COLUMBUS, Ohio — The large gallery at the 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club had no way to know why Jon Rahm fell to his knees after two men spoke to him following his brilliant third round at the Memorial Tournament.
One of the men, Dr. Thomas Hospel, informed Rahm that he had tested positive for COVID-19. The 64 he'd just recorded and six-shot lead he would have taken into Sunday's final round instantly became meaningless. PGA Tour rules meant he had to withdraw.
Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour's senior vice president of tournament administration, said in a ZOOM call that the decision to tell Rahm when and how it did was based on the timing of the test results.
"We received the initial positive results at 4:20 p.m.," Levinson said. "Our medical advisor ordered a re-run of that test, of that original sample, and we were notified of that, I believe the exact time was 6:03 p.m. He was in the middle of the 18th fairway. I think he had already hit his second shot, and so our advisor notified him as soon as he finished."
Levinson said Hospel delivered the news off the green because the scoring area for the Memorial is inside, which is less safe from COVID-19 transmission.
"It's an unfortunate situation and difficult to find an ideal opportunity to notify him," Levinson said. "But our medical advisor notified him before he went into scoring and that was how it was conducted.
"I think the doctor notified him in a manner that he felt appropriate, prior to going into scoring."
Rahm, wearing a mask, was transported by golf cart to his vehicle to exit Muirfield Village.
Playing partners stunned
Rahm played his third round with Patrick Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler, who were shocked by the news of Rahm's positive test.
“That’s obviously really disappointing,” Cantlay said. “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."
Scheffler said he was in the scoring area when Rahm told him the news.
“Jon looked very frustrated, which I thought was weird, so I kind of smiled at him thinking, '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 he just goes, ‘Good luck tomorrow,' and I’m, like, ‘Thanks, man. You play good. too.’ I was just really confused."
That's when Rahm said he had tested positive.
"My heart just sank," Scheffler said. "It’s terrible that that happened.”
The status of Cantlay and Scheffler are unknown for Sunday. They are subject to results from contact tracing, which was being conducted Saturday night. The same goes for Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, who were in Rahm's group Saturday morning for the conclusion of the second round.
Cantlay said he had COVID-19 in December. He said he had not been vaccinated.
"I’ve already had COVID, so, yeah, I've got to imagine I have antibodies, so I don’t feel too concerned, but obviously it is somewhat of a concern," Cantlay said. "But I've got to imagine that (since) I had it earlier this year, I’m feeling pretty OK about it.”
Hole-in-one a footnote
On almost any other day, a hole-in-one would have been the most memorable moment in Jon Rahm's day.
On Saturday, unfortunately, it will end up as a footnote to the news that awaited him at the completion of his golf day. Rahm was notified after finishing the third round that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The six-shot lead the defending Memorial champion had built with a brilliant back nine that included six birdies didn't matter. PGA Tour protocols require Rahm to withdraw.
Rahm immediately put on a mask and was driven away on a golf cart.
As for the hole-in-one, Rahm said he aimed between the pin and the edge of the bunker on the 16th hole with an 8-iron.
“I did not think any ball landing short of the pin would go in just because it's coming in with such height from the elevated tee and the greens are soft," Rahm said. "I think you can kind of see my face of surprise early on because I was pretty sure that ball was going to be past the hole about 15 feet.”
Unfortunately, another unwanted surprise came after his third round.
Erratic rounds for Spieth, DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth hoped to put themselves in contention with strong third rounds Saturday. It didn't happen.
Both players were up and down, with DeChambeau posting five bogeys that offset four birdies to finish with a 73. The 2018 Memorial champion is at even-par for the tournament.
Spieth shot a 71 after an inconsistent first nine holes. Starting on the back, Spieth bogeyed the par-3 12th hole after hitting his tee shot in the water. It was the start of a streak of seven holes in which he didn't make a par.
He then birdied the next three holes and went bogey, birdie, bogey to close out the front nine. Spieth birdied Nos. 4 and 5 before a bogey on No. 6.