The European Tour will return behind closed doors with the British Masters from Wednesday July 22 and a revised season schedule will run until December.

Action has been suspended since March 8 due to the coronavirus crisis but the British Masters at Close House, hosted by Lee Westwood, will now mark the return of competitive play.

Organisers have confirmed the 2020 campaign will get back under way with six consecutive events held in the United Kingdom, initially without spectators.

A UK swing will include the British Masters, English Open, English Championship, Celtic Classic, Wales Open and UK Championship.

The Celtic Classic and Wales Open will both be played at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

A run of UK events was chosen because "playing in clusters, in one territory, is the best option in terms of testing, travel and accommodation", according to European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

Schedules for some events are yet to be finalised but there are expected to be 24 tournaments between July and December.

The DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, will conclude the season a month later than initially planned, with that event now running from December 10-13 as a Race to Dubai champion is crowned.

That will be the last of four Rolex Series events confirmed on the calendar, with the Scottish Open and BMW PGA Championship scheduled for October, with the Nedbank Golf Challenge on December 3.

The European Tour also announced the ‘Golf for Good’ initiative to support local charities.

"All tournaments will be subject to stringent safety and testing protocols," read Thursday's announcement from the Tour.

"The 'Golf for Good' initiative will be launched at the new 'UK Swing' in July and August.

"It will culminate in £500,000 being distributed equally between charities local to tournament venues and charities chosen by the leading 10 players in a mini Order of Merit run across the six tournaments."

Pelley added: "Since the suspension of our season, we have taken a measured approach in reassessing our schedule, informed every step of the way by our medical advisers and government guidance.

"We have consistently said that safety is our absolute priority and that is why we are announcing our resumption in two months' time supported by a comprehensive health strategy.

"Without question we have had to think differently about the remainder of our 2020 season which is reflected in the announcement.

"As golf's global Tour, diversity is ordinarily one of our biggest strengths, but in this instance it has become one of our biggest challenges."

Rory McIlroy believes this year's Ryder Cup will be postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 43rd meeting between Europe and the United States is due to begin in late September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The PGA Tour is currently suspended due to the spread of COVID-19, though the plan is for events to resume in mid-June, initially without fans in attendance.

However, world number one McIlroy is against the idea of staging the traditionally raucous Ryder Cup without fans present, which is why he is expecting the authorities to push back the tournament a year.

"My personal hunch is that I don't see how it is going to happen, so I do not think that it will happen," the Northern Irishman told BBC Sport.

"I think the majority of players would like to see it pushed back until 2021 so that they can play in front of crowds and have the atmosphere that makes the Ryder Cup so special.

"The players are the ones that make the Ryder Cup. If they are not on board with it and don't want to play then there is no Ryder Cup.

"I see it being pushed back until 2021 and, honestly, I think that will be the right call."

McIlroy is now based in the United States and expects to play the first three PGA Tour events when the season resumes.

Though The Open was cancelled entirely this year, McIlroy would have no qualms about returning to Europe to play in some of the more prestigious events.

"It's a tough one. There are a lot of things up in the air, but if there are some big events in autumn time, then I can," he added.

"Maybe if Wentworth gets moved to October, which they are thinking of, then I could see myself going over and playing that event.

"I was just as disappointed as everyone else that The Open got cancelled this year. I think it would have been a good date in September if we were able to play it.

"I wouldn't have concerns about travelling to Europe. I think if you stick to the guidelines then I don't see any reason why we should feel scared to travel."

Luke Donald believes a Ryder Cup held without spectators could give Europe the edge over the United States.

The biennial contest is due to take place at Whistling Straights in Wisconsin from September 25-27 this year.

Golf has largely been at a standstill during the coronavirus pandemic, but the PGA Tour plans to resume its calendar from June 11, although events are almost certain to be behind closed doors.

If the Ryder Cup can go ahead as planned but spectators are unable to attend, Europe vice-captain Donald thinks it could prove to be a disadvantage to the hosts.

Asked if playing without fans present could benefit Europe, former world number one Donald told the Sky Sports Golf podcast: "It certainly could.

"Obviously, for anyone who watched the exhibition match [involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady] last weekend and saw some live golf, there were only four players and there wasn't much energy there.

"I think players feed off the energy, especially the home team. They feed off that positive vibe and the crowd can play a big part, that's why it's always an advantage to be at home.

"If we were to play a Ryder Cup without any fans, then being in America it would be more favourable to the Europeans than the US team."

