Final round preview of the Memorial Tournament: Leader Rahm dramatically pulled out, event wide open

Jon Rahm left the final green leading the event by six shots head, apparently all-set to defend his title – and then he learned that everything had changed.

If Jon Rahm writes a diary, the entry he penned before bedtime last night might be worth a read.

Something like: "Woke early to finish the second round, made a hole in one, had a career-best Strokes Gained round, tied the tournament scoring record for 54 holes, grabbed a six shot lead, got told I'd had a positive Covid test behind 18 on live TV, had to withdraw."

Perhaps, like Adrian Mole, he ended with: "Just my luck."

It really was a surreal Saturday at the Memorial Tournament.

Last July, Rahm led this tournament by four after three rounds ahead of a superb win and remarkably he exited the final green this year in an even more dominant position: he'd birdied six of the final seven holes to card a 64 and held that six stroke advantage.

As he strode from the green he was top of the leaderboard on 18-under, seconds later he remained there but the letters WD (withdrawal) replaced his score, this morning he is relegated to the bottom of the scoring page.

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"This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people," Rahm tweeted.

His playing partner Patrick Cantlay added: "It's kind of the worst situation for something like that to happen and he played awesome today and it's just, it's really a shame."

Suddenly, the tournament looks very different and Rahm's shadow will hang over everything that happens in the final round: whoever wins, a certain sheepishness about the triumph seems inevitable.

On the other hand, professional sport is a dog eat dog world - an opportunity has arisen and it seems likely that the winner will emerge from a pack of four.

Collin Morikawa, winner of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village last year, sits on 12-under 204 alongside Patrick Cantlay, winner of the Memorial in 2019.

They hold a three shot lead over Branden Grace and Scottie Scheffler, with Max Homa alone in distant fifth on 6-under.

Let's take a closer look at those leading contenders, course trends, and also catch up with all the best social media responses to the extraordinary withdrawal of Rahm.

Collin Morikawa - tied first on 12-under (66-72-66)

He made a triple bogey-6 midway through his second round, but otherwise his golf has been superb and he leads the field in Strokes Gained Tee to Green (12.977), based on an approach game of high skill (he ranks second, gaining 7.751 shots).

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He carded 65-66-72-66 when winning at Muirfield Village last year, but the greens were slower than usual that week and then rapid for the Memorial when he scored 76-70-73-77, but he's bounced back this week.

Note those two very different experiences on Saturday (66-77) - he won't want to repeat the latter. He's 1-for-2 at converting a 54-hole lead and his four PGA Tour wins have all come from being right in the heat of battle at the start of Sunday.

When he talked to the press he thought he was going to trail Rahm by six, but he did say: "I'm always paying attention where I'm at and what other guys are doing, but it doesn't affect how I'm going to play, it's not going to make me play more aggressive. I focus on myself. I can't control what others do."

Patrick Cantlay - tied first on 12-under (69-67-68)

His favourite spot has confirmed the return to form which his T23rd at the PGA Championship suggested. Before that he'd missed five straight cuts and hadn't posted a sub-70 score in strokeplay since the first round at the Genesis Invitational in late February.

But he owns a fine course record with a log book that reads: T35th-T4th-winner-T7th-T32nd. Ahead of this week he'd ended 12 of his last 16 laps of the track in the top 10. Now he's back in such a situation and will call on the good memories of a stunning final round 64 in 2019 which earned the win. Like Morikawa, he had contrasting experiences on Sunday last year: he went 65-79.

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He ranks second for SG Tee to Green and is top 10 for all SG categories. Oddly he's only once before held a 54 hole lead on the PGA Tour and went backwards last time (he shot a 73 to fall back to T8th). He's 1-for-3 at converting if you include the Korn Ferry Tour. His three PGA Tour wins came from three or four strokes back at this stage.

Of the course he said: "With all the good memories I have, it's just easy to stand up and visualize the shot that I want to hit." Of the transformed leaderboard he added: "I'm sure it's not as much of a jolt for me as it is for Jon. I guess we knew that this was a potential lurking out there when we came back to golf. It's just extremely unfortunate."

Branden Grace - tied third on 9-under (68-72-67)

The prolific winner in South Africa and Europe is now hunting a third PGA Tour victory and second of the season. But he has also won on a Nicklaus track, albeit the slightly different Harbour Town.

His first eight career wins around the world came from holding, or sharing, the pre-final round lead. But his last six have all come from off the pace, three of them from three back.

The two leaders (and the phantom leader) might have all been past winners on the course, but Grace is a different kettle of fish. Ahead of this week he'd made just two cuts in six tries, had only one top 50 (T25th on debut), and had gone sub-70 only once in 16 laps.

Scottie Scheffler - tied third on 9-under (67-71-69)

He missed the cut debuting on the course last June, but played nicely at the Memorial a few weeks later, getting into T12th at this stage before being the one of many to struggle in the final round (77). He's backed up the notion he's a good fit for the test all this week.

He ranks sixth for SG Tee to Green and seventh for Putting. He's twice been three back with 18 holes to play and both times ended the week tied seventh.

He provided an accidentally comic account of what happened after Saturday's round: "We get into scoring and Jon looked very frustrated, which I thought was weird, so I kind of smiled at him. He just goes, 'Good luck tomorrow', and, I'm, like, 'Thanks, man. You play good too.' He's, like, 'No, man, I just tested positive.' My heart just sank. I think it's terrible they told him in front of the cameras. I just feel awful. I feel terrible and I'm really confused."

Muirfield Village trends and conclusions

Strokes Gained Tee to Green matters here - three of the last four winners ranked top two in the category. Cantlay and Morikawa ranked one and two this week, Grace and Scheffler eighth and sixth.

Four of the last five winners have pummelled the par-5s, ranking top five. Currently Scheffler leads that category, Morikawa is seventh, Cantlay 11th and Grace 21st.

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Not one of the last 25 Memorial winner made up more than five strokes in the final round, a fact that might prompt snorts of deranged laughter from wherever Rahm is spending Sunday, but it now spells problems for the field.

Seven of those 25 were from at least three back which gives Grace and Scheffler hope. The American might be favoured given Grace's long term course form, but will he still be a little rattled by Saturday night's news?

The books can't split the top two. Boylesport are typical and top price on both, going 6/4 for either Morikawa or Cantlay. The stats mentioned above would probably just give Morikawa the edge.

Unibet are top price on the chasers, going 8/1 Scheffler and 12/1 Grace.

How social media reacted to the news of Rahm's withdrawal

(Curated by Ben Rooth.)

Tournament founder and golfing great, Jack Nicklaus, tweeted how he felt sorry for the Spaniard:

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Fellow PGA TOUR players, Wyndham Clark and Dylan Frittelli, commented on the timing of when Rahm was told about his positive COVID-19 test:

Golf Writer, Jason Sobel, also questioning why the TOUR officials didn't pull Rahm from the event earlier:

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Journalist, Robert Lusetich, reports that more tests will be done for the final round:

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