By Andrew Both
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) - Jon Rahm acknowledges that not prioritizing a coronavirus vaccination proved very costly, but he has been cleared to play again and vows to be ready for the U.S. Open starting at Torrey Pines on Thursday.
World number three Rahm had a six-shot lead after 54 holes at the Memorial tournament in Ohio 10 days ago when he was ruled out of the final round after a coronavirus test from the previous day came back positive.
Though Rahm had been vaccinated a few days previously, he admits that he dilly-dallied by not getting it done way earlier.
"Looking back on it, yeah, I guess I wish I would have done it earlier, but thinking of scheduling purposes and having the PGA (Championship) and defending Memorial, I was just, to be honest, it wasn't in my mind," the Spaniard said on Tuesday morning.
"I'm not going to lie; I was trying to just get ready for a golf tournament. If I had done it a few days earlier, probably we wouldn't be having these conversations right now. It is what it is. We move on."
After the Memorial disqualification, Rahm flew back to his Arizona home on a private jet and spent last week quarantined, hitting some shots on the simulator but not getting in the type of work he would like the week before a major.
But he could hardly ask for a more ideal major venue than Torrey Pines, where he recorded his first PGA Tour win in 2017 in his favourite city in the whole world. He even proposed to his now-wife Kelly on a nearby hiking trail.
"When you don't hit a golf shot for just about a week, it's tough leading into a major, especially a U.S. Open," Rahm said.
"I'm confident I can get in form quick enough. I still have two more days. I've been playing really good golf all year. Two weeks ago ... finally everything was firing on all cylinders.
"Not that I'm expecting to play that perfect again, but I know that I can play at a really high level."
As the conversation returned to the coronavirus, Rahm turned a touch philosophical when asked what advice he would offer other players who for whatever reason haven't been vaccinated.
"We live in a free country, so do as you please. I can tell you from experience that if something happens, you're going to have to live with the consequences golf-wise.
"I know if you're younger, you run less of a risk of having big problems from COVID, but truthfully we don't know the long-term effects of this virus, so I would encourage people to actually get it done.
"I had it (the virus), I got the antibodies, got the vaccination. I feel invincible at this point."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Hugh Lawson)