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.

Sports stars based in the United Kingdom have received the go-ahead for a phased return to organised training, but new government guidance also provides athletes with an opt-out choice.

As sport looks for a pathway back to competition amid the COVID-19 crisis, the new instruction gives elite competitors permission to resume training immediately.

However, the guidance published on Wednesday is defined as a step one, allowing for training to take place but with social distancing continuing to apply.

Crucial to the planning is the instruction that any sportsperson or member of support staff must be assessed in a one-to-one session before returning to training, in which their physical and mental health will be examined and risks and protocols discussed.

Anyone returning to a training environment must have 'actively' agreed to opt in, and the guidance makes it clear they are entitled to refuse.

It states: "All athletes and staff should also be clear on their route to 'opt out' of the organised training environment under step one conditions at any time without unreasonable steps being taken against them consequently."

That was welcomed by Sally Munday, chief executive of government agency UK Sport, who said: "Every sport is different and everyone's personal circumstances are different and whilst clearly there are many who are keen to return to training as soon as possible, there are those who will have genuine concerns or personal circumstances that make this challenging."

A number of Premier League footballers, including Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, have previously expressed reservations about returning to action while the UK continues to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is clarified as not being legal advice, with clubs and organisations urged to seek independent medical instruction before resuming any form of training.

Clubs and training centres will have to abide by stringent rules, including the regular screening of athletes and the cleaning of equipment and areas between sessions.

Step two of the return to training will allow for social clustering, meaning the likes of footballers may be able to train more normally on a pitch. However, no timescale has been disclosed for when that may occur.

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."

The UK government has announced that professional sport will not be staged in England until June 1 at the earliest.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday announced a "roadmap" outlining how lockdown restrictions may be eased, but there was no mention of a potential return of professional sport.

The government released a lengthy document on Monday, which outlined that action may resume from the start of next month as part of step two of lifting restrictions.

It states that one of the changes from June 1 could be "permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact."

The government also stated reopening venues such as sports stadia that attract large crowds "may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections", so it could be a long time before spectators are allowed in.

Premier League clubs were meeting on Monday to continue talks over 'Project Restart', with the season having been suspended since March 13 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

This has been billed as a crucial week for English football, with doubts lingering over whether top flight and Football League action can resume.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) last month announced that there will be no professional cricket played in the UK until July 1, with The Hundred put back until next year.

July is the target for a resumption of the Premiership rugby union season, but no dates have been confirmed.

Further developments were that those not on a shortlist of exemptions must self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK.

Ian Poulter is adamant the Ryder Cup should go ahead if possible, even if fans are unable to attend.

Like the majority of the sporting world, golf's calendar has been decimated by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Open has already been called off for 2020, while the Masters – which was scheduled for April – has been rearranged until November.

As things stand, the Ryder Cup is still due to go ahead at Whistling Straits in September, though several of golf's top names including Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm have stated their belief the biennial competition between the United States and Europe should not go ahead without spectators present.

However, Poulter, a five-time Ryder Cup victor, has a differing opinion.

"I'm not saying 'postpone it' if there's no fans," Poulter told Sky Sports.

"I want to make that team and if I do, and we have to play it behind closed doors, I'm going to embrace it 100 per cent.

"It will be good for TV. It won't be good from a players' standpoint, there won't be as much fun, because you won't be able to feed off the energy of the fans.

"We would love to see a Ryder Cup with fans. We feed as a team, and we always have, off the fans. So, if you take them away it's going to be an extremely different feeling.

"I'd love to see the world be in a better place by September, and for one of these amazing companies to find a vaccine which would turn this thing on its head very, very quickly. It's not looking likely, but miracles do happen."

Poulter does, though, think alterations will have to be made to the selection process, which as it stands for Europe sees nine players earn qualification from the world and European points list and the captain make three picks.

"There would have to be more picks. People haven't had the opportunity to play since February, and some guys might not have the opportunity to play much golf before August," he added.

