Joburg Open golf stars abandon European Tour event amid COVID travel concerns

By Sports Desk November 26, 2021

Sixteen golfers from the United Kingdom and Ireland withdrew from the Joburg Open on Friday as strict new rules affecting travellers from South Africa came into effect.

The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa has led the UK government to implement a sudden change to its rules for arrivals, taking effect from midday on Friday.

It has declared that British nationals arriving before Sunday morning after a stay in South Africa – as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – must self-isolate at home for 10 days and take two PCR tests in that time.

All such travellers arriving in England from 04:00 GMT on Sunday will be required to go into a hotel quarantine facility for 10 days.

Flights to the UK from the newly red-listed countries were being suspended.

It was no coincidence that the European Tour event in Johannesburg saw a rash of withdrawals, with players looking to get home.

Those who pulled out were England's Steven Brown, Oliver Fisher, Matt Ford, David Howell, Matthew Jordan, Richard McEvoy, Graeme Storm and Andrew Wilson, Scotland's Craig Howie, Liam Johnston and Richie Ramsay, Wales' Oliver Farr, Northern Ireland's Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin and Ireland's Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney.

Johnston posted on Twitter a version of a poster for the Meryl Streep film Out Of Africa, with his face superimposed in place of Robert Redford's. Sharvin replied: "Too good."

UK health secretary Sajid Javid said of the new measures: "We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely."

Related items

  • McIlroy planning to adopt Woods' approach as he eyes 2022 success McIlroy planning to adopt Woods' approach as he eyes 2022 success

    Rory McIlroy wants to follow Tiger Woods' lead as he strives to return to the peak of his powers this season.

    It is seven years since McIlroy won the last of his four major titles and he was reduced to tears when frankly stating he "should have done more" to try and prevent Europe from slumping to a record defeat to the United States in the Ryder Cup last September.

    McIlroy went on to end 2021 with a flourish, winning the CJ Cup and finishing in a share of sixth in the DP World Tour Championship after holding the lead heading into the final round.

    The 32-year-old, who will start his season at the Abu Dhabi Championship this weekend, has outlined his intention to adopt an approach that worked so well for the legendary Woods over the years.

    "There are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game," said the Northern Irishman.

    McIlroy is not looking to try match Bryson DeChambeau in the driving department, though.

    He added: "No, I don't need to. The goal of hitting more fairways, it maybe means throttling back and hitting three-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway.

    "I'll certainly pick and choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it, the best player of the last 30 years, Tiger, he picked and chose where he hit driver and he played a very, very controlled game. It didn't work out too badly for him."

    McIlroy revealed he is taking a different approach when setting his goals for the year.

    "I used to sit down on the flight here and write down I want to win five times, I want to win a major, I want to win The Race to Dubai, I want to win the FedExCup, I'd love to win six times in a season as I've won five in the past, I want to do this or that," he said.

    "And all those things are great goals and they are things to try to work towards. But I think the biggest thing for guys at the level that we're at is I want to hit over 60 per cent of my fairways.

    "I want my proximity [to the hole] inside 150 yards to be a certain number. I want my strokes-gained putting to be a certain number. I can't control if I win five or six times a year.

    "There's so many other variables in there. I'd rather set goals that are objective and measurable that I'm in control of.

    "I can certainly control if I hit 60 per cent of the fairways and I'd love to get my iron play back to where it was a few years ago. I can control if my stats are better than they were the year before."

  • Messi not included in Argentina squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers Messi not included in Argentina squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

    Lionel Messi has not been included in Lionel Scaloni's latest Argentina squad as he continues to recover from coronavirus.

    The Paris Saint-Germain forward has not played a match in almost a month, with the 1-1 Ligue 1 draw at Lorient on December 22 being his most recent outing.

    He contracted COVID-19 while back home in Argentina during the mid-season break, forcing him to return to France later than initially planned.

    Messi seemed all set to return to action against Lyon on January 9, but PSG said he needed to continue his recovery and then he also missed the 2-0 win over Brest on Saturday.

    While he said last week that "I have almost recovered", Messi did reveal on social media that getting over the illness took "longer than I thought".

    Given his situation, Argentina have seemingly deemed it pointless risking Messi or further disrupting his recovery given they have already secured qualification for this year's World Cup.

    Argentina travel to Chile on Thursday before hosting Colombia five days later, with both opponents still desperately fighting for the right to play at Qatar 2022.

    La Albiceleste's other remaining qualifiers are against Venezuela and surprise-package Ecuador in March.

  • Arteta insists Arsenal 'did the right thing' by requesting Tottenham postponement Arteta insists Arsenal 'did the right thing' by requesting Tottenham postponement

    Mikel Arteta hit back at Arsenal's critics following the postponement of Sunday's north London derby as he insisted "we did the right thing."

    The Gunners were due to make the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a showdown with their fierce rivals, but the game was called off due to a lack of players available to Arteta.

    Arsenal were accused of exploiting the Premier League's rules, with the majority of players absent due to injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

    The club only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of lodging an application to get the derby called off, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players – 13 outfielders and a goalkeeper – despite their Under-23s having a squad of 16 for a game on Friday.

    Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte felt the decision to postpone the match was "very, very strange."

    Arsenal manager Arteta hit back on the eve of Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool, which he expects to go ahead despite "issues that have not been resolved" in his squad.

    Asked what he thought about people saying Arsenal could have played the game, the Spaniard said: "We played against Forest [in the FA Cup] when we had 10 players out and we went to Liverpool and we had many players out.

    "We have done that and we have played with academy players when we already have the youngest squad in the league.

    "Tomorrow if we have everybody available as I suspect we will play the match because we want to play football."

    He added: "I think more than hate [being directed towards Arsenal] there is a lot of respect for Arsenal and that comes from the history of the club, how it's always acted and how it has always conducted itself.

    "We know we did the right thing. We worked with the Premier League and the FA to make that decision. If anything we've been very honest at least."

    Arteta stressed that it was "100 per cent guaranteed" that Arsenal did not have enough players to face Spurs.

    Asked if the criticism of the club could be used as a fuel to drive his team, Arteta said: "We will defend our club tooth and nail. We're not going to get anybody damaging our name or trying to spread lies."

    Arteta revealed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back in London and has undergone tests after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations for medical reasons without playing a game.

    The Gabon striker had tested positive for COVID-19 on January 6 and was subsequently diagnosed with "heart lesions".

    Arteta said: "He's in London and going through some examinations because we haven't had any clarity from Gabon about why he came back.

    "So it's our obligation to make sure he's safe and in good condition. So far historically with what we've done with the player that's never been an issue."

    Aubameyang has not featured for Arsenal since December 6, having been stripped of the captaincy due to a breach of club rules.

    Arsenal and Liverpool played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup tie at Anfield, with Granit Xhaka seeing red in the first half.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.