The European Tour has disqualified a player from this week’s English Championship before a ball is struck, after he breached Covid-19 protocols by visiting a restaurant near Hanbury Manor on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old American John Catlin and his caddie went for dinner outside the designated tournament bubble and were duly reported for the breach.
The Tour has formed a biosecure ring around its UK-based restart, which is now in its third week. Competitors and others involved in the tournament cannot go anywhere other than their hotel and the golf course. Having been tested and checked into one of three allocated hotels for the €1m (£897,000) championship, Catlin took what has proved an expensive meal break.
“I apologise to my fellow players and everyone involved with the tournament this week for this error of judgment,” said Catlin, the world No 242. “I understand the European Tour’s decision and accept the sanction.”
The Tour confirmed: “The European Tour has withdrawn American John Catlin and his caddie Nathan Mulrooney from this week’s English Championship at Hanbury Manor following a breach of its Covid-19 protocol.
“The duo visited a local restaurant on the evening of Tuesday August 4 outside the tournament bubble, hence compromising the Tour’s health guidelines, and were withdrawn from the tournament with immediate effect as a result.”
Catlin’s behaviour is bizarre given he featured in all four rounds of last week’s Hero Open at Forest of Arden and would be familiar with the Tour’s restart practices. His misdemeanour means a place in the Hanbury Manor field for the South African Wilco Nienaber.
The Tour’s resumption has been largely trouble free. Andrew Johnston withdrew from the first event back, the British Masters, after just nine holes when citing discomfort with the environment. Eddie Pepperell did likewise just one round into the Hero Open, later stating he “struggled mentally”. Pepperell added: “I felt I could be having a negative impact on my playing partners.”