Memorial as much about Cantlay winning as Rahm not playing

Monday, June 7, 2021

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — So much about the Memorial felt as though golf was back to normal.

Thousands of fans surrounded the 18th hole, with tournament founder Jack Nicklaus sitting behind the green as he waited to greet the winner. Patrick Cantlay had a firm grip on the crystal trophy, just like he did two years ago the last time spectators roamed Muirfield Village.

It even rained, though not for very long.

But so much about Cantlay’s playoff victory Sunday over Collin Morikawa made this Memorial unlike any of the previous 45 editions.

This was as much about who won as who didn’t even play.

Cantlay, like everyone else at Muirfield Village, felt horrible than Jon Rahm went from tying tournament records — a 54-hole score of 18-under par and a six-shot lead — to being notified of a positive COVID-19 test that knocked him out of the final round.

What would have happened?

“Such a weird situation and so unfortunate because — me included — everyone knows it would have been a totally different day had that not happened,” Cantlay said. “But there’s nothing I could do about it.”

Cantlay walked off the 18th green Saturday evening facing a six-shot deficit and trying to figure out how low he would have to go in the final round to even have a chance. Morikawa had finished in the group ahead. He was in the clubhouse when his girlfriend sent a text to tell him what happened to Rahm.

“I went downstairs to look at the TV and you see what happened to Jon and it’s awful,” Morikawa said. “He deserved to go out and play really well, and he was 18 under. The rules are rules and you have to follow guidelines.”

Padraig Harrington suffered a fate similar to Rahm. He had a five-shot lead in the Benson & Hedges International Open on the European Tour in 2000 when the club asked for scorecards of the winner to post in the clubhouse. That’s when it was discovered Harrington never signed his card in the first round. The penalty was disqualification.

This felt out-of-the-blue because no one had tested positive during a tournament on the PGA Tour in 10 months. Branden Grace was one birdie out of the lead (modified Stableford scoring) after 36 holes in the Barracuda Championship when he tested positive and had to withdraw.

Rahm had been in the contact tracing program from having come in contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive, meaning he had to test every day to be able to play. Every test since Monday was negative until Saturday after the rain-delayed second round.

His 64 on Saturday was among the best rounds in Memorial history, nearly nine shots better than the average score. Rahm was the defending champion. He is No. 3 in the world.

And then he was gone.

“We’re all devastated,” Nicklaus said Sunday before the final round. “I wish we could figure out how to give Jon three-fourths of the trophy.”

Category:

Poll

How do you feel about HB 102? The bill which is currently held up in the courts would allow concealed carry firearms on college campuses in Montana.