GOLF NEWS - PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan said Tuesday that Covid-19 testing would continue for the forseeable future but expressed optimism the pandemic crisis was easing with "light at the end of the tunnel".
Speaking ahead of this week's Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Monahan said there would be no let-up in the strict testing program that tour players are required to undergo.
However Monahan believes as Covid-19 vaccines become more widely available to players and fans, the present restrictions will ease.
"I think as players become vaccinated, as our constituents become vaccinated, we're hopeful that everybody will, but we will continue to provide testing for the foreseeable future," Monahan said. "Hopefully, as we get to a high percentage of our players that have been vaccinated, we can start to pull back from the program that we know as of today.
"It's hard to determine when that will be, but clearly we see light at the end of the tunnel. The conversations we're having with players and with everybody in our ecosystem have been very positive.
"I think players are eager to get vaccinated and are certainly studying this."
A year ago, the Players Championship was abandoned after the opening round as the pandemic triggered a complete shutdown of sport in North America.
This week's tournament will be taking place with spectators in the galleries although daily attendance will be capped at around 20% of capacity, approximately 8,000 fans.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, the defending champion after winning the 2019 Players Championship, said Tuesday he was looking forward to finally defending his title after last year's aborted tournament.
"It's nice, like, I get another bite at the cherry," McIlroy said. "Last year was obviously very surreal, difficult.
"At least we know this year the tournament is not going to be canceled, unless something pretty crazy happens again.
"It's just nice to be back. It's been a year since the world changed, and I think everyone here in terms of the players that are playing are just grateful that we're back doing what we want to do, which is playing golf and trying to win tournaments."
McIlroy said the rollout of vaccines in Britain and the United States augured well for the rest of the year.
"Obviously back in the UK the vaccine rollout is going incredibly well, which is great to see, and that bodes well for hopefully sporting events and golf tournaments being staged there in the summer," he said.
"But it's surreal. I was saying to someone yesterday - it's felt like an incredibly slow 12 months, but at the same time it's gone really fast.
"I can't believe we're back here already. But happy that we are back and happy that we get to play."
Spain's world number two Jon Rahm meanwhile expressed hope that spectators allowed on course this weekend would be carefully managed.
"They're part of the sport and they're part of the atmosphere, and I'm glad they're out there this week," Rahm said. "But at the same time I want everybody to be safe... I hope that not all (of the fans) get on one hole, in one group."