DUBLIN, Ohio – John Ram, a popular player on the PGA Tour and the world’s third-ranked male golfer, just took a six-point lead on Saturday in the third round of the Memorial Tournament, an event he won a year ago. Walking from the 18th hole, where a crowd surrounding the green showered him with warm applause, the 26-year-old Ram shook hands with his partners and smiled.
Seconds later, he was doubled and in tears, his left hand gripping his face. A tour doctor met Ram on the edge of the greenery and informed him that he had taken a coronavirus test, a result reported on the tour, as Ram photographed a sparkling eight under 64 on a difficult course at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Ram will be forced to withdraw from the tournament and miss the final round on Sunday.
“Not again,” he said, though it was unclear what his answer meant. It was also not known whether Ram was fully vaccinated, although in the past year he has often spoken at length about his family’s health concerns in his native Spain and the devastation the virus has brought to communities near his hometown. Ram currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife Kelly, whom he met while they were students in Arizona, and their 2-month-old son, Kepa Cahill.
Late Saturday night, Ram posted a statement on Twitter saying he was “very disappointed with the need to retire from the memory tournament. This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments when the way we react to failure defines us as people. I am very grateful that my family and I are all well. I will take all necessary precautions to be safe and healthy and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible. “
Jack Nicklaus, host of the Memorial Tournament and golf course designer, wrote on Twitter shortly after the third round: “Our hearts go out to John and his family, as well as to all the patrons who have witnessed a spectacular round by John – only to be destroyed by this terrible pandemic that our world continues to suffer. “
Nicklaus, 81, who signed a contract with Covid-19 with his wife Barbara in 2020, added: “I wish John a speedy recovery and hope to return to the race soon.”
According to the PGA Tour, Ram was informed on Monday that he would be subject to contact tracking as he came into close contact with an unidentified person who had tested positive for the virus. Tour protocols allow Ram to stay in the tournament if he agrees to be tested every day and avoids using indoor events at the event.
Rahm’s test results were negative for four days, but his last test, performed on Saturday morning, returned positive at 4:20 p.m. A second test on the original sample provided by Rahm, which is asymptomatic, tested positive in 6:17 a.m., just before he finished his third round.
“Obviously it’s a very pathetic situation,” said Andy Levinson, senior vice president of the tournament administration’s PGA Tour. “The protocol we had for the last 50 events is being followed to the last, and unfortunately we are in the situation we are in tonight.”
Levinson was asked if there was an option that would allow Ram to play the final round of Sunday alone if he stayed at least a meter away from the others in a large open area. Levinson said the tour’s medical advisers did not recommend participating in a race the day after a positive test was confirmed.
Patrick Cantley, who played with Ram on Saturday and who became the new leader of the tournament along with Colin Morikawa, looked stunned by the news at a press conference on Saturday night.
“I’m sure it’s not so much a shake for me as it is for him,” Cantley said. “The worse situation is that something like this could happen, and unfortunately I guess we knew it was a potential that lay there, even when we got back to golf. It’s just extremely unfortunate. “
Cantley said he had Covid earlier this year and had not been vaccinated. The tour was halted three months after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
Ram, who has won five PGA Tour races, is required to be isolated for 10 days unless tested negative for two additional screening viruses at 24-hour intervals. Levinson did not disclose whether Ram received the Covid-19 vaccine; after the latest revisions, the tour guidelines no longer require weekly testing for players who are fully vaccinated. Vaccinated players will also not be tracked by the contacts Ram made this week. Levinson said the tour tracked vaccinations among players and that more than 50 percent of the more than 200 players had been fully vaccinated.
Levinson was also asked why Ram was informed in such a public setting by the tour’s medical director, Dr. Tom Hospel, and not in a private room away from TV cameras and thousands of crowds. Levinson replied that “it is difficult to find an ideal opportunity to inform him.” He added: “But our medical adviser informed him before he entered the scoring and it was done.”
Scotty Scheffler, who is now tied for third place, three shots behind Cantley and Morikawa, was one of the first players to see Ram enter the goal tent shortly after his round. Scheffler knew that Ram, who had a hole in one at number 16 in the second round, was leading and was confused by the disaster on Ram’s face.
Somehow I smiled at him, thinking, “Why? What happened? Said Scheffler. “He just says, ‘Good luck tomorrow.’ “
Scheffler wished Ram luck in the final round as well. Ram told him he had just failed a coronavirus test.
“My heart just sank, it’s awful that it happened,” said Scheffler, who also had Kovid. “My heart is still – it’s just sinking for him and I feel terrible.”