Tour Championship Ends in COVID Controversy

Jon+Rahm+at+the+third+round+of+the+Memorial+Tournament.

Wall Street Journal

Jon Rahm at the third round of the Memorial Tournament.

Collin Wang, Staff Writer

Life can be unfair. At least for most people. During the 2021 PGA (Professional Golf Association) Season, Spanish golfer Jon Rahm experienced this feeling firsthand. 

After the third round of the Memorial Tournament held in June, Rahm held a six shot lead after posting a magnificent eight under par round. While celebrating his incredible round with his caddy, he was pulled aside by tour doctors and given horrible news. 

After four consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, the test he took the night before came back positive. Rahm was forced to withdraw from the tournament, handing Patrick Cantlay the lead going into the final round. Cantlay held on for his fourth professional win. 

Later that night, Rahm posted on Twitter that he was “very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial.” Fellow competitor Scottie Scheffler, who was in third place, added, “My heart – it just sinks for him and I feel awful.”

Not only did this cost Rahm a victory, according to the PGA Tour’s website, his withdrawal also handed Cantlay 550 Fedex Cup points, skyrocketing him from 8th to 1st in the standings. With those points, Rahm would have instead been atop the standings. 

My heart – it just sinks for him and I feel awful.”

— Scottie Scheffler

The PGA Tour only recently implemented a staggered scoring system for the Fedex Cup, which gives the leader in points a better start in the Tour Championship. Multiple top players have called this format unfair, including Rahm, but also Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. 

In an interview with Sky Sports, Thomas said, “I personally wish that that wasn’t a thing because, obviously, if you’re 10-under then you have a lot better chance to win the actual tournament versus everyone starting at the same score.”

With his points, Cantlay started the tournament at 10-under par, while Rahm began at 6-under. At the end of Sunday, Rahm only lost by one stroke, meaning he played three strokes better than Cantlay during the tournament. 

There were a lot of questions from the public. Many social media users questioned why Rahm could not have played the last round of the Memorial by himself, but the tour’s medical advisors did not recommend that.

They also asked why Rahm was forced to withdraw even though he was fully vaccinated, although it was later revealed that he was still in the 2-week period after his 2nd dose. 

All in all, this one small incident cost Rahm over 10 million dollars in prize money. He, and others, will be thinking about this for a long, long time.