The Spaniard insists the Tour "did what they had to do" and remains confident ahead of this week's US Open
Jon Rahm Defends PGA Tour’s Handling Of Memorial Disqualification
World No. 3 Jon Rahm was grilled during his US Open press conference about his enforced withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament as a result of testing positive for Covid-19.
The Spaniard was 18-under through three rounds and six shots clear of nearest challengers Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa before being informed in a very public setting that he would not have the chance to tee it up on Sunday and win the tournament for the second year in a row.
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How the PGA Tour handled the situation drew much criticism and while Rahm acknowledged that it could have played out differently, he refused to get drawn into a blame game, instead insisting the Tour “did what they had to do.”
“That’s the second time I get put on the spot on national TV on the same golf course on the same hole,” the 26-year-old began by saying. “For all those people wondering when I said, ‘not again’, that’s exactly what I mean.
“Last year I put my heart out talking about one of my family members passing, and I get told, ‘well, go sign your scorecard with a penalty stroke’, with no warning. Then this past year I put arguably the best performance of my life, and I get told again on live TV, ‘hey, you’re not playing tomorrow’.
“So it could have been handled a little bit better, yeah, but it still doesn’t change the fact of what really happened. Because it was the second time I got put on the spot on the same course I was a little bit more hurt, but yeah.
“To all the people criticising the PGA Tour, they shouldn’t. 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.
“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.
“Unfortunately, I had a really good showing, and I was pulled out of the tournament right before the final round, but, again, the PGA Tour did what they had to do.”
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One theory that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath was that Rahm was still in the PGA Tour’s testing pool because he had opted out of getting the vaccine.
However, the Spaniard laid those rumours to rest, saying: “The truth is I was vaccinated. I just wasn’t out of that 14-day period. I had started the process, and unfortunately, that’s how timing ended up being.
“Looking back on it, yeah, 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.
“I’m not going to lie; I was trying to just get ready for a golf tournament. If I had done it a few days earlier, probably we wouldn’t be having these conversations right now. It is what it is. We move on.”
Indeed we do. To the US Open no less. And although his preparation has been less than ideal, Rahm is the bookies’ favourite to clinch his first major at Torrey Pines, the same place where he won his maiden PGA Tour event at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open.
And the 26-year-old will be drawing inspiration from Tiger’s odds-defying win in 2008 as well as memories from his three rounds at Muirfield Village.
“Well, when you don’t hit a golf shot for just over a week, it’s tough leading into a major, especially a US Open,” Rahm said. “I’m confident I can get in form quick enough.
“I still have two more days and the memory of all those great golf shots I played, right? I’m going to choose to remember that.
“I wish I was a little bit more prepared. I was hitting it pretty good a couple of weeks ago, but I feel like, as athletes, we’re always wanting more.
“Was it 13 years ago Tiger won on pretty much a broken knee without really being prepared? Once the gun goes off, it doesn’t matter. So in that sense, I’m still confident.”