Reigning Open champion Shane Lowry was "sad and disappointed" by the R&A's decision to cancel this year's competition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 149th edition of the major was scheduled to start at Royal St George's on July 16 but on Monday became the latest sporting event to be called off amid the spread of COVID-19.

There have been over 47,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom and nearly 5,000 people have died after contracting the virus.

Lowry will have to wait until 2021 to defend the Claret Jug at the course in Sandwich but feels the right decision has been made.

"Obviously, like everybody else, I'm very sad and disappointed that the R&A have had to cancel this year's Open Championship," he said in a video posted on his official Twitter account.

"At the end of the day people's health and safety come way before any golf tournament and I'm sure the R&A have thought long and hard about this and have made the decision based on everybody's health and safety.

"You can trust me when I say the Claret Jug is going to be in safe hands for another year and I look forward to seeing you all in Royal St George's in 2021."

It was reported last week that a revised calendar that would see three majors and the Ryder Cup played in the space of four months was close to being agreed.

The 2020 Open Championship has been cancelled because of the cornavirus pandemic.

The 149th edition of the major was due to start at Royal St George's on July 16.

However, the course in Sandwich will have to wait until 2021 to host the event due to a virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people in the United Kingdom.

St Andrews will be the venue for the 150th Open in 2022.

"I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible," R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.

"Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in The Open. We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart.

"We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.

"There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.

"In recent weeks we have been working closely with those organisations as well as Royal St George's, St Andrews Links Trust and the other golf bodies to resolve the remaining external factors and have done so as soon as we possibly could. We are grateful to all of them for their assistance and co-operation throughout this process.

"Most of all I would like to thank our fans around the world and all of our partners for their support and understanding.

"At a difficult time like this we have to recognise that sport must stand aside to let people focus on keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe. We are committed to supporting our community in the weeks and months ahead and will do everything in our power to help golf come through this crisis."

The Masters and US PGA Championship were postponed last month but there is said to be hope those events, along with the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, can be contested later in the year.

Shane Lowry, winner at Royal Portrush last year, will hold on to the Claret Jug as a result of the cancellation.

In a post on Twitter, Lowry wrote: "Obviously I'm disappointed that I won't get to defend the Open Championship this year but I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people's health and safety. See you all in Royal St George's in 2021."

 

 

Nervous as hell, Tiger Woods stood over his first putt at The Masters and gave the ball a fair thunk towards the hole, near as dammit 25 feet away.

Crowds were already swarming for Woods, the college kid making his major championship debut in a pairing with the defending champion, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal.

The date was April 6, 1995. A quarter of a century ago. A drizzly Thursday in Georgia.

THE BALL THAT KEPT ROLLING

Nineteen years old and accordingly fresh-faced, Woods was already a mighty draw, the Stanford student a prodigy around whom hype had swirled since he was barely as tall as the putter he now gripped tightly.

His ball shuffled closer to that first hole, rolling by, just needing to hold up. No birdie then, but a par four at the hole they call Tea Olive would have been a satisfying, becalming start. This, famously, is where Ernie Els in 2016 would shamble to a quintuple-bogey nine.

As Woods was about to discover, its green demands the utmost care and concentration.

Woods had taken a close enough look at that first putt, studied the undulations of the green. Heck, he had played the course already that week in practice rounds alongside Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Raymond Floyd and Fred Couples. This time, though, the ball had shot off his putter just a touch punchier than necessary.

Just hold up. Stop rolling. It kept rolling.

"People on the other side of the green started moving," Woods remembered. "It's never good when you hit a putt and people start to move."

AN ENQUIRING MIND OPENS DOORS

By the time Woods woke on the morning on his Masters bow, he could plot out a good map of Augusta National.

Not just the course and its colourful flora, but the corridors, nooks and crannies of its clubhouse were becoming imprinted on the mind of the teenage Woods. He was staying for the week in the Crow's Nest, the quaint, rather rustic second-floor accommodation reserved for players from the unpaid ranks, with Woods in the tournament by virtue of being the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.

