First came the voluntary saliva test at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Then, when Jamie Arnold arrived in Florida for the Korn Ferry Tour’s first tournament back since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the season, he had to pass through four drive-thru check-points before the invasive nasal swab “up the back of your brain” to test again for coronavirus.
“It took 10 or 15 seconds but it felt like an hour.”
As he awaited yet another negative result that would grant him a lanyard indicating his all-clear status, Arnold was permitted to practise at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, but only after subjecting himself to another thermal temperature check.
There were hand sanitising stations on the driving range, on the tee box of almost every hole and food consisted wholly of pre-packaged fare.
It’s a far cry from the Sydney native’s debut season on the secondary US Tour in 2017 but he knows such measures are necessary if the roadshow is to continue into The King and Bear Classic at World Golf Village starting Wednesday and beyond.
“It’s definitely very different but at least we’re out there playing,” said Arnold, who posted the low round of the week – a 7-under 63 in the second round – in the Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass last week.
“We know that we’re only one outbreak away from the season being done or events not being on.
“We know that. The Tour has stressed so much the No.1 thing is practising social distancing not only on the golf course but at home or wherever you’re staying.
“We know that if we’re not careful and we start high-fiving and going to eat out and doing things that we used to do, one person getting it and spreading it can shut us down as quick as we opened back up.
“We’re just trying to do our best and be safe, all the little things we can do so hopefully we can play the rest of the season.”
Tied for 10th at the Australian Open in December, Arnold missed graduating to the PGA TOUR last year in heartbreaking fashion and had made a positive start to his 2020 campaign, making the cut in the first four events and posting a tie for 12th at the Country Club de Bogota Championship.
A dozen balls on the range following his opening round last Thursday gave Arnold the confidence to shoot 63 the following day – “I could have shot in the 50s” – and the belief that an extended wrap-around season that will conclude with the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour finals will work in his favour.
“The longer season creates more opportunities for me to win and to play well more consistently,” said the 36-year-old Cronulla Golf Club product.
“It’s possible that by the end of the season we could end up with 49 events so I’m looking at it as a plus.
“If the season is longer consistent players who play 40-odd events and play well should be able to finish inside the top 25.
“The downside is that we’re not going to graduate up onto the PGA TOUR this year but I thought this was a better option than having only 12 events.
“It makes it more of a marathon than a sprint.”
Thankful to be back out playing and planning on teeing it up in five of the first six events of the season resumption, Arnold revelled in an extended stay at home.
Creative matches at his home club of Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta and visits to TPC Sugarloaf to play in mini tournaments organised by former Open champion Stewart Cink were mixed in with practice, walks with the dogs and home-schooling his young son Luke.
“It made me realise that having the life that we live, you do miss a lot of stuff at home,” said Arnold, Luke learning to ride a bike a highlight of his COVID-19 isolation.
“There are a lot of people who see the glamour of travel and the money that people can make but there’s something really nice about waking up in your own bed, being with your family and being able to spend all those moments together.
“I slept the best I’ve ever slept during this break. There’s always so much pressure in golf. You’re always thinking about what you can do better. I feel like your brain’s always on and when I was home and knew we weren’t going to be playing for a while I slept so good.
“I woke up every day feeling so refreshed. I feel like I’ve never really had that before, where I’ve had nothing to worry about.
“Hanging out together as a family was really cool. I enjoyed it.”