DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – Jon Rahm came off the 18th green after tying the 54-hole record and building a six-shot lead, leaving him on the cusp of joining Tiger Woods as the only repeat Memorial winners.
Moments later, he bent behind the green and said in anguish, “Not again!”
Rahm was notified that he tested positive for the coronavirus, knocking him out of the tournament.
A commanding performance, which included a hole-in-one Saturday morning to complete his second round followed by an 8-under-64 to tie two tournament records, was wasted.
The PGA Tour said the Spaniard had been in close contact with a person who was COVID-19 positive, meaning Rahm could play as long as he was tested on a daily basis. All tests since he arrived on Monday came back negative, except for the one after his second round, which was completed on Saturday morning.
The positive test was confirmed when Rahm was playing the 18th hole, knowing nothing except that no one was close to him in qualifying.
“This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where the way we respond to a setback defines us as people,” Rahm said in a statement posted on Twitter.
His immediate response was to don a mask and head to the scoring room to sign his card, knowing that he would not play the final round.
The tour said Rahm remained asymptomatic. Andy Levinson, the tour’s senior vice president who has overseen its COVID-19 protocols, could not say whether Rahm had been vaccinated, and Rahm did not mention that in his statement.
Players who are fully vaccinated, 14 days after the full vaccination cycle, are not subject to testing as a result of close contact. Levinson said “north of 50%” of the players have been fully vaccinated.
Due to travel policy, Rahm was removed from the Memorial. That left Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa tied for the lead at 204 under par.
“It’s the worst situation for something like that to happen and he played amazing today and it’s really a shame,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler, who both played Rahm in the third round, said they already tested positive for the coronavirus, even though it was more than 90 days ago. They were interviewed Saturday night to determine if they would be subject to contact tracing protocols.
According to the interview, Levinson said none of Rahm’s playmates on Saturday were acquitted.
It was a shocking turn of events given the moment. Rahm came close to perfection in the final nine, making six birdies over an eight-hole stage to turn a one-shot lead into a six-shot band, tying Woods’ commemorative record for the longest 54-hole lead set by Woods in 2000.
His 198 of 18 under par equaled the record set by Scott Hoch in 1987.
Now it can’t go any further and the ramifications go beyond the Memorial.
He does not. 3 players in the world are required to go into self-isolation for 10 days. That ends June 15, Tuesday of the US Open at Torrey Pines, where Rahm scored his first PGA Tour victory four years ago. That would give him time for just one round of practice on the conditioned field at the US Open.
Not even the possibility of a false positive result could save cream. Under CDC-guided tour protocols, players would have to return two negative tests 24 hours apart to end the 10-day isolation. That rules out playing cream on Sunday.
“I feel really bad for Jon Rahm. He has played absolutely brilliant golf this week,” tournament founder Jack Nicklaus said on social media. “On behalf of the Memorial Tournament, our hearts go out to Jon and his family, as well as to all the sponsors who witnessed Jon’s spectacular round, only to be annulled by this horrible pandemic that our world continues to suffer from.”
The second round did not end until Saturday morning due to rain delays earlier in the week. Rahm again hit a hole-in-one at the 16th hole to take the lead, and hit a 65 to build a two-shot lead.
The tour said his test came back positive at 4:20 p.m., around the time Rahm started walking away. The tour medical advisor requested a confirmation test of the original sample, and returned it shortly after 6 p.m.
Two officials were waiting for him as he exited the green, and Rahm’s reaction left thousands of fans around the green wondering what was going on.
Scheffler didn’t see Rahm behind the green and wasn’t sure what was going on when he walked into the scoring room to sign his card. He said that Rahm looked frustrated.
“He just says, ‘Good luck tomorrow,’ and I say, ‘Thanks, man. You play good too.’ I was really confused,” Scheffler said. “He says, ‘No, man, I just tested positive.’ My heart sank. What happened is terrible. I think it’s terrible that they told him in front of the cameras. It just sucks for him. “
Rahm was the fourth player to test positive during a tournament since the tour returned to competition a year ago in Texas.
It was the first positive asymptomatic case as part of the contact tracing protocols for the tour.
It was unclear who Rahm had contact with that led to the tracing. Levinson said only the tour found out about the contact through someone else he had tested through his show.
Rahm lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his wife in April gave birth to their first child. Rahm hasn’t played since the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
While playing pro-am on Wednesday, Rahm was walking to the 16th tee when a spectator asked for his autograph. “Sorry, I can’t,” he said. “I’m on contact tracing.”
He didn’t mention it for the rest of the week as he built his six-shot lead.
With a win, Cream could have come close to regaining No. 1 in the world, as well as earning more than $ 1.67 million.