DUBLIN, Ohio – It would have been simple – trustworthy even – to peruse the gang that crushed in round Muirfield Village’s 18th inexperienced late Saturday and suppose that we’ve come out the opposite facet of a lengthy, darkish nightmare. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the one particular person sporting a masks within the near-capacity crowd was Dr. Tom Hospel, the PGA Tour’s medical advisor, and he was solely there to inform Jon Rahm that Rahm had examined constructive for COVID-19.
The gorgeous scene and Rahm’s withdrawal from the Memorial was as polarizing because it was enlightening. The Spaniard, who was cruising with a six-stroke lead and a record-tying 54-hole whole, grew to become the primary Tour participant to endure the aggressive penalties of the coronavirus.
In Tour HQ circles, this was a worst-case situation.
Rahm’s destiny was additionally a vivid and, some may say, well timed reminder that though the Tour and U.S. proceed to maneuver in the appropriate route in terms of the pandemic, there’s nonetheless highway forward that have to be navigated.
It’s not an exaggeration that the Tour navigated the pandemic waters higher than every other sports activities league, and subsequent Friday will mark the circuit’s one-year anniversary of its return to competitors at Colonial.
Twelve months in the past, the uncertainty was smothering. Would testing maintain up? Would there be an outbreak? Could the Tour maintain a schedule that covers a number of states and vastly totally different guidelines and laws?
This wasn’t the NBA. This wasn’t a bubble. And the opportunity of a participant, like Rahm, testing constructive whereas main was very actual.
“We talked about it early with [Justin Thomas] being on the PAC and Jordan [Spieth] being on the board, there was a lot of stuff that I heard that they talked about behind closed doors, what happens if someone tested on, having to test positive on Saturday that was leading?” Rickie Fowler mentioned. “It’s a very small chance, and to think that we have been at it for basically a year now and this is the first time it’s happened, pretty impressive on that part. It’s a bummer that it’s happened now.”
This at all times felt inevitable, however because the months wore on optimism – be it manufactured or in any other case – grew. Branden Grace was tied for second place after two rounds finally 12 months’s Barracuda Championship when he examined constructive for COVID-19 and was compelled to withdraw, however in any other case the competitors largely remained above the pandemic.
That was till Saturday and the surreal scene with Rahm.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything that affected an individual that much. Particularly in that position in the tournament. That was a tough thing to swallow for everybody,” mentioned event host Jack Nicklaus, who has seen just about the whole lot there’s to see in his six a long time within the sport.
If social media is any information, opinion on Rahm’s compelled WD are broadly cut up. Although the Tour wouldn’t touch upon whether or not he’s absolutely vaccinated, which is outlined by a participant who is 2 weeks faraway from a accomplished dose, the circuit’s coverage states that a participant could be exempt from contact tracing in the event that they have been vaccinated and asymptomatic, which Rahm was. It’s additionally value noting that the absolutely vaccinated charge on Tour is “north of 50 percent,” which isn’t horrible and additionally across the nationwide common for adults.
There have been additionally those that struggled to grasp why Rahm, after a week of semi-isolation due to contact tracing that restricted his entry to many indoor areas at Muirfield Village, wouldn’t be allowed to play solo on Sunday.
“We all would have loved for him to be able to play, maybe as a one-some behind everyone and play it out, but that would be a double standard to people who have had to withdraw in the past,” Kevin Streelman mentioned. “We can’t do that either. We’re just abiding by the letter of the law and that’s unfortunate but that’s what we have to do for a few more weeks or months.”
It’s additionally out of the Tour’s palms. According to CDC protocols, anybody who checks constructive faces 10 days of isolation until they’re asymptomatic and produce two unfavorable checks that are 24 hours aside. For Rahm, there was no time for that.
But this isn’t a CDC downside or a Tour downside. This is a notion downside. Following a lengthy 12 months of masks and social distancing and better-at-home practices, it’s simple to turn into complacent. It’s simple to benefit from the freedoms of a post-pandemic world and neglect the whole lot we’ve realized. Everything we’ve endured.
“I think it’s mostly past, mostly. But we’re going to have COVID for a while,” Nicklaus mentioned.
And we’re going to have COVID-19 testing, and speak to tracing, and awkward moments like Saturday’s for the foreseeable future.
As a lot as we’d all prefer to take a victory lap on the eve of the Tour’s one-year anniversary of its Return to Golf, Rahm’s plight was an unlucky reminder of how far we nonetheless have.