He knew where the Butler Cabin was to be found, should the need ever arise, and a little after-hours exploration had seen him try many an unlocked door to discover what lay behind.

An enquiring mind led him to the champions' locker room.

"There was no one in there, so I walked through," Woods said. "No ghosts that I know of."

Woods not only dreamt of becoming Masters champion, he realised millions expected him to someday triumph. Sports Illustrated had already run a nine-page feature, conscious of his rare talent.

Norman, who had been twice a runner-up by that stage, said on the eve of the tournament that the rookie possessed the game to carry off the Green Jacket that very Sunday.

Woods climbed out of bed and went for a morning run before heading to the practice range with coach Butch Harmon.

CHICKEN ON THE MENU

Woods was the boy wonder with the world in his feet. His game had everything. Everything, that is, but the ability to have a second stab at that first Masters putt; to rein it back, grin to the crowds, and play it again.

That stray ball duly rolled off the first green, down an embankment, and came to a muddy rest 50 feet away from the hole.

Woods turned to caddie Tommy Bennett, the experienced Masters bag man he had hired for the week. Bennett went by the nickname 'Burnt Biscuits' - earned the day he scalded himself on the leg when illicitly snaffling freshly baked treats from his grandmother's kitchen.

Back went the putter, out came a short iron.

Down among the patrons, squirming amid his first Masters humiliation, Woods played a recovery shot that could have turned out better, leaving a dicey bogey putt. He later berated himself for a "chicken shot", just as he had after the timid sand wedge to the green that left the long-range putt, that led to all this palaver.

If there was any solace to be taken from that torturous misread moments earlier, it at least prepared Woods for putt number two.

This time, as Woods later wrote in his Masters memoir, Unprecedented: "I made it. Great start to my Augusta career. Hit the green in regulation, and then hit my first putt off the green."

STAYING FOR THE WEEKEND, SIR?

Not every golfer who flunks Augusta's first hole lands a mega-money book deal.

From that inauspicious start, Woods has proceeded to win five Masters titles, most recently last year when he ended an 11-year trophy drought at the majors, sealing his comeback from back injury woes and the scandal that upended his career.

Whether there will be a 2020 Masters remains to be seen. The tournament scheduled for this week had to be postponed because... well, we all know why. Woods might have to wait until 2021 for his latest title defence.

In 1995, Woods shook off the dropped shot on that first hole of his Masters career, seeing his name up on the leaderboard briefly before signing for a level-par 72.

A repeat in round two earned a stay for the weekend. As the lone amateur to make the cut - Trip Kuehne, Lee S James, Guy Yamamoto and Tim Jackson fell by the wayside - Woods was king of the Crow's Nest.

Woods wrote himself out of contention with a 77 in round three, but a third 72 of the week came on the Sunday, securing a tie for 41st place, albeit 19 shots behind champion Ben Crenshaw.

A CHAMPION'S INSTINCT

Woods' stated goal of becoming "the Michael Jordan of golf" was gaining traction.

Jordan, incidentally, had delivered his famous "I'm back" message just three weeks before the Masters, launching the second chapter of his NBA career after 18 months in retirement.

Today, Jordan and Woods are thought to be America's two wealthiest sports stars.

On his way to Augusta's second tee, back in 1995, Woods had pictured the response of a champion.

"I told myself to pound it over the bunker on the right, and I did," Woods wrote in Unprecedented. "I had a cocky walk off that tee, because I'd done what I wanted to do."

Woods made birdie. Olazabal gasped at his gargantuan drive, later half-joking he needed binoculars to pick out Woods' tee shots. This is what the galleries craved, what they have returned time after time to enjoy.

The new kid on the block finished that week as tournament leader in average driving distance - 311.1 yards - but iron play had let him down.

'FANTASYLAND AND DISNEY WORLD WRAPPED INTO ONE'

Woods signed off his maiden Masters with a visit to Butler Cabin, where he spoke of an intention to "go all four" at Stanford. Yet he would spend just two years majoring in economics, bagging a couple more U.S. Amateur titles before turning professional.