"It's up to the European Tour and it's up to Paddy [captain Padraig Harrington] to decide what is the best way to be fair to everyone.

"There are going to be guys that have weathered this storm well and there'll probably be some guys who haven't weathered the storm well.

"A load of guys in the UK I know haven't been playing golf at all and they've just been practicing in a net in the back garden.

"It's not going to be easy to make that selection whether it's 12 picks, six picks, four picks, however they go about it."

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning's charity match against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady will be held at Medalist Golf Club in Florida on May 24.

The venue and date were confirmed on Thursday as the golfing and NFL greats do battle to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.

WarnerMedia and the golfers are donating $10million towards the cause, a statement said on Thursday.

Woods/Manning will take on Mickelson/Brady in a team matchplay with a four-ball format on the front nine and modified alternate shot format on the back nine, with the event sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unimaginable tragedy and heartbreak," WarnerMedia news and sports chairman Jeff Zucker said.

"We're hopeful this event and platform will help raise meaningful funding for COVID-19 relief, while also providing a source of brief distraction and entertainment for all sports fans."

All players will have open mics throughout the event, which comes with most sports around the world brought to a standstill by coronavirus.

There have been more than 270,200 deaths from COVID-19.

Mickelson and Woods previously faced off in a match in November 2018, when the former won on the fourth play-off hole.

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. 

Anfield was the scene of wild celebrations this time last year as Liverpool produced a stunning comeback to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's side overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit to reach the final, which they would go on to win against Tottenham in Madrid.

Arsenal fans have fond memories of May 7, too, as it was the start of a run of results that has never been repeated in the Premier League era.

It is also a day of sadness, as it marks the anniversary of the death of golf great Seve Ballesteros.

 

2000 – David Coulthard finishes second at the Spanish Grand Prix after plane crash

McLaren claimed a famous one-two in Barcelona on this day 20 years ago, with Mika Hakkinen beating team-mate David Coulthard into second as Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a day to forget.

The fact Coulthard was even on the grid was astonishing given he had been injured in a fatal plane crash just five days earlier.

The pilot and co-pilot of the light aircraft were killed when it came down in flames in Lyon, with Coulthard escaping with fractured ribs.

The Scot said racing in discomfort was "a small price to pay" and made a point of not spraying champagne while on the podium, saying: "Two families suffered a huge loss last week and I didn't think it was right for me to celebrate in such circumstances."

 

2003 – Pennant hat-trick sees Invincibles born

With Manchester United having already won the title and with an FA Cup final around the corner for both sides, Arsenal's clash with Southampton on this day was not exactly fiercely contested.

The Gunners breezed to a 6-1 victory in which Jermaine Pennant marked his Premier League debut with a hat-trick, with Robert Pires bagging the other three and Jo Tessem netting a consolation.

The result had far-reaching consequences. It was the start of a 49-game run without loss in the top flight, stretching until October 2004, when United finally halted Arsene Wenger's relentless machine.

The 'Invincibles', who became the only team in Premier League history to go a whole season unbeaten in 2003-04, still hold the record for the longest undefeated streak in England's top division. Oh, and they beat Southampton in that FA Cup final, too.

 

2011 – Seve Ballesteros dies

The great Seve Ballesteros died on May 7, 2011 after a battle with brain cancer.

The Spaniard passed away at home in Pedrena three years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour following a collapse at Madrid airport in 2008.

Ballesteros is remembered still as an all-time star of the sport. He was a five-time major winner and claimed 90 titles overall, while he was successful as both player and captain in the Ryder Cup.

However, it was the style with which he played the game that won legions of admirers and prompted Lee Westwood, world number one at the time of Ballesteros' death, to describe him as "an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend".

 

2019 – Liverpool leave Barcelona reeling

Barcelona had suffered a humbling 3-0 loss to Roma in the 2017-18 quarter-finals that saw them knocked out on away goals after a 4-1 first-leg win.

Last season, with a 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the bag from Camp Nou and the memories of Rome still haunting them, they were determined there would be no repeat.

