DUBLIN, Ohio — Jon Rahm, leading the Memorial Tournament by 6 strokes, was informed following Saturday’s third round that he tested positive for COVID-19 and was withdrawn from the tournament.
Rahm, ranked second in the world, 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. 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,” Rahm wrote in a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday evening. “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.
“Thank you to all of the fans for their support and I’m looking forward to watching the showdown tomorrow afternoon with you all.”
According to the PGA Tour, Rahm was notified on Monday that he would be subject to contact tracing protocols after coming into close contact with a person who was positive for COVID-19. Per the PGA Tour’s health and safety plan, Rahm was allowed to remain in the tournament with the stipulation that he be tested every day and was restricted from using indoor facilities, such as the clubhouse and locker room.
Rahm, 26, had tested negative every day, but his most recent test — performed following the conclusion of his rain-delayed second round on Saturday morning and before the start of his third round in the afternoon — returned a positive result at 4:20 p.m. local time while he was still on the course. A PGA Tour medical advisor requested a confirmatory test on the original sample, which came back positive at 6:05 p.m., just as Rahm was finishing his third round.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation, obviously,” said Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration. “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.”
Rahm, the winner of five PGA Tour events, is asymptomatic. He is required to isolate for 10 days unless he is negative on two COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart. That puts him in isolation until June 15, two days before the start of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where Rahm won the 2017 PGA Tour event.
Levinson would not disclose whether Rahm had received the COVID-19 vaccine. But under tour protocols that align with CDC guidelines, players who are fully vaccinated are no longer subject to weekly testing. Levinson also said that vaccinated players would not be subject to the contact tracing that Rahm was part of this week.
Levinson said Rahm was taking part in social distancing measures during the tournament. The PGA Tour said Saturday night that all those who had been in contact with Rahm — including Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and their caddies — were cleared through contact tracing protocols to proceed in the tournament.
Cantlay is now tied for the 54-hole lead with Morikawa at 12 under, 3 strokes ahead of Scheffler and Branden Grace.
“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.
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. I think it’s terrible they told him in front of the cameras. It just stinks for him.”
Asked if there was any way for Rahm to have continued in the tournament, via a one-person group or because golf is played outside and distancing is possible, Levinson said tour protocols don’t allow it.
“We have followed our medical advisor’s recommendations on this, and that is not something that any medical advisor that we worked with has suggested, that we would allow someone who is actively infected to participate in our competition, where we know that,” Levinson said. “And it wouldn’t be in line with the CDC’s protocols as well, so I don’t see us changing that particular protocol.”
Rahm finished off a second-round 65 Saturday morning that included a hole-in-one on 16, before carding a 64 in the afternoon. He was close to perfect on the back nine, running off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch to turn a 1-shot lead into a 6-shot cushion, tying the Memorial record for largest 54-hole lead set by Tiger Woods in 2000. His 18-under 198 tied the record set by Scott Hoch in 1987.
Rahm had just walked off the 18th green when he was met by PGA Tour staff, including Dr. Tom Hospel. Levinson said the second test result did not come back until Rahm had already hit his approach shot to the green.
Levinson said that the PGA Tour membership is slightly above 50% fully vaccinated.
“While this is an incredibly unfortunate situation, throughout 50 events since the PGA Tour’s return to golf, there have been only four positive tests (including Rahm) within competition,” the PGA Tour said in its statement announcing Rahm’s positive test. “Rahm is the first positive, asymptomatic case as part of the Tour’s routine, contact-tracing protocols.”
It was not clear with whom Rahm had contact that led to the tracing. Levinson said the tour found out about the contact through someone else who had tested through its program.
Rahm 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.
He was the 10-1 favorite at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill entering the Memorial Tournament. While under normal circumstances this would be treated by Caesars as a post-tee-off withdrawal — meaning any bets placed on Rahm would not be refunded, since the withdrawal came after he teed off on Thursday — the sportsbook said in a tweet Saturday night that it would count all tournament bets on Rahm as winners.
With a victory, Rahm could have moved closer to recapturing No. 1 in the world, along with earning over $1.67 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.