Ryder Cup captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have issued an open letter paying tribute to those "on the front line" of the fight against coronavirus.

The biennial tournament is one of the few major sporting events this year still scheduled to go ahead on its original date, with Wisconsin's Whistling Straits the host venue in September.

But Team USA skipper Stricker and European counterpart Harrington recognise the world has very different priorities as COVID-19 continues to claim lives across the planet.

On Tuesday, the duo published a letter in which they heaped praise on healthcare professionals and other key workers who are leading the battle against the virus and its wider societal impact.

"When Europe takes on the United States in the Ryder Cup it is always fiercely contested but it is just golf. It is not a matter of life and death," the letter read. "Fighting coronavirus is.

"As Ryder Cup Captains, we proudly represent all the players, caddies, staff and partners of the European Tour and PGA of America and we speak on behalf of every single one of them when we say that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected.

"We also speak for them when we say that we are all moved by the incredible determination, passion and spirit we are witnessing from our health professionals, key workers and everyone else on the front line in this battle. We are all indebted to the incredible work they are all doing.

"Last week, some of the world's leading golfers featured in a social media video thanking our heroes. We want to take this opportunity to reiterate our sincere gratitude to all of you once more.

"For them, we urge everyone to please stay safe, stay healthy and stay home. And stay united."

The signs that Jack Nicklaus was destined for golfing immortality came early in his decorated career.

Fifty-seven years ago on April 7, the 18-time major winner recorded one of his most incredible achievements on the verdant greens of Augusta.

Sharp shooting of a different kind was taking place in Texas on this day last year.

Here we look back at some of the major events to have happened in the world of sport on April 7.

 

1963 - Jack Nicklaus becomes youngest Masters winner

Having won his first major in a playoff with Arnold Palmer less than a year into his professional career, Jack Nicklaus made history with the first of six victories at Augusta.

A six-under second round of 66 was crucial for Nicklaus, who trailed Mike Souchak by a stroke at the 36-hole mark.

Souchak endured a third-round collapse, though, Nicklaus benefitting from the halfway leader tumbling down the board by shooting a seven-over 79.

Nicklaus subsequently held on to his one-shot lead, a three-foot putt on the last earning him a green jacket at the age of 23.

2018 - United comeback denies City title-clinching win

The prospect of clinching the Premier League title against their bitter rivals lay before Manchester City on this day two years ago.

Despite taking a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola's men missed the chance to do so as they were undone by a remarkable Manchester United comeback.

Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan had seemingly put City in command but Paul Pogba levelled matters with two goals in the space of three second-half minutes.

Chris Smalling was the unlikely hero for United, completing a stunning turnaround by volleying home Alexis Sanchez's free-kick.

City still cruised to the title, finishing the season with 100 points, with Jose Mourinho's United 19 points back.

2019 - Rockets break their own record

The Houston Rockets have long been known for their reliance on the three-pointer, and they displayed incredible accuracy from beyond the arc in a dominant win over the Phoenix Suns.

Houston already owned the record for the most three-pointers in a game, and the Rockets broke it by nailing 27 in a 149-113 victory.

James Harden scored 30 points in just three quarters, converting on five three-point attempts.

Eric Gordon drilled home eight, with Austin Rivers hitting the record-breaking effort with one minute and nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

The rearranged 2020 Masters could be held in November while new dates for the U.S. Open and US PGA Championship have been revealed in a revised schedule.

In an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Tour and PGA Tour campaigns have been put on hold.

The Masters, due to take place this week, and the US PGA Championship had already been postponed and on Monday it was confirmed the 2020 Open Championship had been called off altogether.

Shortly after that news, the PGA Tour revealed a rejigged calendar which would impact the three golf majors still due to go ahead.

The US PGA Championship, originally scheduled for May, will now take place between August 3-9 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, prior to the PGA Tour's season-ending tournaments that comprise the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

On September 14, three months after it had initially been due to begin, the U.S. Open will be staged at Winged Foot in New York and will finish two days before the start of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, a tournament which remains unaffected by the reshuffle.

The Augusta National Golf Club has then identified November 9-15 as its preferred dates for the Masters.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement: "While more details will be shared in the weeks and months to come, we, like all of you, will continue to focus on all mandated precautions and guidelines to fight against the coronavirus.

"Along the way, we hope the anticipation of staging the Masters Tournament in the fall brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and all those who love the sport.

"We want to emphasise that our future plans are incumbent upon favourable counsel and direction from health officials."

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."

 

 

The Trophee Hassan II has been postponed and the Scandinavian Mixed cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Tour announced on Monday.

Rabat was due to host the Trophee Hassan II and the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour concurrently from June 4-7, but the tournaments have been pushed back.

The inaugural Scandinavian Mixed, which was to be hosted by major champions Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam from June 11-14, has been called off.

The event would have seen men and women go head-to-head for the first time, competing for one prize fund and one trophy. It will instead begin on the 2021 schedule.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "We will continue to monitor the global situation in relation to coronavirus and evaluate its impact on all our tournaments, with public health and well-being our absolute priority.

"We thank all stakeholders involved in Trophee Hassan II and the Scandinavian Mixed – including His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid and the Hassan II Trophy Association, the Ladies European Tour and Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam.

"Discussions regarding the possible rescheduling of all postponed tournaments will remain ongoing until we have clarity on the global situation."

Reports last week claimed a revised calendar was close to being agreed that would see three major championships and a Ryder Cup contested in the space of four months.

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.

 

The Irish Open is the latest European Tour event to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been no European Tour action since the Qatar Masters at the start of March with much of the sports world in lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell was set to host the Irish Open at Mount Juliet Estate from May 28-31, but the second Rolex Series event of the year was cancelled on Monday.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “The decision to postpone the Irish Open follows consultation with all stakeholders and was made with public health and well-being as our absolute priority.

"Our thoughts are with everyone right now and we are all united in trying to fight the spread of the pandemic.

"With this in mind, we will continue to evaluate all aspects of our 2020 European Tour schedule, and discussions on the rescheduling of postponed events will remain ongoing until we have clarity on the global situation."

McDowell said: "As important as the Irish Open is to all of us, everyone's health is our only concern. My thoughts are with everyone affected by the crisis and I hope everyone keeps safe and well during these difficult times."

World number one Rory McIlroy was also due to be in the field in a tournament that Jon Rahm won for a second time last year.

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