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Positive COVID test knocks leader Jon Rahm out of Memorial

Jon Rahm had a six-shot lead after 54 holes when his test for COVID-19 came back positive.
Jon Rahm had a six-shot lead after 54 holes when his test for COVID-19 came back positive.Andy Lyons/Getty

Jon Rahm walked off the 18th green at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, on Saturday 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.

A command performance, which included a hole-in-one Saturday morning to complete his second round and an 8-under-par 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.

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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By tour policy, he was withdrawn from the Memorial.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.

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.

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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 4:20 p.m., 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 6 p.m.

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, Ariz., where his wife in April gave birth to their first child. Rahm had 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.

Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler, who played with him in the third round, both said they already have had the coronavirus.

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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.’'

With a victory, Rahm could have moved closer to recapturing No. 1 in the world, along with earning over $1.67 million.

Champions — Tim Herron shot a 9-under 63 to take a four-stroke lead at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa.

Trying to win for the first time on the 50-and-over PGA Champions Tour, Herron birdied the par-4 18th for a back-nine 30 and 14-under 130 total at Wakonda Club.

The 51-year-old from Minnesota, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied three of the first five holes, then birdied Nos. 10-12, 15, 16 and 18 tp pull away.

Shane Bertsch and Rod Pampling were second after 67s.

European — Thomas Detry shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead in the opening round as spectators returned to the fairways at the European Open in Hamburg, Germany.

A declining rate of coronavirus infections allowed fans to attend a European Tour event for the first time since 2019. Up to 2,000 were permitted at the Green Eagle Golf Courses.

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It had been scheduled to begin Thursday, but the tournament was postponed by two days and shortened to 54 holes to allow players and tour staff from the United Kingdom extra time to get around Germany’s recently introduced travel restrictions.

Detry started on the 10th hole and played his back nine in 29 with seven birdies and a double bogey. The Belgian golfer, looking for his first tour win in his 114th event, is one ahead of Sweden’s Alexander Björk, England’s Ashley Chesters, Scotland’s David Law and China’s Wu Ashun.