07 June 2021: On an awkward Sunday at Muirfield Village, Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa were battling each other in a tight contest. But they were also fighting against a man that wasn’t present, yet was pervasive. Jon Rahm had to withdraw after testing positive for coronavirus on Saturday, while he was ahead by six over the two gentlemen. As it is, Cantlay made a clutch 12-foot putt on the first playoff hole to score an edgy victory over Morikawa.
It was his second triumphant run at the Memorial Tournament, where hobnobbing with the Golden Bear is nearly as precious as the sparkling Crystal trophy and a thick $1.7mn cheque.
Earlier in the day, Cantlay also made a spectacular 25-foot putt to tie for the lead with Morikawa. It was an emphatic statement to assert his status in the contest.
“I would much rather have faced him (Rahm) down today and shot an extremely low round and beat him that way,” Cantlay said after closing with a 1-under 71 and beating Collin Morikawa (71) with a par on the first playoff hole.
“But unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “I did everything I could with the cards I was dealt, and I really did a good job of focusing today on the task at hand and staying present. And that’s all you can do in this game.”
“There’s a little something that I can’t quite put my finger on that make it’s feel a little different,” Cantlay said. “But I really hit a lot of clutch, solid shots today. And so I think I’ll remember that mostly.”
In the end, the better man still on the grounds had to win and that proved to be Cantlay. Morikawa had an opportunity to extend the playoff, but he let it slide past from just six feet to draw curtains on the event. Both men shot 71 in the final round.
Rahm came in contact with a positive person, falling into the contact tracing program on Monday of the week. He was tested everyday and remained negative, before testing positive on Saturday. He made 64 that day and surged out in front of the field with a commanding six-stroke lead, emulating the Memorial record for the 54-hole lead at Memorial by Tiger Woods.
“We’re all devastated,” Nicklaus said earlier Sunday. “I wish we could figure out how to give Jon three-fourths of the trophy.”
The contest was engaging. Scottie Scheffler, starting the day three back, put himself in the conversation with some assertive golf early in the final round. The three men exchanged the lead as they walked their way toward the iconic clubhouse, but a bogey at the last left Scheffler two short of joining the playoff.
Morikawa hoped to draw on his memories and produce an emphatic final round. It wasn’t to be. He went ahead at a significant moment, with a birdie on the 15th to gain a one-stroke lead over Cantlay. It lasted briefly, before the 2019 winner produced a thrilling putt on the 17th to draw even. The two men finished at 13-under 275, paving the path for a playoff to decide the winner.
“All I had to do was focus on my game and go out and play golf. There’s nothing else I could really change,” Morikawa said. “I can’t dictate anyone else’s future or how they play or what’s going on. So waking up this morning I felt great. I was ready to go play golf and see if I could win the tournament.”
But it was Cantlay that took the victory, his fourth on the PGA TOUR.