Miguel Angel Jimenez recorded his lowest round on the European Tour for two years to take the lead in the Austrian Open.

The 56-year-old carded a seven-under-par 65 on Friday in Atzenbrugg, his lowest score since the 2018 Italian Open, to take a two-shot lead into the weekend over a chasing group including overnight leader Joost Luiten.

Jimenez birdied three of his opening four holes and three of the final four on the front nine after dropping a shot at the par-four fifth.

Further gains followed on the 10th, 11th and 13th holes, and the frustration of back-to-back bogeys was eased when he gained a further stroke on the par-three 18th with a superb approach.

After spending a four-month break in the Dominican Republic while the coronavirus pandemic kept the Tour on hold, Jimenez was delighted to be back and on form as he targets a title that would see him break his own record as the oldest winner in European Tour history.

"I'm playing very well," he said on Friday. "It feels great. Four months without competing, it's nice getting back into a tournament and feeling the tension again. I'm hitting it well and making some putts, not too many bogeys – that's the key. I enjoyed myself. My irons were working very well.

"I was excited to get back. I miss the competition. I can't remember the last time I had a four-month holiday."

Luiten went to nine under for the tournament to claim a share of second with Marc Warren, Craig Howie, Renato Paratore and Nicolai Von Dellingshausen.

Patrick Reed is in full support of the decision taken to delay the Ryder Cup, insisting the presence of fans will make it "even sweeter" when the event takes place in 2021.

Due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Ryder Cup organisers announced this week that the 2020 edition will be pushed back 12 months.

The United States will have home advantage next September when Europe travels to defend the trophy at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, with the action unfolding between September 24-26.

While the PGA Tour has returned behind closed doors, Reed believes the Ryder Cup would not be the same if played out without a packed crowd at the course, as their presence brings out the emotion in the players.

The 29-year-old has experienced both sides of the occasion, too. He has lost twice on European soil, including in 2018 at Le Golf National, but was also a member of the USA team that triumphed in 2016 under the captaincy of Davis Love III.

Speaking after his opening round at the Workday Charity Open, Reed said: "I think probably if you asked everybody - captains, assistant captains, players, both organisations - that they're disappointed, obviously, that we're not going to play Ryder Cup this year, but at the end of the day I feel like they made the right call.

"The Ryder Cup is not the same if you have it at 50 per cent fans or if you have it at no fans. The fans are kind of what makes the Ryder Cup.

"You go in there and you - if you're the home team, you have everyone behind you, and if you're away, you want the hostility, you want people to kind of go at you. That's the fun thing about the event.

"So with either cutting fans back or not having them at all, I also don't think you'll get as much emotion out of players, and with that being said, I feel like it just wouldn't be a Ryder Cup.

"I mean, they made the right decision, and it's just going to be even sweeter whenever we're able to play next year."

The Ryder Cup will continue to take place in odd-numbers years in the future, with the 2023 tournament to be held in Italy.

The European Tour got back under way amid the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday with the Austrian Open, where Joost Luiten claimed a first-round lead.

Golf was halted due to the global crisis, but after the PGA Tour's return last month, the European Tour and Challenge Tour followed suit in Atzenbrugg.

Six-time Tour winner Luiten was fastest out the blocks as he secured a one-stroke advantage at the end of the first day's play.

The Dutchman went round in 65 with a birdie-birdie finish taking him to seven under par after just a single bogey.

"I think a lot of the guys didn't know where we stood really with our game," Luiten said afterwards. "It's good to have a fast start and bring in a good score."

Scottish pair Craig Howie - who went bogey-free - and Marc Warren provided Luiten's closest competition at six under, while a further four players were back on five under.

The postponed Ryder Cup must take place in 2021 at Whistling Straits or it will be cancelled altogether, the CEO of the PGA Seth Waugh has said.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that the United States and defending champions Europe will not compete in the prestigious event this September as planned.

Players had expressed reservations about playing the 43rd edition of the competition without fans present and the lingering impact of the coronavirus pandemic forced the hands of the PGA and European Tour.

However, if circumstances next year mean the Ryder Cup cannot take place in front of spectators on the new dates of September 21-26, then the likelihood is it will scrapped altogether.

Asked what guarantees there were that it can be staged as normal next year, Waugh told reporters: "None, frankly.

"We think that this is the right thing to do. I would bet on science is what I would say, personally, about the ability to figure out treatments, vacancies or protocols or safety given we have 15 months to do that.