"It’s a tough world out here," Woods said on that first Masters trip. “Right now, I’m only 19 years old and I feel it’s right for me to live it up a little bit. You’re only young once and college is such a great atmosphere and I really love it there."

He even left behind a letter of thanks to Augusta National, that began: "Please accept my sincere thanks for providing me the opportunity to experience the most wonderful week of my life. It was fantasyland and Disney World wrapped into one."

Woods added: "It is here that I left my youth and became a man."

LEAVING, ON THE LATE-NIGHT FLIGHT FROM GEORGIA

On the Monday morning after the Masters, Woods had a 9am history class. He reputedly made it there, taking a Sunday evening flight from Augusta to Atlanta and another on to San Francisco.

If he found time to read the reaction to his performance, he might have stumbled on Sports Illustrated Jaime Diaz's verdict.

"Although Tiger's excellent adventure was satisfying on many levels," Diaz wrote, "it was most important as a reconnaissance mission to lay the groundwork for many future trips to - and almost surely some victories in - Augusta."

The first Green Jacket arrived just two years later, victory snared by a then-record 12-shot margin.

And you know what? Woods made bogey at his first hole then, too.

United States president Donald Trump is unsure when sport can resume in the country, but hopes it is "sooner rather than later".

With the coronavirus pandemic having brought sport to a standstill around the world, Trump spoke with leaders of the USA's leagues and organisations via a call on Saturday.

The NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour and NASCAR seasons were among those suspended, while the start of the MLB campaign was pushed back and there are concerns over the NFL.

Trump hopes to see sport resume shortly, telling a media conference: "I want fans back in the arenas.

"Whenever we're ready, as soon as we can obviously and the fans want to be back too, they want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey, they want to see their sports.

"They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air."

Asked about a possible resumption, Trump said: "I can't tell you a date.

"But I think it's going to be sooner rather than later. We're not going to have to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet.

"We need it for this period of time, but eventually people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other, like we have for all of my life and all of your life."

More than 64,000 people have died from coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll in the USA exceeding 8,400.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are "too nice" to engage in the sort of rivalry that once existed between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, says Chris DiMarco.

Back in October, Koepka, winner of four majors between the 2017 U.S. Open and 2019 US PGA Championship and ranked number one in the world, dismissed the notion of McIlroy being one of his nearest challengers for golf's biggest prizes.

"I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka said.

McIlroy took a diplomatic approach in his reply, saying Koepka had not said anything out of turn and the pair are good friends.

"I love Brooks, he's a great guy," McIlroy said of the comments."He's obviously super-competitive, like we all are. I can see where he's coming from.

"I think if you take what Brooks said out of context then it can become this big thing that it's become. But Brooks and I are good, we're good friends."

McIlroy then recorded seven consecutive finishes inside the top five to return to the summit of the rankings prior to the suspension of the PGA and European Tours as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But DiMarco believes there is too much talent in the game now for two players to engage in a genuine rivalry such as the one Woods and Mickelson – where he said there was once a "genuine dislike" – had during the 2000s.

"The problem is both those guys are so nice, like literally to everybody," DiMarco told Stats Perform.

"So, it just seems if there is a rivalry between them it's almost kind of made up. They kind of live in the same area, it's almost like they talked to each other and said, 'let's just kind of jab back and forth with each other and make a rivalry'. They're too nice. 

"There's really in all honesty just too many great players right now. Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson there's too many – Rickie Fowler – for two people to just kind of make themselves higher than anyone else, I don't think it's going to happen anymore. 

"Obviously, Rory and Brooks over the last two years have probably been the best two but Dustin Johnson has been up there, Jon Rahm was looking like he could be number one here with a win a couple of weeks ago.

"There are a lot of hungry players out there and you're never going to see a rivalry kind of like you saw with Tiger and Phil, that's what people wanted to see because there was a genuine dislike for each other. 

