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Looking back on it now, just 10 days after he was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament with a massive lead due to a positive COVID-19 test, Jon Rahm wishes he had gotten vaccinated much, much sooner.
Rahm, speaking ahead of the U.S. Open this week at Torrey Pines, said he was partially vaccinated when he was pulled off Muirfield Village with a positive coronavirus test. He wasn’t out of the 14-day window required after receiving his final dose.
“I guess I wish I would have done it earlier, but thinking on scheduling purposes and having the PGA and defending Memorial, I was just — to be honest, it wasn't in my mind,” he said. “I'm not going to lie, I was trying to just get ready for a golf tournament.
"If I had done it in a few days earlier, probably we wouldn't be having these conversations right now. It is what it is. We move on.”
Jon Rahm had 6-shot lead when he tested positive
Though a positive coronavirus test and a forced withdrawal is bad for anyone on the PGA Tour, it was especially bad for Rahm.
Barring a meltdown or a tremendous comeback from someone else in the field, he was going to win.
The No. 3 ranked golfer in the world held a 6-shot lead after he walked off the course following the third round of the Memorial, and was set to pick up his sixth Tour win. And, to add insult to injury, Rahm lost out on the nearly $1.7 million tournament-winning payday.
He learned about the positive test immediately after walking off the green too, and was in tears as the moment was broadcast live on television.
Surreal TV moment as six-stroke leader Jon Rahm learns he tested positive for COVID and Jim Nantz tries to make sense of it without knowing what Rahm's been told pic.twitter.com/WvD6LmAlxs
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 5, 2021
“It could have been handled a little bit better, yeah, but it still doesn't change the fact of what really happened,” Rahm said of that moment. “Because it was the second time I got put on the spot on the same course why I was a little bit more hurt, but yeah. Again, it's tough
“They don't want me to go by and start shaking all the patrons' hands and high-fiving and all that, so I understand that as well. Again, it happened. Luckily, everybody in my family and myself are OK. Luckily, I didn't really have any symptoms, and within what happened, this is the best-case scenario.”
Though the situation was incredibly tough, Rahm has no hard feelings toward the Tour.
“To all the people criticizing the PGA Tour, they shouldn't,” Rahm said. “We are in a pandemic, and even though this virus has very different forms of attacking people, you never know what reaction you're going to get. So PGA Tour did what they had to do ... I've heard a lot of different theories: I should have played alone, I shouldn't have — that's nonsense. The rules are there, and it's clear.”
Is Rahm ready for the U.S. Open?
Rahm returned home to Arizona after the Memorial Tournament and isolated there until he produced two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, which he finally got Saturday morning.
His biggest worry throughout that quarantine was about his newborn son.
“I was a little bit scared because, even though I was feeling fine, I didn't want to give the virus to anybody in my house. I didn't want to possibly give it to our young son,” Rahm said. “Yeah, I think the hardest part out of all this was for just over 10 days not being able to even spend any time with my little one.
“Adding to that, my parents came into town, couldn't be around them. My mom is fully vaccinated, so I spent a little bit of time. My dad is in the process. I wasn't there when my parents met my son, and I hadn't seen my parents in over a year, almost a year and a half. Those are the hard parts about this virus in life.”
Regardless, Rahm is entering Torrey Pines this week after an incredible run so far this season.
The 26-year-old has 10 top-10 finishes already, including at the rescheduled Masters in November and the one in April, The Players Championship, the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship and at the PGA Championship.
Even after his unplanned hiatus, Rahm says he can still make a run to pull that off.
“When you don't hit a golf shot for just over a week or just about a week, it's tough leading into a major, especially a U.S. Open,” Rahm said. “I'm confident I can get in form quick enough. I still have two more days.
“Yeah, I still have the memory of all those great golf shots I played, right? I'm going to choose to remember that. I've been playing really good golf all year. Two weeks ago, it's finally clicking all together like I was waiting for it to happen. Finally everything was firing on all cylinders. Not that I'm expecting to play that perfect again, but I know that I can play at a really high level. So I'm confident, yeah.”
As for those on Tour who haven’t been vaccinated yet — the Tour estimates that about 50% of players are fully vaccinated — Rahm had a message for them.
“I mean, we live in a free country, so do as you please,” he said. “I can tell you from experience that, if something happens, you're going to have to live with the consequences golf-wise.”
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