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Rahm 'disappointed' after positive Covid-19 test forces him out of Memorial with six-shot lead

The world number three was informed of the test result after a stunning third round at Muirfield Village.

Jon Rahm during his third round.
Jon Rahm during his third round.
Image: Darron Cummings

Updated Jun 6th 2021, 9:53 AM

DEFENDING CHAMPION JON Rahm was forced to withdraw from the US PGA Memorial tournament following a positive Covid-19 test on Saturday after having seized a six-stroke lead with a stunning third round at Muirfield Village.

Rahm had tested negative for four consecutive days only to return a positive test from a sample collected Saturday morning, after he made an ace at the par-3 16th in concluding his darkness-halted second round with a two-shot lead.

World number three Rahm fired an impressive eight-under par 64 in Saturday’s third round, matching all-time records with an 18-under 198 score for 54 holes and a six-stroke lead at the famed Dublin, Ohio, layout.

Instead, Rahm was withdrawn and left Americans Patrick Cantlay, the 2019 Memorial winner, and Collin Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Championship winner, sharing the lead on 204.

Rahm was given the news by PGA Tour medical personnel as he walked off the 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where he is the defending champion.

“I’m very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament,” Rahm said in a statement 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.”

Unexpected co-leader Cantlay called it “the worst situation.”

“He played awesome today and it’s just really a shame,” Cantlay said.

The US PGA Tour said in a statement it had informed Rahm on Monday he had been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19 and the 26-year-old Spaniard, who was asymptomatic, chose to compete under tighter virus safety protocols, including daily testing and restricted access to facilities.

Rahm’s Saturday test was returned as positive while Rahm was on the course in his third round, the tour said, and a second test requested by a PGA medical advisor also came back positive just before Rahm finished the third round.

When told of the result just off the 18th green, Rahm bent forward, his head in his hands and at his knees, then rose and yelled, “Not again.”

Rahm had dazzled on the back nine with a stretch of six birdies in seven holes to stand on 18-under 198 after 54 holes and six strokes ahead in Dublin, Ohio.

Rahm had matched Tiger Woods from 2000 for the largest 54-hole lead in Memorial history. He was hoping to match Woods as the event’s only back-to-back winners. His 198 matched Scott Hoch’s 54-hole tournament record from 1987.

American Scottie Scheffler, who played alongside Rahm and Cantlay in the third round, and South African Brenden Grace shared third on 207.

“My heart, it just sinks for him,” Scheffler said. “I just feel awful.”

Scheffler was confused by Rahm’s frustrated expression as they signed their cards, saying that when Rahm explained why “my heart just sank.

“It’s terrible that that happened,” Scheffler said. “I think it’s terrible they told him in front of the cameras.”

Cantlay said he has not been vaccinated for Covid-19.

“I’ve already had Covid, so I got to imagine I have antibodies, so I don’t feel too concerned,” Cantlay said. 

Until the shock test result, the story of the day was Rahm’s impressive shotmaking, starting with his 183-yard ace with an 8-iron at the par-3 16th hole in the morning finish of round two, the third hole-in-one of his PGA career.

Rahm holed a birdie putt from just inside 17 feet at the par-4 second and blasted out of a bunker to 13 feet before holing a birdie putt t th par-5 fifth.

Rahm’s tee shot at the par-3 eighth landed just outside five feet and he rolled in the putt before a bogey at the ninth left him one ahead of Cantlay at the turn.

Rahm had two runs of three birdies in a row on the back nine. He two-putted from 12 feet to birdie the par-5 11th, angled in a 13-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th and curled in a 15-foot putt at the par-4 13th.

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He tapped in for birdie at the par-5 15th after missing a 10-foot eagle putt, then sank a 36-foot birdie putt at the 16th and holed an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th to reach 18-under before getting the devastating news after a closing par. 

Shane Lowry’s run of form stalled at the Memorial as he signed for a level par round of 72 to be tied for 10th, on four-under par.

While victory here is beyond Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion is showing enough in his game to merit a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team later this autumn.

His day ended with a 72 and promised to be so much better – and would have been only for a sloppy period around the turn, when he recorded a double-bogey on nine and a further bogey on 10. A bogey on the last saw him slip from eighth to a tie to 11th.

Prior to then, Lowry was showing some nice touches around the green – the sureness of his putting stroke evident as he rolled in a 10-footer for a birdie on seven.

Birdies on two and five offered hope that the outward nine would be profitable – bogeys on six set him back temporarily before the ninth and tenth really put a stall on the momentum he was building.

The closing eight holes were also inconsistent – birdies on two more par 5s – the second of which saw him land a 128-yard wedge to four feet, putting him temporarily in the top ten. A five at the par-4, 18th saw him drop out of it.

Earlier in the day, Rory McIlroy moved up 22 places on the leaderboard after he shot a one-under, 71, leaving him in a tie for 23rd.

The Ulsterman posted birdies on the second, fifth and seventh but spoiled his work by bogeying two par 4s, the third and the sixth.

On the inward nine, a birdie on the par 4, 14th offered hope, a bogey at the 17th resulted in him signing for a 71, one-under for the round, one-under for the tournament.

Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington missed the cut. 

© – AFP, 2021

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