"Now they're friendly, so now it's a little bit different, but back then there was a genuine dislike for each other, and they were clearly the number one and number two player in the world for many years so that rivalry you want to see. 

"I think these kids nowadays are just nice, and that's great, I love it, I always played as a nice guy too."

However, DiMarco does feel there is one player who would happily play the role of villain against either McIlroy or Koepka.

"I think the one guy who is probably a disliked guy out there on our Tour or the regular Tour is Patrick Reed," DiMarco added.

"If he ever makes it to number one then there's that guy people would love to hate again, he relishes in that, he loves being in that position, loves it when people give him crap. 

"If you could get a guy like Brooks Koepka – or Rory McIlroy – and Patrick Reed who maintain that level for so long, then you certainly have your true villain in Patrick Reed and your true good guy in one of those other guys."

The Ryder Cup should not be held this year if it reaches a stage where captains choose all 12 players and fans are unable to attend, according to Chris DiMarco.

Golf's calendar has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic with the PGA and European Tours suspended, while the Masters and US PGA Championship have been postponed.

It appears certain the U.S. Open and The Open will follow suit and the Ryder Cup, scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits between September 25-27, is also under threat.

This week, Europe captain Padraig Harrington insisted the biennial competition should go ahead if it is safe even if it meant he had to pick his entire team.

DiMarco twice represented the United States in golf's most prestigious team event, ensuring his qualification for the team in 2004 with a runner-up showing at the US PGA Championship, which coincidentally was also hosted at Whistling Straits.

And DiMarco believes points should be retained and carried over to a qualification process for a Ryder Cup taking place in 2021.

"No, I don't think that either," DiMarco told Stats Perform when asked if the event should proceed even if the captains had to choose all 12 players.

"[For me], the most important thing at the 2004 US PGA was to make that Ryder Cup team. 

"I just think if it gets cancelled this year and they play it in 2021, the points should just continue for another year and just keep it continuing, nobody can pick this year and then just go as if it was a three-year qualification. 

"That's the fairest for everybody and I think that way the guys who have played great get to keep their points and it still gives guys a chance to make that team. 

"I think the eight players who qualify and the four captain's picks, that's the way it should be."

Harrington has also advocated playing the Ryder Cup behind closed doors if it is deemed unsafe for spectators to attend.

However, DiMarco feels having fans in attendance is crucial, not least because it gives the home side an advantage.

"I don't think the Ryder Cup should be played without fans, I think it's a disservice," added DiMarco, who also played for USA in 2006. 

"I get the other tournaments, I guess you can say it is what it is. But it wouldn't be fair to the home team the fact they wouldn't be allowed to have fans. 

"So, I think as big as the Ryder Cup is the fans are as big a part of that as anything. Yes, it's 24 players and the captains and the co-captains and all that and they can go out and do it, but without those roars you hear around the course it just wouldn't be the same. I think it's the one thing [in golf] – [American] football is the same, you can't watch a football game without fans you just can't do it. 

"The Ryder Cup has to have its fans there, when it's on home turf you have to have that home-field advantage and the fans are that home-field advantage. 

"If it comes to that point where they say there won't be any fans I don't think it should be played."

Padraig Harrington insists the Ryder Cup must go ahead if possible and Europe's captain said he will pick all 12 players if that is what it takes for the event to take place.

The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the sporting calendar, with the PGA and European Tours suspended.

Both the Masters and US PGA Championship have already been postponed, while it remains to be seen if the U.S. Open and The Open will go ahead.

Qualifying for the Ryder Cup has been compromised as a result and some have called for the September event to be put back by a year.

However, Harrington says the show must go on at Whistling Straits if the situation has improved enough by then.

"We're playing on, if at all possible, because the merit of getting out there and showcasing our sport far outweighs a perfect qualifying system," he told Sportsmail.

"It wouldn't worry me if we were the first tournament back and I had to go with 12 picks with no qualifying. In many ways, it would be perfect if the Ryder Cup was the first tournament back. 

