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Coronavirus fears force Lee Westwood out of the USPGA Championship next week

Lee Westwood has ruled out playing in the season’s first major in San Francisco next week — despite the Americans relaxing the 14-day coronavirus quarantine rule for sports stars.

The 47-year-old has only missed two of the last 23 editions of the USPGA Championship but cited the lax American response to the pandemic and his own discomfort playing under Covid-19 regulations for his decision.

The Englishman was the tournament host at the Betfred British Masters and presented the trophy to Renato Paratore at Close House.

The 23-year-old overcame the blustery conditions to complete his Roman conquest.

The Italian’s joy, though, was in stark contrast to Westwood’s own experience last week. He was full of praise for the European Tour’s strict adherence to pandemic protocols but confided he found it hard to adjust.

‘I’ve been playing 28 years on tour and I have to admit this has been a shock to the system,’ said Westwood, after closing with a woeful 79, featuring a quintuple bogey on a par 3. 

‘It’s just not the life I am used to. I go out on the golf course and I am struggling for motivation a little bit.’

Players eligible for the USPGA received an email on Friday evening saying that quarantine in the US had been dropped for competitors, caddies and ‘essential personnel’. But Westwood remained unmoved.

‘I still don’t feel comfortable, and I don’t feel like it is right to jump on a plane for 12 hours,’ he said.

‘I have felt out of my comfort zone this week so I would feel uncomfortable playing tournaments in America at the moment.

‘I’m also concerned that America doesn’t take it as seriously as the rest of the world.’

Westwood’s stirring form before the pandemic also earned him a place at the WGC event in Memphis starting on Thursday but, after a week off, he will play instead at Hanbury Manor in the English Championship — where he won the English Open in 1998. 

It’s certainly a move that shows there’s more to life than money. The two events in America offer combined prize funds of £20 million, with guaranteed money at the no-cut WGC.

The English Championship has total prize money of £900,000. As for Paratore, given the strong wind protecting the course, there was never much chance of him becoming the first European for 25 years to win an event while bogey-free for 72 holes. 

Jesper Parnevik was the last player to manage it — at the 1995 Scandinavian Masters.

As it happens, he had two bogeys in three holes from the 9th, but showed plenty of nerve and craft otherwise to claim his second tour title after a final round 69 for a comfortable three-shot triumph.

Exciting Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, just 19, finished second with a trio of Englishmen sharing fourth spot — Andy Sullivan, Robert Rock and Dale Whitnell, the 31-year-old from Essex whose days as a courier driver to make ends meet are now surely behind him after a gutsy performance.

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