DUBLIN, Ohio – The show must go on.
That’s what tournament host Jack Nicklaus said Sunday morning after the curtain was drawn the day before on one of the worst endings one could imagine, when the leading man of the Memorial Tournament, Jon Rahm, was forced to withdraw following Saturday’s third round after testing positive for COVID-19.
Rahm’s record-setting ways through three rounds at Muirfield Village Golf Club – he tied the tournament’s 54-hole record for low total – would have given him a socially distanced six-shot lead heading into the final 18.
Instead, Rahm headed for a 10-day isolation stint.
And Jack’s annual bash solemnly headed to the final round.
Against that somber backdrop, the show did go on – and was pretty darn good despite an early evening deluge that halted play for a few minutes.
Dealing up a riveting ending were world No. 15 Patrick Cantlay, who won this championship in 2019, and world No. 6 Collin Morikawa, who defeated Justin Thomas in a playoff to win the Workday Charity Open here in 2020.
The two slept on the overnight lead, with both finishing at 12 under through 54 holes and no longer tasked with trying to chase down Rahm. Instead, along with Scottie Scheffler, who started three shots back, the trio traded spots at the top of the leaderboard for most of the day.
But Cantlay and Morikawa made late birdies to pull away from the field and then each parred the 18th hole to force a playoff. Cantlay, who had birdied the 17th from 24 feet while Morikawa canned an 11-footer for par to remain in a share of the lead, watched his bid for the win on the 72nd hole from 25 feet burn the edge.
In the playoff – on the 18th hole – Cantlay buried a 12-footer for par and then became the champion for a second time when Morikawa’s par bid from 6 feet slid by on the left side.
“Such a weird situation,” Cantlay said of the tournament’s bizarre turn with Rahm’s withdrawal. “It’s so unfortunate. Everyone knows it would have been a totally different situation if that had not happened.
“But there was nothing I could do about it. I started off shaky but then I felt the same as when I won a couple years ago – calm and collected.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 6, 2021
Scheffler, who was looking for his first PGA Tour title, birdied the 15th to gain a share of the lead but closed with a bogey on the last to finish with a 70 and at 11 under. Branden Grace made a 40-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole to finish with a 71 and at 10 under.
Patrick Reed finished solo fifth at 8 under with a finishing 69.
Still, Nicklaus said he felt a little empty with Rahm’s withdrawal.
“Everybody here is devastated. It’s a terrible thing to have happen,” Nicklaus said. “Jon handled it very well. He’s a big boy. He understands that we have rules. And unfortunately, those are not something that you really may like, but those are the rules that we have right now. You have to abide by them. Whether he would have shot 64 (Saturday) or 74 the same result would have come out for him.
‘I feel bad for him. I don’t know how you send him a trophy for three-quarters of a tournament but I’d certainly like to.”