Back in July 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, players that tested positive were allowed to continue to play at the RBC Heritage Classic. Granted there were no fans, granted they were grouped together, granted we know much more about the virus now than we did then…However, Could there have been another option for Jon Rahm this past weekend at Jack’s Tournament? I know this topic may be somewhat controversial. However, I believe there may have been an un-explored solution for Rahm this past weekend. One that the PGA may want/need to address in the coming months.
Let me set the scene for you: Rahm was cruising to a $1.7 million payday when suddenly, he was hit. Like a boxer, fighting Tyson in the late 80’s, he was struck with a left hook that floored him. After receiving the news in an awkward fashion departing the 18th green, with a 6 stroke lead going into Sunday, the golfer buckled over and bellowed “NO, Not Again”…He broke down in tears and left the course. He staggered to collect himself and then left with the PGA doctor into the tunnel. The spectators, gathered around the finishing hole, were stunned. The fans, including myself, watching at home waited with bated breath for any news of what was said. 5 Minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes and still, no word as to what was going on. I continued to watch. Guessing what happened. What was the tragedy that caused such a reaction? We all guessed what it could be. A death in the family? We hoped not. One thing was very clear…Rahm received some very devastating information.
Then the news: Rahm had tested positive for Covid and was forced to withdraw from the event.
Rahm was contact traced to someone who had tested positive, had been tested all week long. Symptom free, he was enroute to another PGA win and a big money paycheck. He had tested negative all week after being tested every day. He was playing some of the best golf we have seen from the young Spaniard. He was looking to go back to back! He felt and looked great.
Here’s the rub. Could the PGA have handled the situation better. Could they have escorted him off the course and told him off air? Could he have played the final round by himself (solo) with social distancing from the crowd? Should PGA tour golfers be forced to be vaccinated? All fair and legitimate questions. The answers allude me on all of these, but one thing remains obvious. As much as we all feel we are proverbially almost out of the woods with regards to the pandemic, the PGA tour was affected this weekend in a major way!
Spoiler Alert: If you have not watched the final round or do not know who won yet. STOP READING NOW:
In the end we ended up with a great final round on Sunday. In a sudden death playoff between Morikawa and Cantlay, on the first playoff hole, Cantlay drained a long-distance birdie while Morikawa missed an 8-footer. Cantlay was crowned the winner of the memorial for the 2nd time in his short career.
Late on Saturday night, Rahm posted an official comment on twitter saying that he was “very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament.
Thoughts after today’s round pic.twitter.com/gWkBAWE42F
— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmpga) June 6, 2021
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.”
Jack Nicklaus, the host of the Memorial tournament and the designer of the golf course, wrote on his Twitter feed shortly after the third round: “Our hearts go out to Jon and his family as well as all the patrons who witnessed a spectacular round by Jon — only to be negated by this horrible pandemic our world continues to endure.”
He tested negative throughout the week, but unfortunately tested positive today.
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) June 5, 2021
I wish Jon a speedy recovery and hope he gets back to competition soon.
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) June 5, 2021
Nicklaus, who is 81 and contracted Covid-19 along with his wife, Barbara, in 2020, added: “I wish Jon a speedy recovery and hope he gets back to competition soon.”
All said and done golf fans around the world were left to wonder, like the Little Texas song, “What Might Have Been”. Until we see you again Jon, we all wish you the best. You will live to fight another day…