We all know what happened next.

Divock Origi put Liverpool ahead and, when Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice in 122 second-half seconds, the tie was level and Barca were rattled. Origi then got his second from a quick Trent Alexander-Arnold corner, Liverpool were 4-0 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate, Anfield was rocking, and Barca were out again.

Liverpool went on to become champions of Europe for the sixth time. As for Barca, that humiliating trip to Merseyside will likely never be forgotten.

Wednesday marked the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister's fabled sub four-minute mile.

Although sporting records are always there to be broken, some best marks will forever hold a special place.

Here, we look at some of the competitors whose defining performances will continue to echo through the ages.

 

ROGER BANNISTER

Helped by two pacemakers, Bannister thrilled crowds at Iffley Road, Oxford by clocking 3:59.4 for his four laps of the cinder track.

The record lasted only 46 days before Australia's John Landy shaved more than a second off Bannister's mark, while Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men's mile record holder with 3:43.13. But Bannister's name will always be associated with the distance more than any other.

NADIA COMANECI

Elite stars at the top of their sports will often contend there is no such thing as perfection in competition, although the great Comaneci can always beg to differ.

As a 14-year-old at the 1976 Olympics, the Romanian superstar became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 for her performance on the uneven bars. She went on to achieve the same mark six more times in becoming the youngest all-around Olympic gold medallist.

BOB BEAMON

Before the long jump final at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, no man had jumped beyond 28 feet. American favourite Beamon broke through that barrier and the 29-foot mark for good measure with a truly remarkable leap.

Beamon's 8.90 metres remained a world record until Mike Powell hit 8.95m during his titanic tussle with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships.

JIM HINES

Another United States track and field star to revel amid the altitude of Mexico City in 1968 was sprinter Hines.

He took gold in the 100m final with a time of 9.95 seconds, making him the first man to dip below 10 seconds without illegal wind assistance.

PELE

Three World Cup wins as the shining star of Brazil's prolonged golden era mean Pele does not need statistics to burnish his considerable legend.

And yet, at the Maracana on November 19, 1969, the 29-year-old Pele slotted home a 78th-minute penalty for Santos against Vasco da Gama for his 1,000th career goal. Even allowing for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's phenomenal exploits, it is hard to envisage anyone ever matching the 'milesimo'.

ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger invited widespread derision in 2002 when he suggested it was possible for his Arsenal team to go a whole Premier League campaign unbeaten. The season after, they did just that.

Preston North End had their own "Invincibles" back in 1888-89, although the First Division season was a mere 18 games long in those Victorian times. Formidable Manchester City and Liverpool sides falling short of Arsenal's unbeaten exploits in recent seasons have only underlined the scale of the achievement Wenger masterminded.

BRIAN LARA

West Indies great Lara made the biggest individual score in Test history when he plundered a mammoth 375 versus England in 1994 – a record that stood until October 2003, when Australia opener Matthew Hayden hit a merciless 380 at Zimbabwe's expense.

Back at St John's against the same opponent as in his initial exploits, Lara took the record back into his ownership a mere 185 days after Hayden's heroics, bringing up 400 not out for the first quadruple century in cricket's longest format.

AL GEIBERGER

Golf's modern era is increasingly littered with players hitting hot streaks and low scores but going below 60 for a round still holds considerable allure.

It was a different time in 1977 when Geiberger became the first player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, illuminating the second round of the Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club. No one managed the feat again on a major tour for 14 years.

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.

Jon Rahm has echoed the views of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka by stating the Ryder Cup should not go ahead this year if fans cannot be present.

The 43rd Ryder Cup is due to be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin at the end of September, shortly after the rescheduled U.S. Open.

The PGA Tour has been suspended since last month due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, though tournaments are set to return in June, albeit without fans in attendance.

However, the prospect of such restrictions being in place for the notoriously raucous duel between Europe and the United States has been met with disapproval from world number one Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka, the man third in the rankings.

