Saturday's golf: Coronavirus knocks Rahm out of Memorial after 6-shot lead

Associated Press
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Dublin, Ohio — Jon Rahm walked off the 18th green at the Memorial 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.

Jon Rahm hits to the 18th green during the second round of the Memorial golf tournament, Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Dublin, Ohio.

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

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By tour policy, he was withdrawn from the Memorial.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 U.S. 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, Arizona, where his wife in April gave birth to their first child. Rahm has 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.

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.

U.S. Women's Open

Lexi Thompson shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 at San Francisco to take the lead into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time in her career with a one-shot edge over teenager Yuka Saso.

Thompson played a nearly flawless round in search of her first U.S. Women’s Open title in her 15th try after first competing as a 12-year-old amateur in 2007. She made three birdies on the front nine and two more on the back nine to overcome a four-shot deficit heading into the day and take the lead at 7 under.

She was the first player all week to make par or better on every hole in the round.

Saso made back-to-back bogeys on the back nine to fall out of the lead before recovering with a birdie at the par-5 17th to get back to 7 under. She missed a 12-foot par putt on 18 and ended the day a stroke back.

New Jersey high school amateur Megha Ganne shot a 72 and was tied for third at 3 under with 2019 champion Jeongueun Lee6 of South Korea.

China’s Shanshan Feng was fifth at 2 under, with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and American Megan Khang the only other players under par at 1 under.

The 26-year-old Thompson hasn’t won an LPGA Tour tournament in nearly two years and won her only major was at the ANA Inspiration in 2014. She has four-top 10 finishes at the U.S. Women’s Open, including a runner-up to Lee6 two years ago in Charleston.

Thompson has been lurking around the leaderboard all week, shooting 69 on Thursday and 71 in the second round before shooting the low round of her career at this tournament on Saturday.

She started to make a run with three birdies, including one on No. 9 after hitting her tee shot into the second cut of rough. She still managed to get on the green and made a 20-foot putt to get to 5 under.

Thompson added another long birdie putt on No. 14 and reached the green at the par-5 17th in two shots before two-putting for birdie and the lead. She saved par with a 3-foot putt at 18 after hitting her tee shot into the rough and her approach behind the green.

Saso, who has never finished better than sixth in an LPGA Tour event, will play in the final group on Sunday with a chance to join South Korea’s Inbee Park as the only teens to win this tournament. Park did it at 19 years, 11 months, 17 days in 2008, which will be Saso’s exact age Sunday.

The 17-year-old Ganne was a crowd favorite at the course and kept her composure early with a couple of early par saves and birdies on the fifth and ninth holes to get within a shot of the lead at 5 under. Back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine knocked her down the leaderboard before she steadied herself with seven straight pars to end the day.

Lee6 got to 6 under with a birdie at No. 4 but fell off when she hit her tee shot into the deep rough at No. 5 and ended up with a double bogey.

This marked the first time the women came to the Lake Course overlooking the Pacific Ocean for a major. But this venue has a rich history for the men, hosting five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs among other events.

Only four men broke par at the five U.S. Opens here, including none the past two times with Lee Janzen winning at even par in 1998 and Webb Simpson a 1 over in 2012.

Only seven women were under par through 54 holes as the small greens and deep rough have made things difficult.

PGA Tour Champions

Tim Herron shot a 9-under 63 on Saturday to take a four-stroke lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Principal Charity Classic.

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

“I haven’t been in this situation for probably a decade,” Herron said. “Just go out and play each hole at a time. These guys are good. Someone else can shoot 9 under, so I’ve got to still kind of put the pedal down in the right spots. If I hit the fairway, I’ve got to go at the pin.”

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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.

“I got some really good breaks and I had some really good chances that I missed, but I made some great putts,” Herron said. “This is the most putts I’ve made in probably a decade. Hopefully, just going to keep it going and keep the putting stroke smooth.

He's playing the event and Wakonda for the first time.

“It’s very hilly and it’s old school, it’s pretty crazy up-and-downs,” Herron said. “It’s what I grew up on. I’m from Minnesota, so it’s kind of the same grass around the greens. I get the feel on the reads.”

Shane Bertsch and Rod Pampling were second after 67s.

Doug Barron was 9 under after a 69.

First-round leader Thongchai Jaidee followed his opening 65 with a 71 to drop into a tie for fifth at 8 under with Mike Weir (66), Tom Gillis (69) and Dicky Pride (70).

European Tour

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 on Saturday.

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.

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.

Home favorite Marcel Schneider, France’s Benjamin Hebert, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, Denmark’s Benjamin Poke and England’s Matthew Southgate were all at 2-under.

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