"But there frankly is no guarantee. I certainly wouldn't have thought on March 1 - certainly January 1 - that we'd be having this conversation right now.

"I think this is the best possible decision. Frankly if we do get to this time next year and we can't responsibly hold it, it likely will result in a cancellation at that point.

"I don't think we can perpetually roll things forward, that's not fair to the game, that's not fair to the Presidents Cup or anyone else. We're hopeful that we will hold it but all bets are off in terms of what's going on in the world.

"If I were a betting man, I would bet on science to figure out how to truly reopen the world in 15 months' time."

Waugh said he spoke to American captain Steve Stricker and Europe skipper Padraig Harrington on Tuesday evening and feels the decision has their backing.

"I think they were relieved, happy," he added.

"Steve, on his side, absolutely wants to have it – obviously it's a home game for him, in Wisconsin, he wants to have it in the way he's always dreamed of and it wasn't going to look like that.

"Padraig, I think, different perspective, he's just worried about the safety of everybody travelling here and how difficult that would be.

"I think they're disappointed that we're not able to do it because they build their tempos and those that are qualifying are excited about it, but I think there's relief in the certainty of knowing where we stand."

Jon Rahm declared it to be the "smart choice" to delay the 2020 Ryder Cup, insisting the event would simply not be the same if fans were not able to attend.

Whistling Straits in Wisconsin was due to host this year's battle between the United States and Europe in September, but the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a change in the schedule.

Instead, the next Ryder Cup will take place between September 24-26 in 2021, a move Rahm fully endorses as it will allow spectators to be present at the course.

The Spaniard made his debut in the competition two years ago, securing a point from his three matches as the European team regained the trophy at Le Golf National in France.

"I mean, I'm not shocked," Rahm told the media ahead of playing in this week's Workday Charity Open on the PGA Tour.

"I know a lot of people probably wanted to watch the Ryder Cup, but the Ryder Cup is not the Ryder Cup without spectators.  

"Right now, it doesn't seem like there's a legitimate way to make it safe for everybody, so I think it's the smart choice."

Rahm also outlined the importance of the Ryder Cup is in terms of growing the sport of golf, even if that means having to wait a little longer to experience it again.

"At the end of the day, the Ryder Cup is one of the most viewed events, sporting events in the world, so it's something that brings a lot of attention for the game of golf," he added.

"It's something that grows the game of golf throughout the world. I think it's important that it's done and it's performed and we play the way the Ryder Cup is supposed to be.  

"I'm sad we're not playing this year because I really wanted to play and I think it would have been cool to go from a U.S. Open to a Ryder Cup, but at the same time, it needs to be run the way it's supposed to be run.  

"I think it's a good decision to change it to next year."

The delay has led to a change in the long-term schedule, as the Ryder Cup will take place moving forwards in odd-numbers years. Therefore, the next staging on European soil will be in 2023.

There is also a change to the Presidents Cup, with the 2021 edition at Quail Hollow pushed back to September 2022.

The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits has been rescheduled to take place in 2021, organisers have confirmed, with the Presidents Cup moving to 2022.

Doubts have persisted about the feasibility of staging the Ryder Cup since the outbreak of coronavirus and on Wednesday a decision was finally taken to push it back a year. 

In a statement, organisers confirmed that the decision "was based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in conjunction with the state of Wisconsin and Sheboygan County, with the health and well-being of all involved as the top priority". 

Playing the event without fans had been mooted as an option, but instead it is now set to be held on September 21-26 next year with crowds present. 

The knock-on effect means the next edition of the competition in Europe, when Italy plays host, will move back to 2023 as it retains its biennial scheduling. 

The Presidents Cup, which was due to start on September 30 next year at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, will now move to September 19-25, 2022. 

Next year's Wells Fargo Championship will return to Quail Hollow Club but move to TPC Potomac for 2022 to accommodate the Presidents Cup. 

"Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits," said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.

"It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible.

"Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call. As disappointing as this is, our mandate to do all we can to safeguard public health is what matters most.

"The spectators who support both the U.S. and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option."

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said: "With the uncertainty of the current climate, we fully support the Ryder Cup's decision to delay a year in order to ensure fans could be a part of the incredible atmosphere in Wisconsin.

"And the delay of next year's Presidents Cup was the right decision in order to allow for that option." 

US Team captain Steve Stricker said postponing the Ryder Cup was "the right thing to do under the circumstances".