Rahm, currently the world number two, is in agreement that the Ryder Cup should be postponed if fans cannot attend.

Speaking to Sky Sports Golf, the Spaniard said: "We all want to be a part of the Ryder Cup, and I want to go there this year, win more than one point this time and hopefully retain the Cup on US soil.

"Of course I really want to play and be a part of the European team. It's a lot of fun and a unique experience.

"I have heard the rumours about a possible Ryder Cup with no spectators and, for me, a Ryder Cup without the spectators is just not a Ryder Cup.

"It's the one tournament of the year where we're not playing for ourselves, we're playing for Europe, we're playing for the United States, and it's for the fans.

"There are 50,000 people following four groups over the first two days and the atmosphere is what it is because of the fans.

"So, if they're not there, it's just 24 guys playing golf over a weekend with people watching at home. It just wouldn't be the same thing.

"And it wouldn't be fair for the US team either if they don't have the home support, which is always a big factor. The Ryder Cup in Paris would not be the same without the atmosphere we had.

"If it was up to me, and I hope I'm not alone in this, I think they should just delay it and be able to get it done in 2021 with spectators.

"These are unusual circumstances, and I don't think it's worth playing if you don't have spectators. It's not the same thing for us, it's not the same thing for the fans, and it's not fair to the game of golf in general.

"So I think they can afford to wait a year and have it done like it's supposed to be done."

Marc Leishman is braced for a "very different" Masters, while the PGA Tour star is still dreaming of winning gold for Australia at the Olympic Games.

The Masters – originally scheduled for April – was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and organisers have identified November 9-15 as the intended dates to stage the rescheduled major at Augusta.

World number 15 Leishman has twice finished in the top 10 of the iconic Masters – his best result tied for fourth in 2013 in Georgia.

Asked about a November Masters, five-time PGA Tour champion Leishman told Stats Perform: "The greens are usually firmer in November. I have a friend who is a member there and he has always tried to get me to go there in November.

"I guess the course is as good if not better in November than it is in April. Very different, there will be different grasses, different winds, flowers won't be blooming.

"It will be extremely different but hopefully we can play that with crowds and get that atmosphere because that's one of the best things about the tournament."

The rescheduled Masters will form part of a condensed PGA Tour schedule – consisting of 36 events instead of the original 49 – due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has wreaked havoc on sport across the world.

The PGA Tour is planning for tournaments to resume behind closed doors in the second week of June after a number of events had to either be postponed or called off since mid-March in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The US PGA Championship, originally scheduled for May, has been pushed back to August, prior to the Tour's season-ending tournaments that comprise the FedEx Cup play-offs.

In September, three months after it had initially been due to begin, the U.S. Open will take place in New York, before the Ryder Cup gets underway two days later, while The Open has been cancelled.

Leishman, who claimed January's Farmers Insurance Open, earned top-three finishes at the Safeway Open (third) and Arnold Palmer Invitational (second) to be seventh in the FedEx Cup standings following a fast start prior to golf's suspension.

"Having this big spell, it will probably be two, three months before it's over, so I guess it will be easy to come back and try play everything just because we haven't been doing anything," Leishman said when asked how he will approach the jam-packed schedule.

"But I'm still going to try to play my normal schedule, which will probably be reasonably light, just so I'm fresh for the run at the end of the year – the PGA, the play-offs etc. It's flat out and hopefully there will be a trip to Australia in there as well. As long as everything gets back in order and we can travel, it will be hectic but a good hectic."

The coronavirus pandemic also forced the Olympic Games to be postponed until 2021 – Tokyo 2020 had initially been scheduled to start in July this year.

But Leishman – who grew up in the Victorian town of Warrnambool and represented the International team during December's Presidents Cup against the United States in Melbourne – is still eyeing a gold medal in Japan.

"I was really looking forward to that this year," the 36-year-old added. "I was in a good spot to be on the team. I'd love to be there to represent Australia. I was unable to be there last time [the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro]. The priority for me is to go and win a gold medal for Australia."

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