The United States Golf Association (USGA) is yet to make a decision on whether spectators will be able to attend this year's U.S. Open.

Winged Foot Golf Club will host the 2020 edition of the major in September, with the coronavirus pandemic having forced a postponement from the original June date.

However, it remains to be seen whether fans will be in attendance at the New York course.

The USGA released a statement on Monday, the same day New York governor Andrew Cuomo urged sports organisations to get things back up and running again.

"We have not made a final determination regarding whether spectators will be able to attend the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club," the USGA statement read.

"Given the realities of the pandemic, we are recreating the entire championship for everyone involved.

"We appreciate and understand everyone's questions and will provide more information as soon as possible."

The USGA also confirmed on Monday that qualifying for the U.S. Open had been cancelled.

Qualifying for this year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot has been cancelled, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced.

The major was originally scheduled for June but was pushed back to September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just four events remain on the USGA's 2020 calendar, but no qualification events will be held as it "was not seen as a viable option".

The field will instead be determined entirely by exemptions.

"As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships," said USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer.

"We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for a USGA championship and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year. But this structure provides the best path forward for us to conduct these championships in 2020."

The tournament is due to take place between September 17-20, with exemption categories expected "in the coming weeks".

Donald Trump responded to Rory McIlroy's vow never to play golf with the United States president again, saying a lot of golfers "like my politics very much and some don't, I guess".

World number one McIlroy last week criticised Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, accusing him of trying to "politicise" the crisis.

"We're in the midst of something that's pretty serious right now," McIlroy told the McKellar Golf Podcast.

"He's trying to politicise it and make it a campaign rally, saying that [the US] administers the most tests in the world like it's a contest.

"It's just not the way a leader should act and there is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don't think he's shown that, especially in these times."

McIlroy drew criticism for playing a round with Trump in 2017 at his International Golf Club in Florida but said he would not do so again in the future.

Trump, phoning in to NBC's coverage of a charity TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match that saw McIlroy and Dustin Johnson defeat Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, had his say on the comments.

"A lot of them [golfers] are very political, actually. A lot of them like my politics very much and some don't, I guess," he said.

"The ones that don't I don't get to see as much."

There have been 1,527,951 confirmed cases of coronavirus in America, with 90,980 having died after testing positive.

United States president Donald Trump wants to see "big crowds" at the rescheduled Masters.

The 2020 Masters was moved from April to November due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 316,000 people worldwide.

Trump is hoping Augusta can welcome plenty of fans, despite the United States being hit hard by COVID-19.

"We want to get it back to where it was. We want big, big stadiums loaded with people," Trump told NBC on Sunday.

"We want to have, when you have the Masters, we want to have big crowds. Right now, that's not what they're planning, but you never know.

"Things can happen very quickly."

Trump was speaking as Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson beat Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins match, raising over $5.5million for coronavirus relief.

The USA has more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with its death toll exceeding 90,900.

Rory McIlroy has criticised president Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

World number one McIlroy accused Trump of trying to "politicise" the crisis, with 1,460,989 confirmed cases in America and 87,025 people having died after receiving a positive test for coronavirus. 

McIlroy previously defended his decision to play golf with the controversial president in 2017 at his International Golf Club in Florida.

"We're in the midst of something that's pretty serious right now," McIlroy told the McKellar Golf Podcast.

"He's trying to politicise it and make it a campaign rally, saying that [the US] administers the most tests in the world like it's a contest.

"It's just not the way a leader should act and there is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don't think he's shown that, especially in these times."

Speaking about his previous round with Trump, McIlroy said it was an experience he enjoyed but not one he expects to have again.

"I don't know if he'd want to play with me again after what I just said," he continued.

"I know it's very self-serving of me to say 'no' and, if I don't, then it means then I'm not putting myself in position to be put under scrutiny and that I'm avoiding that. But I probably wouldn't, no.

"The day that I did spend with him and others was very enjoyable. He is very charismatic and was nice to everyone. He obviously has something, or he wouldn't be in the White House.

"That doesn't mean I agree with everything - or, in fact, anything - that he says."

 

 

Brooks Koepka would have been gearing up for a US PGA Championship three-peat this week.

Based on the form he hit at majors from 2017 to 2019, it's not too far-fetched to suggest a global pandemic is one of the very few things that could have prevented him from achieving the feat.

His is a curious CV. Of the seven wins at PGA Tour-sanctioned tournaments to his name, four have been major triumphs.

