Jon Rahm’s Errant Tee Shot at the PGA Championship Sends ESPN’s Sage Steele to the Hospital

Golf isn’t supposed to be a contact sport, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous. A spectator that many ESPN viewers would recognize instantly found that out the hard way on Thursday during the first round of the PGA Championship.

Jon Rahm’s errant tee shot at the PGA Championship injures Sage Steele

Sage Steele speaks during the Players Tailgate by Bullseye Event Group on Feb. 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Bullseye Event Group
Sage Steele speaks during the Players Tailgate by Bullseye Event Group on Feb. 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Bullseye Event Group

A hooked shot by PGA Tour star Jon Rahm on the third tee hit Sage Steele flush in the face during the opening round of the PGA Championship, sending the ESPN personality to a hospital.

Steele was at Southern Hills Country Club for SportsCenter coverage at the second of the season’s four golf majors. She was to the left of the fairway when Rahm pulled his tee shot and immediately called out a warning to spectators on that side of the hole.

Golf writer Geoff Shackelford summarized an eyewitness account saying the ball struck Steele, 49, in the face, sending her to the ground “holding her nose, mouth or chin area” and with her hands “covered in blood.” The New York Post reported she walked off the course under her own power. Tracking software calculated that the ball traveled 281 yards at 181 mph.

The force of the blow to Steele’s face was apparently so significant that the ball bounded well onto the fairway of the 459-yard, par-4 hole.

Jon Rahm was not immediately aware that his shot injured the ESPN personality

According to those at the course, there was no indication Jon Rahm, the defending U.S. Open champion and an eighth-place finisher at the 2021 PGA Championship, was immediately aware that his shot had hit Sage Steele, and the ESPN broadcast did not make mention of it.

Rahm parred the third hole, birdied the fifth, and made double-bogey at No. 8 on his way to a three-over 73 for the day. He followed with a 69 in Friday’s second round.

The Post’s story said Steele returned home to Connecticut after being treated and won’t return to ESPN coverage this weekend.

Steele joined the network in 2007 and has been a fixture on SportsCenter, also handling onsite coverage of major events, including The Masters Tournament and championships in the major team sports.

Sage Steele is in the midst of a lawsuit against ESPN

Though she remains on-air with the cable network, Sage Steele is in the midst of a legal battle with ESPN. According to reports, she filed a lawsuit in April alleging retaliation over comments she made about ESPN’s vaccine mandate on a podcast in September 2021. Steele alleges violations of her contract and her right to free speech.

ESPN contends it did not suspend the reporter and SportsCenter host, a point of contention in the suit. According to the paper, Steele argues ESPN stripped her of key assignments, and the network failed to discipline co-workers who engaged in bullying and harassment.

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