"Just 12 guys from Europe and 12 from America, with no prize money at stake and competing just for the glory? Wouldn't that be a nice way for sport to start back?

"I look at it this way. Imagine if they showed a live game from the National League in football on television tonight. The whole of Britain and Ireland would be watching.

"That's the power of live sport, and how much we're missing it. Multiply that by so many times and you get to the scale of the Ryder Cup. 

"Don't we have a duty and a responsibility to try to hold it? Qualifying can always be sorted out.

"I'm a reasonable person when it comes to preparing for all eventualities but how could you have foreseen anything so horrifying?

"We've got all our different scenarios but none of them really add up to anything important in the real world. But we go on, and we're trying to be ready. If we can play, we'll be there, and I know the PGA of America are on the same page."

Harrington also offered his thoughts on what will happen with this season's majors, adding: "I have an inside track regarding the Ryder Cup and I can tell you our date is set in stone and the other authorities are working around us. 

"But I'm not privy to other details. If you're asking me as a pro, I'd say the Open will move from July to a later date rather than be cancelled, and there must be a strong chance there will be two majors played back-to-back."

Phil Mickelson hinted at another showdown with superstar Tiger Woods, claiming he was "working on it".

Mickelson landed $9million in prize money after defeating arch-rival Woods on the fourth play-off hole of 'The Match' in 2018.

The big-money two-man clash in Las Vegas attracted plenty of attention over the Thanksgiving weekend.

With the PGA Tour on hiatus until at least the end of May due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans are desperate for their sport fix.

One golf supporter asked Mickelson on Twitter: "Do you think there is a chance you two go play a round mic'd up with one camera guy and just put it out there on a stream for people to watch?? We need live sports".

In response, five-time major champion Mickelson replied: "Working on it".

"I don't tease. I'm kinda a sure thing," Mickelson said when pressed on whether he was being serious.

It remains to be seen whether Mickelson was referring to a second instalment of 'The Match' or something different to help fill the void amid the COVID-19 crisis.

 

March 23 should forever be etched in the memories of Australian cricket fans, but Javier Mascherano will not remember the date so fondly.

Poor India were on the wrong end of a hammering in the 2003 Cricket World Cup final in Johannesburg, even with a star-studded batting line-up at their disposal.

Mascherano and his Liverpool team-mates also suffered a heavy defeat at Old Trafford, though the midfielder did not stick around to hear the final whistle.

Meanwhile, in golf, there was a lesser-spotted Monday finish on the PGA Tour.

We look back at the major events that happened on this day in sport.

 

1981: Floyd reigns at Sawgrass after thunderstorms

The eighth edition of the Players Championship was forced into a Monday finish after bad weather wiped out the scheduled final day at Sawgrass.

Heavy thunderstorms led to a Monday finish, with three players – Raymond Floyd, Barry Jaeckel and Curtis Strange – tied at the top after 72 holes were completed.

A play-off between the trio lasted just the one extra hole; Floyd was the only player to par the 15th to secure the tournament.

It was his second successive win during the PGA Tour's Florida swing, the American having also prevailed at Doral near Miami the previous week.  

 

2003 - Skipper Ponting shines as Australia rule the world again

There was simply no stopping Australia in South Africa, Ricky Ponting's squad successfully retaining the trophy with a thumping victory over India to make sure they went through the 2003 tournament unbeaten.

The captain led from the front too, Ponting blasting a superb 140 not out as he shared in an unbroken stand worth 234 with Damien Martyn, who finished up unbeaten on 88.

Replying to a mammoth total of 359-2, India simply never recovered from losing Sachin Tendulkar - who was named player of the tournament - in the first over of their reply, caught and bowled by Glenn McGrath.

Virender Sehwag did make 82, but Australia bowled their opponents out inside 40 overs to win by 125 runs, in the process sealing their third World Cup crown.

 

2008: Ronaldo on target as Mascherano loses his cool

Manchester United remained on the path to retaining their Premier League title with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Liverpool.