This is a man who cuts to the chase, in deeds and in words.

Speaking ahead of his US PGA Championship defence at Bethpage Black last year, Koepka declared: "I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win."

Nobody says that. It's doubtful anyone even thinks that, Koepka included, but he went ahead and said it anyway.

Delivering that line, absent any irony, spoke as much to the American's strengths as any crunching drive he has ever hit, or nerveless put he has sunk.

It shone a light on his mental fortitude, a character trait forged by the fierce heat of his own burning desire to have his achievements recognised.

You see, for all his relentless brilliance at his last 10 major outings – he added four top-six finishes alongside his quartet of wins – Koepka has never been elevated to the kind of stardom enjoyed some of his less successful contemporaries.

Dustin Johnson, who won his first and to date only major a year before Koepka got off the mark, boasts a higher profile and greater name recognition beyond the sport, as does Jordan Spieth, who hasn't won a major since 2017 and now resides 56th in the world rankings.

He can't match Rory McIlroy's global appeal, and as for competing with Tiger Woods for the spotlight, forget it.

That he has not been extended an invitation to join the golfing glitterati is a curious snub, but one that appears to have served him well, instilling in Koepka a hunger that has fuelled his voracious appetite for success.

Without it, he would be neither the man nor golfer he is today.

And if any of his rivals hoped a flurry of landmark victories would sate his craving for silverware, they gravely underestimated the extent of his ambition.

Asked in the aftermath of his win at Bethpage how many majors he might accumulate, Koepka replied: "Double digits, easy! I don't see why I can't get to double digits."

Well, they are the easiest ones to win.

Davis Love III and Zach Johnson have been named vice-captains of the United States Ryder Cup team.

Two-time captain Love and Johnson join Jim Furyk on skipper Steve Stricker's team for the biennial event, which is due to be staged at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from September 25-27.

Love captained the USA against Europe for a second time in 2016, with the hosts regaining the famous trophy at Hazeltine.

Johnson was also a vice-captain at Le Golf National two years ago, when Europe secured a resounding victory.

Stricker will name additional deputies at a later date, although doubts continue to be raised over whether the competition will go ahead amid the coronavirus crisis.

Captain Stricker said of his latest appointments: "With the Ryder Cup it's important to surround yourself with quality individuals who you can lean on and who have the best interests of the team in mind."

"Jim [Furyk] and I have talked about this a lot in the last year and now we are happy to add two Ryder Cup veterans in Zach and Davis to the conversation with the goal of putting this team in a prime position to win. Both Zach and Davis share a passion to compete at the highest level and are strong communicators, which is important, especially when we’re in the heat of competition."

Love said: "Steve has been such a consistent presence on this team, both as a player and as a vice-captain, and now it's his time to lead.

"He has a terrific vision for what he wants our U.S. team to not only accomplish, but represent, all year long. I'm confident in the program he has in place and am anxious to get to work."

Johnson stressed the importance of the USA making home advantage count in a Ryder Cup that could be staged without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: "It's always an honour to be part of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In a domestic Ryder Cup, it's important to defend 'our turf', and to do so on behalf of Steve - in his home state at Whistling Straits - is a great opportunity for our team to make a statement."

Seve Ballesteros, who died on May 7, 2011, was a singular talent.

Playing a sport not universally loved, he somehow had a universal appeal.

He was a great entertainer. His passion and charisma lent him an aura few can match.

Ballesteros' gift was apparent from an early age, the young Spaniard showing his creative flare by hitting pebbles with a wood-shafted three-iron on a beach near his home.

It is little wonder he would go on to become arguably golf's most inventive player, able to execute shots most could not even envisage.

Flamboyant and swashbuckling, Ballesteros had a style all his own, with Tiger Woods lauding his genius.

"Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game," Woods said in a tribute shortly after Ballesteros died of brain cancer.

"His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed."

That craft and guile served him so well that Ballesteros became a serial winner, with 90 titles to his name, including five majors.

His influence on the European Tour, on which he won a record 50 tournaments, cannot be overstated.

Players today owe him a huge debt of gratitude, with Ballesteros popularising the sport across the continent and beyond, becoming the first European to win the Masters when he triumphed at Augusta in 1980.

Europe itself, as a sporting entity in the Ryder Cup, meant a great deal to him, and Ballesteros was a talismanic figure for his team.

From 37 matches he claimed 22.5 points and is widely regarded as Europe's most iconic team member, leading them to victory as captain in his home nation in 1997.

