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.

Thomas Bjorn, the 2018 Ryder Cup-winning captain, has been appointed to the board of the European Tour.

The Dane takes up a position as a non-executive director with immediate effect after being nominated by the Tour's tournament committee.

Bjorn previously served as chairman of the tournament committee from 2007 until 2016 before resigning to focus on duties as captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team, who he led to an emphatic victory at Le Golf National in September 2018.

During his time as chairman, Bjorn helped oversee the transition from the Order of Merit to the Race to Dubai in 2009 and the introduction of the lucrative Rolex Series, the premium events on the European Tour, in 2014.

"I am delighted and honoured to be invited to join the board of the European Tour," Bjorn told the Tour's official website.

"I have lived and breathed the European Tour for the past 25 years and, in that time, I have always strived to do the best I could to progress both the Tour itself and its membership. 

"The same will be the case on the board and I am looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible."

Bjorn qualified for the European Tour in 1996 – he was named Rookie of the Year – and has been part of three successful Ryder Cup teams as a player and a further three as a vice-captain prior to his crowning moment in Paris.

He also won 15 times on the European Tour between 1996 and 2013.

Chairman David Williams added: "I'm delighted to welcome Thomas to our European Tour board. 

"His stellar golfing career is well documented, including his 2018 experience as a winning Ryder Cup Captain. He has always had our members' interests at heart, and he will continue to do so on our board."

Rafa Cabrera Bello is hanging on to hopes of making another Ryder Cup appearance this year.

The Spaniard achieved an unbeaten debut four years ago, taking one and a half points in tandem with compatriot Sergio Garcia before scoring a singles win over Jimmy Walker.

Victory went to the United States by a thumping 17-11 margin at Hazeltine, but it gave Cabrera Bello a taste for the competition that he hoped to enjoy again.

He sat 17th on the European points table before the 2020 season ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, needing a strong run to press a claim for selection.

This year's Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is inevitably in some doubt due to uncertainty over when sport can resume, but golf's elite cannot allow their focus to completely slide.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Cabrera Bello said: "My goals at the beginning of the season when this wasn't planned was to qualify for the Ryder [Cup], for the Olympics, keep progressing in the world rankings, win tournaments, and those goals haven't changed."

He stressed priorities were changing and health was paramount, with the aim of returning "to normality or to the new normality as soon as possible".

"If I qualify for the Ryder Cup, I will of course play it," Cabrera Bello said. "And the U.S. Open, as a major, it is my intention to play it as well. I am at the disposal of the captain of the Ryder Cup. If he thinks I am the best complement for the team I will be there with the best possible spirit."

European skipper Padraig Harrington is sure to be monitoring the likes of 35-year-old Cabrera Bello, who is ranked 46th in the world and tied for fourth at the 2017 Open Championship.

A three-time winner on the European Tour, Cabrera Bello is a reluctant Florida resident at present.

His regular home is in Dubai, but Cabrera Bello elected to stay in the United States at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak due to concerns he would not be allowed to re-enter the country for the Masters.

The Augusta event was soon postponed, however, and is set to be played in November.

"If I had known that this stoppage was going to be so long, we wouldn't have considered remaining here," Cabrera Bello said.

"But at that stage the information was limited and the suggested suspension was going to last only three weeks and the Masters was still going to be announced.

"There already started being flight restrictions to Europe, so it worried us to go to Europe and not being able to come back or go to Dubai, where I live with my family, and not being able to return for the Masters because we had to pass a quarantine.

"So we decided to remain here and then the Masters was postponed.

"By then, Europe was in a delicate situation with an imminent quarantine and Dubai was not allowing entrance, not even to the residents, so we decided to stay here and we are in this process now."

At least he has a welcome distraction, after he and wife Sofia became parents last August to a daughter, Alva.

"I am doing maintenance work at the moment so my [golf] swing doesn't get rusty," he said.

"The rest of the routine is to stay at home, spend time together, enjoy our baby who is eight months old now. It is marvellous, playing with her every day and seeing her grow. It is the best thing in the world. Inside this difficult situation, to be able to spend time with my daughter makes it way more manageable."

The European Tour has announced the cancellation of the BMW International Open and Open de France due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the two tournaments were initially scheduled to be played from June 25-28 in Munich and from July 2-5 near Paris, respectively.

But the impact of the virus has caused mass disruption across most industries in Europe, while the French government has banned all mass public gatherings until mid-July.

The news comes a day after the PGA Tour confirmed it will resume its tournaments behind closed doors as early as the second week of June.

Friday's announcement also revealed the Scottish Open – due to go start on July 9 – has been postponed, with a new date to be discussed.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "The decision to cancel the BMW International Open, which has been a cornerstone of the European Tour calendar for three decades, and the Open de France, one of our most historic national Opens was made in consultation with our long-term partner BMW and the French Golf Federation respectively with public health and well-being the absolute priority for all of us.

"Both Germany and France have been significantly impacted by coronavirus, and our thoughts go out to everyone affected in both countries, as well as elsewhere around the world.

"We have also decided to postpone the Scottish Open, which is part of our prestigious Rolex Series. Discussions about the possibility of rescheduling this event will continue as we look at a variety of different scenarios for our schedule for when it is safe and permitted to resume playing.

"We will only announce details of these plans when we have clarity on the global situation."

The PGA Tour has announced plans for tournaments to resume behind closed doors in the second week of June.

A number of events have either been put on hold or called off entirely since mid-March in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Tour hopes to resume the season in two months' time with the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Texas.

The first four events will be staged without spectators, falling in line with COVID-19 safety protocols that will continue to be monitored.

"The health and safety of all associated with the PGA Tour and our global community continues to be our number-one priority, and our hope is to play a role - responsibly - in the world's return to enjoying the things we love," said PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. 

"Today's announcement is another positive step for our fans and players as we look toward the future, but as we've stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when - working closely with our tournaments, partners and communities - it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities."

The Memorial, originally scheduled for the middle of June, will now be staged between July 16-19, a weekend made free by the cancellation of the Open.

The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational has been pushed back to the final week of July, just before the US PGA Championship is down to take place.

As outlined last week, the aim is for the rearranged 2020 Masters to be held in November.

Meanwhile, the Tour also confirmed that the fields for the Charles Schwab Challenge, RBC Heritage and the Memorial Tournament have been increased to 144 players.

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