John Ram walked away from the 18th green after tying the record with 54 holes and building a six-shot lead, leaving him at the top of joining Tiger Woods as the only repeat winner at the Memorial.
Moments later, he was doubled and said “not again” after being informed that he had tested positive for coronavirus and therefore dropped out of the tournament.
The PGA Tour said the Spaniard had come into close contact with a man who was Covid-19 positive, meaning Rahm could play provided he was tested daily. Every test since his arrival on Monday came back negative, except for the one after his second round, which was completed on Saturday morning.
The positive test was confirmed as Ram played the 18th hole without knowing anything except that no one was close to him in the standings.
“This is one of the things that happens in life, one of those moments when the way we react to failure defines us as people,” Ram said in a statement posted on Twitter.
His immediate response was to put on a mask and head to the scoring room to sign his card, knowing he would not play the final round.
The tour said Ram remains asymptomatic. Andy Levinson, the tour’s senior vice president who oversaw the Covid-19 protocols, could not say whether Ram had been vaccinated and Ram had not mentioned it in his statement.
Players who are fully vaccinated – 14 days after the full vaccination cycle – are not subject to testing as a result of close contact. Levinson said “north of 50%” of the players were fully vaccinated.
According to the rules of the tour, Ram was removed from the Memorial. That left Patrick Cantley and Colin Morikawa tied for a 12-under 204 lead.
“It’s kind of like the worst situation for something like this to happen and he played great today and it’s just really unfortunate,” Cantley said.
Cantley and Scotty Scheffler, who played with Ram in the third round, said they had already tested positive for coronavirus, even though it was more than 90 days ago. They were interviewed Saturday night to determine if they would be subject to contact tracking protocols.
Based on the interview, Levinson said none of Ram’s playing partners were cleared on Saturday.
It was a shocking turn of events given the weather. Ram was almost perfect on the back of the nine, escaping six birds in an eight-hole stretch to turn a disposable lead into a six-shot cushion, tying Woods’ record for the largest lead with 54 holes set by Woods in 2000.
His 18-year-old 198 tied the record set by Scott Hoch in 1987. Now he can’t go any further and the consequences extend beyond the Memorial.
The No. 3 player in the world must enter self-isolation for 10 days. It ends on Tuesday, June 15, at the US Open in Torrey Pines, where Rahm won his first victory in the PGA Tour four years ago. This would leave him time for only one round of the US Open training course.
Even the chance of a false positive test can’t spare Ram. According to the CDC protocols of the tour, players will have to return two negative tests in 24 hours to end the 10-day isolation. This precludes Rahm from playing on Sunday.
“I feel very bad for John Ram. He played absolutely brilliant golf this week, “said tournament founder Jack Nicklaus on social media. “On behalf of the Memorial Tournament, our hearts go out to John and his family, as well as to all the patrons who have witnessed a spectacular circle of John – only to be denied by this terrible pandemic that our world continues to suffer.”
The second round ended only on Saturday morning due to delays in rain earlier in the week. Ram returned to make a hole-in-one on the 16th hole to lead, and he finished 65 to build a two-shot lead.
The tour said his test returned positive at 4.20pm, around the time Ram began to retire. The tour’s medical adviser requested a test to confirm the original sample and it was returned shortly after 6 p.m.
Two employees were waiting for him as he left the green, and Ram’s reaction left thousands of fans around the green wondering what was going on.
Scheffler couldn’t see Ram behind the green, and he wasn’t sure what was going on when he entered the scoring room to sign his card. He said Ram looked disappointed.
“He just says, ‘Good luck tomorrow,’ and I’m like, thank you, man.” And you play well. I was just really confused, “Scheffler said. It’s like, “No, man, I was just positive.” My heart just sank. It’s awful that it happened. I think it’s awful that they told him on camera. It just stinks to him. ”
Ram was the fourth player to pass a tournament test since the tour returned to the race a year ago in Texas. It was the first positive asymptomatic case as part of the tour contact tracking protocols.
It was not clear with whom Ram had contact, which led to the tracking. Levinson said only the tour found out about the contact through someone else who had tested through his program.
Ram lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his wife gave birth to their first child in April. Ram did not play in the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
While playing in the pro-am on Wednesday, Ram was on his way to the 16th tee when a spectator asked for an autograph. “I’m sorry, I can’t,” he said. “I’m in contact for tracking.”
He didn’t mention it for the rest of the week as he built his lead with 6 shots. With the victory, Rahm could come close to conquering No. 1 in the world, with a profit of over $ 1.67 million.