His presence is still felt in modern editions, with 2012 captain and close friend Jose Maria Olazabal citing Ballesteros' influence on Team Europe's stunning comeback win at Medinah.

Crying as he spoke, Olazabal said: "Our team played in the spirit of Seve without ever giving up. You believed and you delivered and I'm proud that you have kept Europe's hand on this Ryder Cup."

Ballesteros' was diagnosed with a brain tumour after collapsing at Madrid airport in 2008. He underwent three operations over more than 20 hours. A spell in intensive care and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed, all helping to extend his life while simultaneously sapping at his energy.

He passed away nine years ago, at the age of 54, and the world of golf lost its brightest star. 

Luke Donald has been confirmed as a vice-captain for Europe after Padraig Harrington let slip the Englishman will be part of his team for this year's Ryder Cup.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a suspension of the global golfing calendar, leading to uncertainty over whether the 2020 Ryder Cup, which is due to take place at Whistling Straits in September, will go ahead as planned.

However, Harrington is planning for the event to take place as scheduled, with Sweden's Robert Karlsson already confirmed as one of his assistants.

Europe's captain accidently revealed Donald will be working with the team too, though stopped short of naming him in full while appearing on The Golf Show on Sky Sports on Tuesday.

"I had a phone call with Luke... I nearly said the word there, possibly did say the word there... one of my vice-captains yesterday," he said.

Donald later tweeted "I thought this was meant to be a secret", to which Harrington replied: "Sorry about that. News was too good to keep under wraps! Welcome to the team."

Team Europe later announced the appointment officially on social media.

Harrington also said that while players do not want the Ryder Cup to take place behind closed doors, they may need to "take one for the team" so it can be broadcast for an audience eager for sporting action.

"It's an option that nobody wants to take, and the players don't want it, but we might have to take one for the world team of sport and put an event on that people can watch," he said. 

"It wouldn't be the same for us, obviously, but it's sport on TV that we're all craving. If we see any live sport right now, we'd all be sitting at home watching it."

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are to team up to take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a $3million charity skins event, which will mark the return of televised golf.

The TaylorMade Driving Relief is to take place at the Seminole Golf Club in Florida and will raise money for the American Nurses Foundation and CDC Foundation.

A further $1m for a birdies-and-eagles pool has been pledged by Farmers Insurance to benefit Off Their Plate, which aids COVID-19 healthcare workers.

The exhibition will be the first televised golf since the coronavirus pandemic brought the 2020 season to a halt at the Players Championship in March.

A PGA Tour statement added: "The competition will follow strict CDC social distancing guidelines, local mandates and will utilise appropriate testing measures to help protect the health and safety of the golfers, production crew and others on site”. No spectators will be allowed to attend.

"It's been difficult to witness what so many are enduring over the last several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic," McIlroy said in a statement published on golfchannel.com. 

"I hope that we can provide some respite and entertainment for those tuning in across the globe. 

"Dustin and I will have a lot of fun together and our games will fit well as we push to raise funds and awareness on May 17."

McIlroy and Johnson will represent the American Nurses Foundation, while Fowler and Wolff are to play for the CDC Foundation.

The PGA Tour is scheduled to return with the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Texas in the second week of June without fans in attendance.

Rory McIlroy was in flying form before the coronavirus pandemic brought the PGA and European Tours to a halt.

Since missing the cut at his home Open Championship at Royal Portrush, McIlroy recorded an astonishing 12 top-10 finishes in 14 starts, including victories at the Tour Championship and HSBC Champions.

That form saw McIlroy once again ascend to the summit of the world rankings and the four-time major winner will have been as frustrated as anyone to see the season suspended due to the global health crisis.

McIlroy turned 31 on Monday and now seems as good a time as any to reflect on his career achievements, and some goals to work towards in the future.

RECORD-BREAKING MAJOR WINS

Major season started in heart-breaking fashion for McIlroy in 2011 as an infamous final-round meltdown at the Masters saw him squander a four-shot lead to finish in a tie for 15th. In a show of his strength of character, McIlroy bounced back in remarkable fashion two months later to win a first major at the U.S. Open at Congressional. His eight-shot triumph was the biggest margin of victory in the tournament's history, while his 16 under was a record for strokes under par (a feat then matched by Brooks Koepka in 2017). A little over a year later, McIlroy was setting more benchmarks at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. An eight-shot victory bested Jack Nicklaus' previous mark of seven.

