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DUBLIN, OHIO – Jon Rahm, a popular PGA Tour player and third-placed male golfer, had a six-shot lead on Saturday in the third round of the Memorial Tournament, a tournament he won a year ago. Rahm, 26, walked from the 18th hole, where a crowd around the green showered him with warm applause, shook hands with his playing partners and smiled.
Seconds later he was curled up and crying his left hand clasps his face. A tour doctor had met Rahm on the edge of the green and told him that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, a result reported to the tour as cream on the difficult course at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Rahm would be forced to withdraw from the tournament and miss the finals on Sunday.
Rahm hid his face in his hands for a few moments, then straightened before swaying as he began to climb a steep hill, wiping his eyes as he walked to the adjoining clubhouse.
“Not again,” he said, although it was unclear what his answer meant. It was also not known whether Rahm was fully vaccinated, although over the past year he has spoken at length about his concerns for the health of his family in his native Spain and the havoc the virus has wreaked in communities near his hometown would have. Rahm currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife, Kelley, whom he met while studying at Arizona State, and their two-month-old son, Kepa Cahill.
Late Saturday evening, cream posted a statement on Twitter, said that he was “very disappointed to have to withdraw from the memorial tournament. This is one of those things that happen in life, one of those moments when our reaction to setback defines us as human beings. I am very grateful that my family and I are fine. I will take all necessary precautions to be safe and healthy and I look forward to getting back to the golf course as soon as possible. “
Jack Nicklaus, host of the memorial tournament and designer of the golf course, wrote on his Twitter feed shortly after the third round: “Our hearts go out to Jon and his family, as well as to all the patrons who have witnessed a spectacular round, Jon – just about to be negated by this terrible pandemic that our world continues to endure. “
Nicklaus, who is 81 years old and who contracted Covid-19 with his wife Barbara in 2020, added: “I wish Jon a speedy recovery and hope that he can return to the competition soon.”
According to the PGA Tour, Rahm was told on Monday that he was being subject to contact tracing because he came into close contact with an unidentified person who had tested positive for the virus. Tour protocols allowed Rahm to stay in the tournament if he agreed to get tested every day and avoid using halls at the event.
Cream’s test results were negative for four days, but his last test, done on Saturday morning, came back positive at 4:20 pm. A second test of the original sample of cream, which is asymptomatic, gave a positive result at 6:00 p.m., just before he finished his third round.
“This is obviously a very unfortunate situation,” said Andy Levinson, senior vice president of tournament administration for the PGA Tour. “The protocol we had for the last 50 events is being followed to the letter, and unfortunately we are in a situation tonight.”
Levinson was asked if there was an option that would allow Rahm to play the final round on Sunday by himself if he stayed at least six feet from others in a large outdoor area. Levinson said the tour’s medical advisors did not recommend entering a competition the day after a confirmed positive test.
Patrick Cantlay, who played with Rahm on Saturday and became the new tournament director together with Collin Morikawa, appeared to be stunned by the news at a press conference on Saturday evening.
“I’m sure it’s not as much of a shock for me as it is for him,” said Cantlay. “It’s the worst possible situation for this to happen, and unfortunately we knew there was potential even when we got back to golf. It’s just a shame. “
Cantlay said he had Covid earlier this year and had not been vaccinated. The tour was closed for three months after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
Rahm, who has won five PGA Tour events, is required to isolate himself for 10 days unless he tests negative on two additional virus screenings 24 hours apart. Levinson did not reveal whether Rahm received the Covid-19 vaccine; Following recent revisions, the tour guidelines no longer require weekly testing for fully vaccinated players. Vaccinated players would also not be subject to the contact tracing Rahm submitted this week. Levinson said the tour had tracked vaccinations among the players and that more than 50 percent of the 200+ players were fully vaccinated.
Levinson was also asked why cream was used in such a public setting by Dr. Tom Hospel, the tour’s medical director, was notified and not in a private room, away from television cameras and a crowd of thousands. Levinson replied that it was “difficult to find an ideal opportunity to notify him”. He added, “But our medical advisor notified him before he started scoring, and that’s how it was done.”
Scottie Scheffler, now three shots behind Cantlay and Morikawa, was one of the first players to see Rahm as he entered the points tent shortly after the end of his round. Scheffler knew that Rahm, who had a hole-in-one in 16th place in the second round, was in the lead, and the desperation on Rahms face confused him.
“I kind of smiled at him and thought, ‘Why? What happened? ‘”Said Scheffler. “He just says, ‘Good luck tomorrow.'”
Scheffler also wished Rahm the best of luck in the final round. Rahm told him he had just failed a coronavirus test.
“My heart just sank, it’s horrible that that happened,” said Scheffler, who also had Covid. “My heart is still – it just sinks for him and I feel terrible.”