In a strange week at Jack Nicklaus’ home course of Muirfield Village, it was American Olympic hopeful Patrick Cantlay who edged fellow Team USA candidate Collin Morikawa in a playoff to win the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. The win came after Spaniard Jon Rahm withdrew after the third round after a positive COVID-19 test result came through. Rahm was subject to additional testing due to contact tracing from earlier in the week. At the time of his withdrawal, Rahm had matched the 54-hole record and held a six-stroke lead entering the final round.
It is a real honor to win @MemorialGolf at Jack’s place again. The fans made it such a fun Sunday and it was great to battle it out with @collin_morikawa. @JonRahmpga played an amazing three rounds and I’m looking forward to seeing him back competing again. pic.twitter.com/aygn9sn4fW— Patrick Cantlay (@patrick_cantlay) June 7, 2021
“You know, such a weird situation and very unfortunate,” noted Cantlay after his win. “He played so amazing the first three rounds that the way I felt Sunday morning was obviously a lot different than I felt on, walking off the 18th green on Saturday. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do except reset and just take the new paradigm and run with it. I thought I did a good job of staying focused and it really felt like a battle between Collin and I all day and that's just kind of how it played out.”
While his win was overshadowed through no fault of his own, Cantlay seized the opportunity with two back-nine birdies to reach a playoff with Morikawa before a par on the first playoff hole was enough to claim his fourth career PGA TOUR victory.
“It's always special coming off the 18th green and shaking his hand,” said Cantlay of tournament host Jack Nicklaus. “We have a great connection and we are, I would say, good friends at this point, and so that makes it just a little more special. So he's taken me under his wing and to do it at his place with the advice and encouragement that he's given me over the years is very special for me.”
Cantlay and Morikawa’s close competition down the stretch has a chance to be a preview of competition at the Tokyo Olympics later this summer. Though still on the outside looking in, Cantlay’s win advances him to the fifth-ranked American in the men’s Olympic Golf Ranking, while Morikawa comes in as the second-ranked American (behind Justin Thomas). The top-four Americans – assuming they are in the top-15 of the Olympic Golf Ranking – will earn the chance to represent Team USA. Currently the top-four spots are held by Thomas, Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele, with Cantlay and Brooks Koepka trailing just behind the quartet.
The men’s Olympic Golf Ranking will be finalized in two weeks on June 21 after the conclusion of the U.S. Open.