DOUBLING UP IN GLORIOUS 2014

The following six majors proved frustrating for McIlroy. However, a first Claret Jug arrived in style with a wire-to-wire victory at the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool – a two-shot triumph a little skewed by so many of the chasing pack making the most of placid Sunday conditions. A month later, McIlroy showed impressed nerve as a partisan crowd roared on the charges of Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler to win a second PGA Championship by one shot at Valhalla. In doing so, McIlroy became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2008 to win three straight starts on the PGA Tour.

PRIZES GALORE ON PGA AND EUROPEAN TOUR

McIlroy has enjoyed plenty of success besides majors, of course. He has 27 professional career victories to his name, including at the Players Championship, three World Golf Championships events and five in FedEx Cup playoff tournaments. He has won the European Tour's prestigious Race to Dubai three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) and also become FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour twice (2016 and 2019). Also, on three occasions McIlroy has been named PGA Tour Player of the Year (2012, 2014 and 2019), and European Tour Golfer of the Year (2012, 2014 and 2015).

And here are some objectives for McIlroy to focus on…

FINALLY WIN THE MASTERS

While McIlroy's agonising 80 on that fateful Sunday at the 2011 Masters was tough to watch at the time, it seemed a mere blip in what would be a successful quest to win a green jacket. And yet, eight subsequent visits to Augusta National have failed to yield a win (albeit there were five top-10 finishes between 2014 and 2018). McIlroy has made no secret of his desire to win the Masters and a player with his outrageous talent must surely get one eventually, right? It is the missing piece in a career Grand Slam and winning the Masters will remain McIlroy's main goal.

AVENGE PORTRUSH DISAPPOINTMENT

The 148th Open was a particularly important one for McIlroy, given it was hosted at Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland, for the first time in 68 years. All eyes were on the local hero who started as pre-tournament favourite, but a nightmare opening round (including a quadruple-bogey eight on the first hole, a double-bogey five on the 16th, and a triple-bogey seven on the 18th) saw him sign for an eight-over 79. A second-day fightback saw him recover to two over, yet he still missed the cut by a solitary stroke. An emotional McIlroy admitted "it is going to hurt for a little bit", but – even saving for the postponement of the 2020 Open due to the coronavirus pandemic – McIlroy will have plenty of opportunities to win more Claret Jugs, plus the success of the 2019 tournament at Portrush means he will likely have another shot at glory on home soil in the future.

WIN OLYMPICS GOLD

McIlroy was pretty brutal about golf's return to the Olympics four years ago in Brazil. Speaking prior to the 2016 Open, McIlroy - who like several of his contemporaries opted not to play in Rio due to the threat of the Zika virus - said he would watch "the stuff that matters" at the Games. McIlroy later said he was "glad to be proven somewhat wrong" about the success of golf at the Olympics and a year ago declared his intention to represent Ireland at Tokyo 2020. Of course, the coronavirus has also pushed those Games back to 2021, but going for gold is surely a renewed aim for McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy would prefer the Ryder Cup be postponed until 2021 than played without fans this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whistling Straits is set to host the event in September, just days after the rescheduled U.S. Open.

The PGA Tour is planning to resume without fans in attendance in June as COVID-19 continues to impact sport around the world.

Northern Irishman McIlroy said he would rather the Ryder Cup be postponed until next year than played with no fans present.

"I get the financial implications for everyone involved … but having a Ryder Cup without fans, it's not a Ryder Cup," he said during an Instagram Live with TaylorMade on Tuesday.

"For me, I would much rather them delay it until 2021 to play the Ryder Cup than play it at Whistling Straits without fans.

"That's from a European, going to America, knowing that I'm going to get abuse. Obviously it would be better for Europeans to play without fans because we wouldn't deal with some of the stuff that you have to put up with, but at the same time it's not a Ryder Cup. It wouldn't be a great spectacle, there'd be no atmosphere.

"If it came to whether they had to choose between not playing the Ryder Cup or playing it without fans, I would say just delay it for a year and play it in '21."

The 2022 Ryder Cup is scheduled to be held in Italy, which has been one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 with more than 24,600 deaths.

McIlroy said pushing back this year's event could also give Italy more time to prepare.

"If they do delay it until '21 the next Ryder Cup is supposed to be in Italy and we know how affected Italy was with coronavirus and COVID-19 so it gives that country an extra year to prepare for the Ryder Cup in '23 instead of in '22," he said.

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