Defender Wes Brown was the unlikely scorer of the opener, while Portuguese duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani added further goals in a comfortable win for the table-topping Red Devils.

They were aided by the dismissal of Mascherano, who was sent off for dissent before half-time. The Argentina international did not go quietly, however, as he needed to be escorted off the field.

United went on to be crowned champions again, a 17th top-flight title putting them just one behind their arch-rivals' tally at the time.

Organisers of this year's Open say their focus is on the event "proceeding as planned" despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Golf has been impacted by the spread of the virus, with the Masters and US PGA Championship, scheduled for April and May, having been postponed and the PGA and European Tours put on hold.

This year's Open is due to take place from July 16-19 this year at Royal St George's and it is hoped the competition will take place as planned.

However, organisers the R&A are keeping their options open, having decided to cancel two international amateur events scheduled for next month.

A statement released on Thursday said: "We are undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of our plans to stage The 149th Open at Royal St George's and the AIG Women's British Open at Royal Troon, which are four and five months away respectively. This includes examining a range of scenarios for staging the championships, with our focus on proceeding as planned, as well as considering other contingency options available to us."

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said: "Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety of players, fans, officials, staff and all involved in our championships and that will be at the forefront of our thinking as we monitor developments.

"We have some time before we start building the infrastructure at both venues and so we are keeping the scheduled dates in place for The Open and AIG Women's British Open at this point. We recognise that this is a rapidly changing situation and we will keep everyone informed of any changes to our plans. These are difficult times but we are bearing in mind our responsibility for what's right for golf and most importantly for society."

Last year's event was won by Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush - his first triumph at one of golf's four majors.

The world's leading sporting competitions have been halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With almost 160,000 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 6,000 deaths, athletes across the globe are waiting to learn when they will return to work.

We take a look at the provisional return dates set out so far.
 

BASKETBALL

The NBA came to a sudden stop when a Utah Jazz player - later revealed to be Rudy Gobert - tested positive on Wednesday, and league commissioner Adam Silver warned the hiatus would "be most likely at least 30 days".

CRICKET

International cricket has been pushed back, but there are no firm dates as things stand for rescheduled matches. England's two-match Test tour of Sri Lanka was called off midway through a warm-up match, while the ODI series between India and South Africa was postponed after the first of three matches was washed out. Australia won an opening ODI against New Zealand behind closed doors, but the remaining two 50-over matches were delayed, along with a three-match Twenty20 series. There is at least a provisional date for the Indian Premier League to belatedly start: April 15, pushed back from March 29.

FOOTBALL

European football is at a standstill, with the Champions League among the elite-level competitions suspended. UEFA is set to meet to discuss the future of that tournament and Euro 2020 this week, while FIFA has advised postponements of upcoming international fixtures, for which clubs are no longer required to release their players. The Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A are all paused at least until April 3 although the Bundesliga has only called off one matchweek as things stand, while Ligue 1 is off "until further notice".

GOLF

The PGA Tour initially announced a three-week suspension, with The Players Championship stopped after its opening round. The Masters - won in 2019 by Tiger Woods - was therefore set to mark the Tour's return on April 9, but organisers soon announced the first major of the year would also be postponed. The RBC Heritage on April 16 is the next scheduled tournament. Organisers are planning "regular status updates in the coming weeks" amid "a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication, and transparency".

MOTORSPORT

The Formula One season is still to start after races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China were postponed or cancelled. The Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 remains on at this stage, however, while managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn has suggested the calendar could be reshuffled, with races held in August. NASCAR has postponed events in Atlanta and Miami this and next weekend, and all IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

RUGBY

Rugby league has largely been able to continue both in England and in Australia, but the same is not true of rugby union. Six Nations matches were among the first to fall by the wayside amid the crisis in Italy, with the Azzurri seeing matches against both Ireland and England postponed until later in the year. France versus Ireland was off, too, while Scotland's trip to Wales belatedly followed suit. Club action has ground to a halt, with Super Rugby finally paused this weekend and no return imminent.