He added: "At the end of the day, we want to stage a Ryder Cup that will rival all other Ryder Cups in my home state of Wisconsin, and now we have the opportunity to showcase the event as it was meant to be seen."  

European counterpart Padraig Harrington said: "Rescheduling the Ryder Cup was never going to be an easy decision given the many factors to take into consideration.

"But I believe it is the right assessment given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing at this time. 

"When you think of the Ryder Cup you think of the distinctive atmosphere generated by the spectators, such as around the first tee at Le Golf National two years ago.

"If that cannot be responsibly recreated at Whistling Straits in September, then it is correct that we all wait until it can be. 

"I know, right now, that September 2021 feels like a long time away. But it will come around quickly and I guarantee that the European players and I will be ready when it does."

There have been more than 32,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, according to the state's Department of Health Services. 

In total, there have been nearly 3.1million positive tests in the United States, with more than 134,000 deaths among those known to have contracted the virus.

The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits has been rescheduled to take place in 2021, organisers have confirmed, with the Presidents Cup moving to 2022.

The Golden State Warriors and Tiger Woods both became champions again on June 16 in previous years, while Didier Deschamps' France also started their road to glory in Russia.

Steve Kerr's Warriors have dominated the NBA for much of the past half-decade, but five years ago they were trying to end a long championship drought.

Woods was already a multiple major winner by 2008, though his victory at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while he essentially played on one leg was one of his most incredible successes.

Here we take a look at major sporting events that have happened on June 16 in previous years.

 

2008 - Wounded Woods wins U.S. Open play-off

The 2008 U.S. Open had been due to finish on Sunday, June 15 but 72 holes could not separate Woods and veteran Rocco Mediate, so the two came back for 18 more on Monday.

Woods had a three-stroke lead through 10 holes but, clearly hampered by a serious knee injury, he was reeled in by the world number 158 and needed a birdie at the last to force a sudden death.

After 91 holes, Woods eventually emerged victorious to claim his 14th major title - four short of record-holder Jack Nicklaus' haul - though it would be another 11 years before he tasted major success again at the Masters.

It was later revealed Woods had played on with a double stress fracture and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, making his victory all the more remarkable.

2015 - Warriors end title drought

Finals between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers would become a regular theme, and it was Stephen Curry and Co. who came out on top in 2015, as they did in 2017 and 2018 too.

The 2015 series had been tied at 2-2 but a 104-91 Game 5 win gave Golden State the chance to end a 40-year wait for another title on June 16, which they did with a 105-97 Game 6 victory.

Curry and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala scored 25 points apiece, with the latter winning praise for his defensive display against LeBron James, who would need to wait another 12 months before he brought a title to the long-suffering Cleveland fans.

2018 - VAR helps France edge past Australia

They may have undoubtedly been the best team at Russia 2018, but France had an underwhelming start to a campaign that would end with them winning the World Cup.

Les Bleus were thankful for VAR when it was used - for the first time ever in a World Cup match - to award them a controversial penalty after Josh Risdon's tackle on Antoine Griezmann originally went punished in Kazan.

Griezmann duly dispatched the penalty but Australia pulled level through Mile Jedinak's spot-kick, only for France to claim a 2-1 win 10 minutes from time courtesy of an own goal from Aziz Behich.

Steve Stricker will make six captain's picks for the United States' Ryder Cup team in an indication the event is set to go ahead.

The PGA Tour is due to resume with the Charles Schwab Challenge this week after an enforced three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the fate of the Ryder Cup – which is scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits between September 25 and 28 – has yet to be confirmed.

USA captain Stricker said last week it would be a "crime" if fans were unable to attend and that the absence of spectators could lead to a "yawner" of an event.

New selection criteria were announced for Team USA on Wednesday, though, with Stricker's choices being bumped up from four to six.

Only one major tournament, the US PGA Championship, will count towards automatic qualification, while points will be accrued through to the BMW Championship at the end of August.

"With all the various changes to the 2020 schedule, it quickly became apparent that we would need to amend our selection criteria," Stricker said via a widely reported PGA of America release.

"After many deliberate discussions, we collectively agreed that a smaller sampling of 2020 events – including just one major championship – would justify a one-week extension of the qualification window and an increase in the number of captain's selections from four to six.

"These changes were sparked by circumstance but conceived with integrity in mind. In the end, we believe they will allow us to put our best team together to compete at Whistling Straits in September."

The Ryder Cup is one of the few sporting events in 2020 that remains on the calendar on its original date.

