Collin Morikawa shot a seven-under 65 Thursday for a one-shot lead at the Workday Charity Open, which became the first PGA tournament to pack its COVID-19 positive players into the same grouping.
South Africa's Dylan Frittelli and Americans Denny McCarthy and Nick Watney were each playing for the first time since testing positive and were grouped together out of an "abundance of caution," said tournament officials.
Frittelli and McCarthy both shot one-over 73, while Watney is tied for 147th after struggling to a five-over 77 in the opening round at the Muirfield Village Golf Club course in Dublin, Ohio.
"It definitely felt weird," said Frittelli.
The three stay in their own bubble. They have limited access to the clubhouse or training facilities at the Ohio-based tournament.
"We have our own little pocket down underneath the old pro shop. The three of us can go in there and have a meal and just chill together," said Frittelli.
PGA is allowing a return to competition for players and caddies who continue to test positive for coronavirus if at least 10 days have passed since the symptoms first appeared and 72 hours have passed since fever has disappeared.
"What we've learned along the way is that in some instances, individuals can continue to test positive for weeks if not months beyond when their illness started, and the thought is that those individuals are no longer contagious," tour doctor Tom Hospel said.
Watney had to pull out of a tournament last month following the first round after learning he had tested positive for COVID-19.
- 'Back to the basics' -
American Morikawa has a one-stroke lead over red-hot Canadian Adam Hadwin, who shot a 66 on Thursday.
Another Canadian, Nick Taylor, leads a pack of four players at five-under 67 that also includes Hideki Matsuyama, Zach Johnson and Aaron Wise.
The 23-year-old Morikawa is one of the youngest players to hold the round lead at the facility. He had an eagle and four birdies during an eight-hole stretch.
Morikawa is coming off his first missed cut since turning pro last summer when he failed to get into weekend play at last month's Travelers Championship.
He tied for ninth at the last event before the Tour shutdown because of the global pandemic.
"I just had to look back at my stats, see what I wasn't doing well and what I did differently when I was playing well, whether it was at Colonial or before the quarantine," Morikawa said. "I just wasn't hitting my irons as well. I wasn't giving myself a chance to make birdie and if I did I wasn't converting.
"So I just had to work on some iron shots and work on my swing and go back to the basics."
Hadwin, who grew up in Vancouver, shot 16-under and tied for fourth at last week's Rocket Mortgage Classic.
"It has been building for a while," said the 32-year old. "I had a good week last week and I just took that momentum into this round."
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