KAWAGOE – Positive COVID-19 tests knocked Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau out of the Olympic golf tournament Sunday, in a pair of surprises that reinforced the tenuous nature of holding a massive sports event during a global pandemic.
Word of Rahm's positive test came from the Spanish Olympic committee about four hours after USA Golf delivered the same news about DeChambeau.
They are among the best-known of the some 11,000 athletes descending on Japan for the 17-day sports festival at which negative COVID tests — but not vaccinations — are required to participate.
Spain's Olympic federation explained that Rahm had two negative tests after leaving England, where he played in the British Open earlier this month. But a third test that was also required came back positive.
The country said it would not seek to replace Rahm, leaving Adri Arnaus as its only player in the men's tournament, which starts Thursday at Kasumigaseki Country Club outside of Tokyo.
This is the second positive test for Rahm in fewer than two months. He was holding a six-shot lead after three rounds at the Memorial in early June when he was informed as he was coming of the course that he had tested positive and would have to withdraw.
He came back two weeks later to win the U.S. Open and vault to No. 1 in the world. And now, Tokyo will be without the last two U.S. Open winners; DeChambeau won it at Winged Foot in 2020.
After his win at Torrey Pines, Rahm said he was vaccinated when he tested positive at the Memorial, but still had to be quarantined because he had not been vaccinated for 14 days.
“Looking back on it, yeah, I guess I wish I would have done it (vaccination) earlier,” Rahm said then. “But thinking on scheduling purposes and having the PGA and defending Memorial, to be honest it wasn’t in my mind.”
Though not common, there have been people who catch COVID-19 despite being vaccinated. Likewise, there are rare examples of people getting re-infected.
DeChambeau said he was "deeply disappointed not to be able to compete in the Olympics for Team USA.”
“Representing my country means the world to me and it is was a tremendous honor to make this team,” he said.
He will be replaced by 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, who must go through COVID protocols Sunday and Monday in order to travel to Japan and be ready for the tournament later in the week.
Reed found out after finishing his third round of the 3M Open on Saturday in Minnesota, where he immediately took one of his required three COVID-19 tests that each must be 24 hours apart. He was planning to start his flight to Japan on Tuesday and arrive Wednesday, which won't leave him enough time for a practice round.
“These days with how good yardage books are and with how much we have to kind of figure things out on the fly as it is, I expect to go in there and play well and be able to manage the golf course and hit the golf shots,” Reed said on Sunday, after shooting a 71 to finish at 6 under for the tournament.
True to his “Captain America” nickname, Reed has long been more gung-ho about the Summer Games than many of his peers on the tour. He's now the only two-time Olympian on the men’s side of the sport, which was reintroduced to the program in 2016. He shot 64 in the final round in Rio de Janeiro and finished 11th.
“It feels like an obligation and a duty of mine to go out and play for our country whenever I can and whenever I get the call. To be able to call myself not just an Olympian but a two-time Olympian is pretty sweet," Reed said.
Reed will join Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele on the four-man U.S team. Reed had been third in line to be a replacement, behind Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka.
Koepka had previously sounded unenthused about the prospect of playing in the Olympics, saying the sport’s four majors, plus the Ryder Cup and other big events, give players plenty to strive for. The Ryder Cup this year is set for Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits.
DeChambeau had been looking to write a new chapter to his theatric 2021 season. It has included months of sparring with Koepka, a sudden break with his longtime caddie, and, most recently, a spat with his club sponsor when he said his driver “sucks” after struggling at the British Open.
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Blaine, Minnesota, contributed to this report. ___
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