DUBLIN, Ohio — As golf attempts to get back to normal, you would have been hard-pressed to think things were not as they always were Sunday at Muirfield Village Golf Club for the final round of the Memorial Tournament.
Jack Nicklaus, tournament founder, host and 18-time major champion, took up his usual spot in the CBS-TV broadcast tower. He was there beside the 18th green to greet winner Patrick Cantlay, who outlasted Collin Morikawa in playoff. A robust crowd stood near the 18th green.
And those on hand and watching on TV could appreciated the drama, as Cantlay, Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler staged a daylong battle over Nicklaus’ course. A tournament so close it needed extra holes.
Of course, almost all were aware such a scenario played out only because Jon Rahm was in isolation somewhere after testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. It might not have dampened their enthusiasm, but it was nearly impossible to ignore.
Had Rahm been able to play Sunday, he would have needed only a 4-over-par 76 to win by a one shot. He led by six strokes and was 18 under before his world was turned upside down. The playoff participants ended 72 holes at 13 under. It was hard to envision anyone getting close to where Rahm stood after Saturday.
But Rahm had sit by like everyone else on Sunday, the shocking development hovering over the tournament like the rain clouds that added one more bit of intrigue as play was winding down.
“Such a weird situation and so unfortunate,” Cantlay said. “Because, me included, everyone knows it would have been a totally different day had that not happened. But there’s nothing I could do about it. I just tried as hard as I could to reset and get focused.”
Cantlay and Morikawa each shot 71. Cantlay won when Morikawa bogeyed the first playoff hole. Rahm could only watch — that is, even if he could bear to tune in.
Rahm shot 8-under-par 64 on Saturday, after having shot a 65 that included a hole-in-one at the conclusion of the second round earlier in the day. He looked dominant and seemed destined for a sixth PGA Tour victory and to inch closer to No. 1 Dustin Johnson in the Official World Golf Ranking.
It got wiped out due to the positive COVID-19 test.
For the past year, players have gone through numerous protocols and procedures in order to play professional golf. In April, the PGA Tour said it would allow players to forgo COVID-19 testing if they were completely vaccinated. Never had this happened, a tournament leader getting knocked out of the event.
Rahm was part of the PGA Tour’s contact-tracing protocols because he had been around someone who tested positive. That meant he needed to test every day. His tests on Monday through Friday came up negative. His test on Saturday came back positive. He had to be immediately removed from the tournament.
Three other times over the past year a player was removed from a tournament after having tested positive once the competition began: Nick Watney at the RBC Heritage last June, Denny McCarthy at the Travelers Championship and Branden Grace at the Barracuda Championship. Grace’s situation was similar to Rahm in that he was in contention.
But Grace didn’t have the lead, as Rahm did. Also, that event wasn’t nearly as prominent as the Memorial.
“I think we have all been really scared and we have all thought of this what-if scenario,” Morikawa said. “But that’s the thing with what-ifs. We can only think about it and think what we’re going to try and do, do that until it actually happens; and it’s very unfortunate for him to have a 6-shot lead and it’s kind of in his possession right there.
“Obviously, we know the risks. People know the risks of not getting vaccinated. It’s a personal choice. No one should be judged.”
Morikawa made it clear that he was disappointed Rahm was getting a hard time over his vaccination status.
Rahm this past week received a COVID-19 vaccine. But prior to doing so, he had been in contact with someone who tested positive, hence he was required to go through the Tour’s protocols.
Jon Rahm has had to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.
Rahm had tied the tournament records for lowest score thru 54 holes (198) and largest lead thru 54 holes (6 strokes) prior to his withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/n3qHJ0k4qO
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2021
That meant no access to the clubhouse, locker room or player dining. Although his status was not announced publicly, Rahm made it apparent to those he was with in the pro-am, playing partners and anyone he came in contact with of his status.
Golf has not missed a scheduled event since returning a year ago this week. There have been positive COVID-19 cases, to be sure, just like there have been in other sports, in all walks of life.
But there have been no major outbreaks, no huge spikes at any tournament. There was a bit of a scare in April when four players tested positive the same week after the tournament in New Orleans, but that turned out to be about the worst of it.
The PGA Tour made it to this point with no huge headlines — until Rahm.
He took the high road in the statement he released via Twitter, saying, “These things happen in life.” And undoubtedly, losing nearly $1.7 million in prize money — the take for winning — had to sting. But there was more: another victory and the momentum as he went into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, seeking his first major title. Had Rahm won the Memorial, he’d have gone to San Diego a big favorite.
Now that is less clear. Rahm is subject to a 10-day isolation — unless he tests negative for two days at least 24 hours apart. Whatever happens next, for Rahm, Sunday’s final round at the Memorial played out with plenty of suspense despite the invisible asterisk that will go along with it.
