Jon Rahm walked off the 18th green at the Memorial 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 winners.
Moments later, he doubled over behind the green and said in anguish, “Not again!”
Rahm was notified he tested positive for the coronavirus, knocking him out of the tournament.
The exact moment was broadcast live with veteran golf commentator Jim Nantz quickly realising the joy of Rahm’s record feat was immediately soured.
Rahm dropped to the ground, put his head in his hands and appeared to start crying, before being ushered off the green by officials.
Rahm’s caddy also pushed away a camera as a crew followed.
“What’s going on here? Somebody just gave Jon some news,” Nantz said on the broadcast.
“This is not good. He was just passed along some information and it was instant devastation.”
A command performance, that included a hole-in-one Saturday morning to complete his second round and an 8-under 64 to tie two tournament records, went to waste.
The PGA Tour said the Spaniard had come in close contact with a person who was COVID-19 positive, meaning he could play provided he was tested daily. Every test came back negative except the one after his second round, which was completed Saturday morning.
The positive test was confirmed, the results returned as he was playing the 18th hole, knowing nothing except no one was close to him on the leaderboard.
The tour said Rahm remained asymptomatic.
By tour policy, he was withdrawn from the Memorial. That left Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa tied for the lead at 12-under 204.
“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 a shame,” Cantlay said.
“I’ve already had COVID, so, yeah, I’ve got to imagine I have antibodies, so I don’t feel too concerned.”
“I don’t feel very concerned,” Rahm’s other playing partner Scottie Scheffler said.
“I had COVID. I’m not going to say whether or not I got vaccinated.”
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 Rahm looked frustrated.
“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 happened.”
The PGA Tour said they conducted two tests to confirm Rahm’s diagnosis before advising him after his third round.
The Spaniard’s withdrawal sent shockwaves through the golf world, with the PGA Tour’s “nightmare scenario” playing out.
It was a shocking turn of events given the timing. Rahm was close to perfect on the back nine, running off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch to turn a one-shot lead into a six-shot cushion, tying the Memorial record for largest 54-hole lead set by Woods in 2000.
His 18-under 198 tied the record set by Scott Hoch in 1987.
Now it’s erased, and the No. 3 player in the world is required to go into self-isolation for 10 days. That ends on June 15, the Tuesday of the US Open at Torrey Pines, where Rahm captured his first PGA Tour victory four years ago.
The second round did not finish until Saturday morning because of rain delays earlier in the week. Rahm returned to make a hole-in-one on the 16th hole to take the lead, and he finished off a 65 to build a two-shot lead.
The tour said his test came back positive at 4:20pm, about the time Rahm began to pull away. The tour’s medical advisor asked for a confirmation test on the original sample, and that was returned shortly after 6pm.
Two officials were waiting for him as he walked off the green.
Rahm was the fourth player to test positive during a tournament since the tour returned to competition one year ago in Texas.
He was the first positive asymptomatic case as part of the tour’s contact-tracing protocols.
It was not clear with whom Rahm had contact that led to the tracing. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his wife in April gave birth to their first child. Rahm has not played since the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
While playing in the pro-am on Wednesday, Rahm was walking toward the 16th tee when a spectator asked for an autograph. “I’m sorry, I can’t,” he said. “I’m in contact tracing.”
He did not mention it the rest of the week while building his six-shot lead.
With a victory, Rahm could have moved closer to recapturing No. 1 in the world, along with earning over $2.15 million.
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