TENNIS

After Indian Wells and then the Miami Open were cancelled, the ATP Tour announced its suspension up to and including the week of April 20. The WTA Tour preferred to call off individual events, but the schedule is now clear for five weeks. It was still to make a decision on the European clay-court season. The Fed Cup finals and play-offs - set for mid-April - have been pushed back, meanwhile, with the ITF vowing to address any impact the postponement may have on players' eligibility for Tokyo 2020.

OTHERS

Despite chaos surrounding various sports across the globe, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe says the country is still planning for the Olympic Games in Tokyo to go ahead as scheduled in July. The London Marathon and the Boston Marathon will both still go ahead this year, but with revised dates of October 4 and September 14, respectively. The Giro d'Italia will be postponed and a new date for the race will not be announced until at least April 3 when a decree in Italy banning sport ends. The NBA is not the only American competition to be disrupted, meanwhile, with the 2020 MLB season moved back "at least two weeks" from March 26, and the NHL campaign paused indefinitely.

The sporting calendar over the next few weeks looks extremely bare as events continue to be postponed or cancelled as a result of the threat of the coronavirus.

All of Europe's top five leagues have now been suspended, as the Bundesliga followed Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League in calling a halt to proceedings just hours before its latest round of fixtures was due to kick off.

Golf's first major, the Masters, will not take place on April 9 as initially scheduled, while the Giro d'Italia, the final Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland, and marathons in London and Boston have all been affected by COVID-19, too.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 140,000, we take a look at the latest round of postponements.

 

After the PGA Tour cancelled all events leading up the Masters, all eyes were on whether the prestigious event at Augusta National Golf Club would be called off until further notice. That news arrived on Friday, with organisers saying it was "appropriate under these unique circumstances".

With around four hours to go before the first Bundesliga game of matchday 26, the league was finally suspended due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Germany.

Defender Timo Hubers, who plays for 2. Bundesliga side Hannover, was one of the first players across Europe to test positive for the virus, and Paderborn, who had been due to Fortuna Dusseldorf on Friday night, were waiting on tests results for their players when news came down from the league.

Clubs will meet again on Monday, with the league advising a suspension until April 2.

World Cup qualifiers in Africa were suspended, while European clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have stopped their players from training at their facilities for the time being.

As Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba encouraged people to "dab to beat coronavirus" and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp backed the decision to postpone the Premier League, Serie A clubs Sampdoria and Fiorentina reported positive cases involving their players in Italy, one of the worst-affected countries.

The country's major cycling race, the Giro d'Italia, will not begin as scheduled on May 9 as Hungary said it was unwilling to host the first three stages. The whole race was subsequently postponed.

Six Nations contest between Italy and England in Rome, originally slated for Saturday, had already been called off, and the only fixture of the tournament not to be postponed was put back indefinitely on Friday. Wales' clash with Scotland in Cardiff was finally called off the day before it was set to take place, while Sunday's Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale Sharks and Harlequins has also been postponed.

South Africa's ODI tour of India will be rescheduled for another time, the first match having been washed out on Thursday, while the Boston Marathon will now take place on September 14. The new date for the London Marathon is October 4.

Elsewhere, NASCAR has postponed races in Atlanta and Miami over the next two weekends. Those races were initially going to be held without fans. All IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

The 2020 Masters has been postponed due to health concerns related to the spread of coronavirus, organisers have confirmed.

Golf's first major of the year was scheduled to take place at Augusta National between April 9-12, with Tiger Woods set to defend the title he memorably won in 2019.

On March 4, Augusta National Golf Club issued a memo stating it planned to stage the Masters and its associated Augusta National Women's Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals as planned.

However, all events have now been called off until further notice.

"Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances," a statement from club chairman Fred Ridley read.

"Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date."

The Masters' move follows that of the PGA Tour, which cancelled all events preceding the tournament.

Initially, the tour intended to stage events behind closed doors, before opting for a stronger course of action that began with the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass being abandoned after one round.

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