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Americans traveling across the Atlantic to play in this week’s Scottish Open are adjusting to the stricter COVID-19 regulations.
Though the PGA Tour has begun to relax some of its protocols and testing requirements, especially for fully vaccinated players, the European Tour bubble remains firmly intact. The Scottish Open and next week’s Open Championship have more stringent rules regarding players’ whereabouts and interactions, and players in recent weeks have criticized the incongruity of allowing competitors to have only a limited inner circle on-site while also letting in 32,000 fans a day.
“I mean, slightly,” Collin Morikawa said Tuesday when asked by reporters whether he was surprised to see so many fans allowed to attend next week’s Open at Royal St. George's – by far the most of the COVID-19 era. “Obviously, I wish we had a little more freedom, and we could go out and explore. It’s my first time out here, so it’s a big thing for me to go eat, travel, sightsee. It’s all part of the week you put in, but I’ll enjoy the four walls of my room.”
Making his debut on European soil, Morikawa said he has felt “very safe” inside the bubble on both tours, allowing him to focus strictly on his game while at tournaments. This locked-down fortnight is reminiscent of the early stages of the PGA Tour's health and safety plan when players were mostly in their hotel room or at the course.
“It’s tough because when we are stuck inside a bubble, you can just lose your mind sometimes,” Morikawa said. “You have so much time away from the golf course that sometimes you’re just sitting in the room trying to figure out what to do, and that’s kind of the hardest part, especially when you see 32,000 people out there when you have to strictly eat your food and go back to your room. ...
“From where we are in the U.S., things are getting back to pretty normal these days. So when you make a trip out here and you have to stay in a bubble, it’s an adjustment. It’s an adjustment everyone has to make, especially all the U.S. guys. It’s something we haven’t been used to over the past few months.”
Four of the top five players in the world are teeing it up this week at the Scottish Open, including Xander Schauffele, who is rooming with his caddie. They’re surviving Bubble Life in their own unique ways.
“It’s different,” Schauffele said. “It’s definitely a tight-knit bubble. But for the most part, I brought a few extra books for myself to read, so I’ve been taking the downtime as a positive.”