However, there are major doubts as to whether the contest – scheduled for September – will go ahead amid fears over coronavirus.

A decision has yet to be made, but one possibility is that Whistling Straits will play host to the competition behind closed doors.

It is a topic that has divided opinion, so should the Ryder Cup go ahead without spectators?

Stats Perform News duo Russell Greaves and Peter Hanson have their say...

 

THE SHOW MUST NOT GO ON – GREAVES

Having had the privilege of attending the previous Ryder Cup, I can attest to how much value the fans add to the experience.

And the golfers themselves say as much too – the encouragement of the crowd, and maybe even the occasional jibe, can make all the difference.

Sport is not just about the technical brilliance of its stars, it is about the context in which those protagonists ply their trade and the drama that golf provides at this level is unmatched.

A golfer standing over a putt to win a point, waiting for the noise to die down, gathering his emotions as the assembled masses hold their collective breath... that's what makes this event so special.

Remove the action from that context and you have something less enthralling, less special, less meaningful. Do not devalue this great competition. The show must not go on.


THE RYDER CUP CAN OFFER POSITIVITY AMID THE GLOOM – HANSON

Let's make this abundantly clear from the start: Everyone wants fans in attendance at the Ryder Cup.

No one could coherently argue golf's most famous and spine-tingling team competition would be better with the absence of spectators. The energy, noise and usually good-natured jibing from the galleries is what makes the Ryder Cup one of the greatest spectacles in sport.

But we find ourselves living in unprecedented times. The likelihood of having members of the public through the gates at Whistling Straits diminishes by the day.

If the competition can be held safely, with every precaution taken to protect everyone involved – not just the players, then it should go ahead.

The Ryder Cup can offer positivity amid the gloom. A chance for escapism from a harsh reality, a chance for a semblance of normality, a chance for the world's best to entertain sports-starved fans watching on from the comfort of their homes. 

It is far from the ideal situation, but it is the situation we find ourselves in. The show must go on.


WHAT THE PROS SAID

"This event is made by the fans. If it was without fans, it almost would be a yawner of an event. To cheat out the Wisconsin fans would be a crime," USA captain Steve Stricker told the Golf Affect Radio Show.

"Everyone wants fans to be there, but the question is does sport need the Ryder Cup and should the Ryder Cup take one for the team? It wouldn't be in the Ryder Cup's best interests, but it could be in the best interests of enough people who want to see a big sporting occasion on TV," Europe captain Padraig Harrington speaking to The Times.

"I get the financial implications for everyone involved but having a Ryder Cup without fans, it's not a Ryder Cup. I would much rather them delay it until 2021 to play the Ryder Cup than play it at Whistling Straits without fans," world number one Rory McIlroy said during an Instagram Live with TaylorMade.

"I personally don't want to play if there's no fans. I don't see a point in playing it," Brooks Koepka told Golf Channel.

"I'm not saying 'postpone it' if there's no fans. I want to make that team and if I do, and we have to play it behind closed doors, I'm going to embrace it 100 per cent," Ian Poulter told Sky Sports.

"A Ryder Cup without the spectators is just not a Ryder Cup. It's the one tournament of the year where we're not playing for ourselves, we're playing for Europe, we're playing for the United States, and it's for the fans," Jon Rahm told Sky Sports.

United States captain Steve Stricker says it would be a "crime" if the Ryder Cup is staged behind closed doors at Whistling Straits in September.

Team USA and Europe are due to do battle for the famous trophy in Wisconsin from September 25-27, but the coronavirus pandemic has put the event in doubt.

Staging the biennial showpiece without spectators has been suggested, but Rory McIlroy is among the players who stated that he would prefer it to be postponed than go ahead with no fans.

Stricker also feels that it is vital the public are allowed to watch the action in his home state.

"This event is made by the fans. If it was without fans, it almost would be a yawner of an event," he told the Golf Affect Radio Show.

"To cheat out the Wisconsin fans would be a crime. I hope when we do have it, it can be up to its full potential."

Stricker expects a decision to be made in the next few weeks.

He added: "So far we're planning it as a go, like we’re going to have it. But there's some obstacles that we're going to have to face, I think.

"The confidence of the people and the corporate people. It's going to come down to probably the safety. And who knows, right?

"They're going to have to make a decision here probably within the next two or three weeks because the build-up to put up all the stands and all the corporate tents, all that kind of stuff, has to happen in June."

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.

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