Sources: MAC votes to accept UMass as member
The University of Massachusetts is set to join the MAC in all applicable sports for the 2025-26 school year, sources told ESPN on Monday.
UMass is an independent in football but plays in the Atlantic-10 in basketball and the vast majority of the school’s other sports. UMass’ hockey program will remain in the Hockey East as the MAC does not have a hockey league.
The MAC presidents voted to invite UMass on Monday, as the school had already formally applied to the league. The timing of an announcement is not known, but UMass is set to accept and finalize the details of the arrangement in the near future. Once a school formally applies in conference realignment, there’s usually an understanding that they will be accepted and enter that league.
UMass had also been engaged with Conference USA, per sources. Ultimately, the MAC made more geographic sense, and it also houses more of the sports that UMass offers. UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford made clear in recent comments that joining a league was a priority for UMass.
The move of UMass to the MAC will leave Notre Dame and Connecticut as the lone independents in college football, with Army set to join the American Athletic Conference in the upcoming season.
In basketball, the news is a jolt to the Atlantic 10 Conference, where UMass has had a home since 1976. UMass’ Final Four appearance in 1996 is the only Final Four appearance in Atlantic 10 history. (Three other A-10 teams — VCU, Loyola Chicago and George Mason — have had Final Four appearances, but these all came prior to joining the league.)
UMass will request to stay in the Atlantic 10 as an affiliate member for men’s and women’s lacrosse only, according to a source.
UMass has some familiarity in the MAC for football, having played four seasons in the league from 2012 to 2015. UMass eventually declined full membership in the MAC, which was part of the contract, and led to the school’s departure.
The move brings the MAC up to 13 teams and will open speculation as to whether the league will add a 14th member for balance. There had been discussions about Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky back in 2021, per sources, and those schools would again top any speculative lists.
UMass will play its final season as a football independent this year, and its schedule includes five current MAC members. The Athletic first reported the MAC’s vote on UMass.
Dodgers trade Margot to Twins, add Hernández
After shopping Margot, 29, in recent days, the Dodgers struck a deal to send the Twins the outfielder and shortstop prospect Rayne Doncon for shortstop prospect Noah Miller. The Dodgers also will send cash to help cover the $12 million owed Margot — $10 million this year and a $2 million buyout on a $12 million club option, a source told ESPN.
Hernández, who emerged during a six-year stint with the Dodgers and returned to Los Angeles in a trade last July, had considered a number of other teams before the trade paved the way for another stretch with the Dodgers.
Now 32, Hernández underwent double hernia surgery in the offseason but is expected to be ready around opening day. Hernández hit .262/.308/.423 in 54 games with the Dodgers last year, more in line with his career numbers than his .222/.279/.320 line with the Twins and .222/.291/.338 showing in an injury-pocked 2022 with Boston.
Margot, an eight-year veteran, had been traded to the Dodgers with right-hander Tyler Glasnow in December. He will help relieve Byron Buxton in center and joins a reigning American League Central champion lineup that is deep in bats. Margot hit .264/.310/.376 with four home runs in 336 plate appearances for Tampa Bay last season and is regarded as a slightly above-average defensive center fielder.
The swap of shortstop prospects sends Doncon, who signed with the Dodgers for a little under $500,000 in January 2021, to Minnesota while Miller, the 36th pick in the amateur draft that year, heads to Los Angeles.
Doncon, 20, hit .216/.283/.368 in Low-A last year and can also play second and third base. Miller, 21, slashed .223/.309/.340 in High-A and is considered a well-above-average defensive shortstop.
Sources: Iowa State to promote Mouser to OC
Iowa State is set to promote Taylor Mouser to offensive coordinator, part of several staff moves for the offense after Nate Scheelhaase left for the NFL, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Mouser has served as Iowa State’s tight ends coach since 2021 and added an assistant head coach title in 2023. He has been part of coach Matt Campbell’s staff in various roles, on and off the field, throughout Campbell’s tenure with the Cyclones.
Mouser will replace Scheelhaase, ISU’s offensive coordinator in 2023, who recently left to become the passing game specialist for the Los Angeles Rams.
Iowa State also is set to hire Tyler Roehl as running backs coach and assistant head coach, sources told ESPN. Roehl spent the past five seasons as North Dakota State‘s offensive coordinator and was the top internal candidate for NDSU’s head-coaching role. He recently left to become offensive coordinator at Tennessee State.
Jake Waters, who last week was promoted to running backs coach, instead is set to handle the quarterbacks, according to a source. Wide receivers coach Noah Pauley will serve as ISU’s pass game coordinator, and offensive line coach Ryan Clanton will be run game coordinator for the 2024 season.
Mouser served as a graduate assistant under Campbell at Toledo (2015) and Iowa State (2016) before becoming ISU’s assistant director of scouting.
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