par-four 15th where he hooked his drive into trouble.
But a back-up on the 16th tee was just what the doctor ordered, giving McIlroy time to regroup mentally.
He was a different man over the final three holes, hitting precise approach shots to inside 10 feet and converting the birdie putts to end the day nine strokes behind Japanese leader Hideki Matsuyama.
"It's definitely something to build on going into tomorrow morning," he said.
"It's a big difference between being three over par and even par and hopefully we can get the benign conditions that the guys got this morning and better greens."
But on this day McIlroy had more on his mind than hitting a little white ball with a crooked stick.
"Today's overreaction could look like tomorrow's underreaction," he said of the tour's decision to ban fans.
(Reporting by Steve Keating; writing by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Richard Pullin)