Chase Koepka guaranteed spot in 2021 Travelers after withdrawing from this year's event


Chase Koepka walks on the eighth green during the first round of the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Mike Lawrie

In a week marked with emotional highs and lows, Chase Koepka at least received some solace on Thursday. That’s when officials with the Travelers Championship informed him that he was guaranteed a spot in the field in 2021 after withdrawing from the tournament a day earlier.

Koepka, 26, was set to make just his sixth career PGA Tour start this week after outlasting a 60-plus player field in an 18-hole Monday qualifier to earn one of two spots available into the tour stop at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. But on Wednesday, Koepka withdrew from the tournament, as did his older brother Brooks, out of caution after Brooks’ caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive for COVID-19.

Neither Chase Koepka, or his caddie, Dan Gambil, had tested positive and both say they felt fine and were showing no symptoms of the coronavirus. But having been in contact with Elliott, and having played a practice round on Tuesday with Graeme McDowell, whose caddie Ken Comboy tested positive earlier in the week, Koepka decided withdrawing from the tournament was something he had to do, even if it meant giving up a rare tour start.

“Despite being very excited about playing the Travelers Championship, I am electing to withdraw,” Koepka said. “My team and I have all tested negative for COVID-19; however, I was in close contact with someone who tested positive. I feel as if this is the best decision to keep all other players, caddies and volunteers safe. I wish everyone the best of luck this week.”

Officials at the Travelers Championship empathized for Koepka, knowing that looking out for everybody else’s best interest would cost the young pro a valuable opportunity as he tries to forge his own career separate from a older brother who has four major titles to his credit.

The understanding, then, is that if Koepka has not already qualified for the Travelers in 2021, the tournament will give him a sponsor’s exemption.

The Travelers Championship has always been about giving opportunities to young players. We have a long history of providing exemptions to young amateurs as they come out and want to start their professional careers. I look at this as nothing different than that,” said Andy Bessette, CAO and EVP at Travelers. Chase actually played his way into the tournament on Monday, did a terrific job, and then out of an abundance of caution he chose to withdraw. The right thing for us to do is to give him an exemption for next year, if he needs it.