Jon Rahm tests positive for COVID-19, withdraws from Memorial Tournament with six-shot lead
Just off the back of the green at the 18th hole, Jon Rahm bent over sobbing. After finishing a nine-birdie day to take a six-shot at the Memorial Tournament Saturday, the 26-year-old Spaniard was told by a PGA Tour medical advisor that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would have to withdraw.
According to a release from the PGA Tour, Rahm was subject to contact-tracing protocols beginning Monday due to coming in close contact with a person who was COVID-19 positive. Rahm was given the option to remain in the tournament and had to take daily testing. Rahm tested negative every day until Saturday, when a test he took after his storm-delayed second round concluded came back positive at 4:20 p.m.
Final round play: Live coverage of the 2021 Memorial Tournament
A second test on the sample came back positive at 6:05 p.m., just after Rahm hit his approach shot to the 18th green. Minutes later, the defending Memorial champion was told he would need to withdraw from the tournament he won in July.
Rahm finished his round and immediately was approached by the medical official. Rahm doubled over and said, “Not again.” It is not known what Rahm was referring to.
"It's a very unfortunate situation, obviously," said Andy Levinson, senior vice president of tournament administration at the PGA Tour. "The protocol that we have had in place for the last 50 events is being followed to the letter and unfortunately we are in a situation where we are this evening."
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In accordance with CDC guidelines, Rahm will need to remain in isolation through June 15. This puts his participation in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego which starts June 17 in jeopardy. Rahm won the first of his five PGA Tour titles in the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
“I’m very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament,” Rahm posted on Twitter. “This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people. I’m very thankful that my family and I are all OK. I will take all of the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible.”
He did not offer whether he has been vaccinated.
Levinson explained that under tour protocols that align with CDC guidelines, anyone who is fully vaccinated would not have have been subject to contact tracing unless showing symptoms. Levinson said “north of 50 percent” of the PGA Tour players have been fully vaccinated.
Rahm had taken control of the tournament. Ignited by an early morning ace and sparked by a late afternoon birdie blitz, he put himself in position to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win consecutive Memorial titles.
The world No. 3 made a hole-in-one on the 16th hole at 8:45 a.m. Saturday as he completed his storm-delayed second round — 8-iron from 183 yards — and then shot a 6-under 30 on the back nine during the third round to run away from the field and set up a potential rout on Sunday.
Rahm opened with a 3-under-par 69 on Thursday and then took a 2-shot lead with a 65 in the second round. Then he got really hot on a simmering day at Muirfield Village. Rahm manhandled Jack Nicklaus’ renovated gem with a 64 to move out to a 6-shot lead.
Then he was told he tested positive.
Rahm tied the 54-hole record of 18 under and was six shots clear of 2019 Memorial champion Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa, who won the 2020 Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village.
“That’s obviously really disappointing,” Cantlay said when told of the news of Rahm’s situation. Cantlay played the third round with Rahm and Scottie Scheffler. “It’s kind of the worst situation for something like that to happen and he played awesome today and it’s just, it’s really, it’s a shame. It’s unfortunate. I’ve already had COVID, so, yeah, I got to imagine I have antibodies, so I don’t feel too concerned, but obviously it is somewhat of a concern, but I got to imagine that I had it earlier this year, so I’m feeling pretty OK about it.”
Scheffler said he was in scoring when Rahm told him the news.
“Jon looked very frustrated, which I thought was weird, so I kind of smiled at him thinking, I was, like, why, what happened? I was already inside. I didn’t see any activity on the green, so I kind of smiled at him just to see and, I mean, he just goes, ‘Good luck tomorrow, and, I’m, like, ‘Thanks, man. You play good. too.’ I was just really confused,” Scheffler said. “He’s, like, ‘No, man, I just tested positive. My heart just sank. It’s terrible that that happened.”
As it stood Saturday night, Morikawa and Cantlay shared the lead at 12 under. Branden Grace and Scheffler were joint third at 9 under.
The tour is conducting a contract tracing investigation. Rahm played with Morikawa and Xander Schauffele in the morning and Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler in the afternoon. Late on Saturday night, however, the PGA Tour said none of Rahm’s playing partners will be required to go through contact tracing protocols.