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.

The PGA Tour has cancelled The Players Championship and all events through the Texas Open in early April due to coronavirus fears.

The Players Championship, Valspar Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and Texas Open have been cancelled, the organisation said in a statement.

It comes after it announced earlier on Thursday it planned to play those tournaments behind closed doors.

"It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of The Players Championship," a statement read.

"We have also decided to cancel all PGA Tour events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open.

"We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process.

"We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavouring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate.

"But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause."

It means the next tournament on the PGA Tour schedule is the Masters, due to start on April 9.

There have been more than 134,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, with 4,973 deaths.

The United States has had 1,725 cases and 41 deaths.

Hideki Matsuyama tied a course record to take a two-stroke lead as the opening round of The Players Championship was suspended due to darkness on Thursday.

Matsuyama fired a nine-under 63 to tie the course record at TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The Japanese star mixed an eagle with eight birdies and a bogey during a brilliant opening at the PGA Tour event.

Starting on the back nine, Matsuyama made four straight birdies before dropping a shot at 16, only for another four birdies to follow before an eagle at the par-five ninth.

Of the previous four players to shoot a first-round 63 at the tournament, three have gone on to win – Greg Norman (1994), Martin Kaymer (2014) and Jason Day (2016) – according to the PGA Tour.

Harris English, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and 2017 champion Kim Si-woo are tied for second after firing seven-under 65s.

Marc Leishman, coming off a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is tied for fifth at five under alongside Patrick Cantlay.

There are 15 players tied for seventh at four under, with Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell and Viktor Hovland among them.

Only four players were unable to complete their rounds, with Bronson Burgoon (one under through 17) the best placed of that group.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy was unable to get going in the opening round, finishing with an even-par 72, while Jordan Spieth battled to a 75 and Rickie Fowler carded a four-over 76.

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka both opened with 70s, while Justin Thomas managed a 71.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour announced on Thursday the rest of The Players Championship and several other upcoming tournaments will be held without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Golf's PGA Tour will continue to stage tournaments over the next month, but without spectators due to the spread of coronavirus.

Tour commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed the measure would be effective from day two of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Friday and run until the end of the Texas Open on April 5.

Citing the recent travel advisories issued by United States government, Monahan also announced the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in Mexico – scheduled for March 26-29 – would be postponed.

"It goes without saying that this is an incredibly fluid and dynamic situation," said Monahan, who discussed the matter with US president Donald Trump on Thursday.

"We have been and are committed to being responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process."

Pan Cheng-tsung withdrew from the Players Championship over his concerns surrounding the coronavirus and later issued a statement to explain his position.

"I chose to withdraw from the Players Championship because my wife and I want to protect ourselves from the risk of exposure to the coronavirus," he wrote on social media.

"We are fine and our families are fine. Our lifestyle is like a circus, travelling from one place to another.

"We believe this is a time to exercise caution by not playing this week."

The PGA Tour's announcement makes it the latest governing body to adjust its US schedule in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basketball's NBA and ice hockey's NHL have postponed games indefinitely, as has football's MLS, while the tennis ATP Tour has cancelled tournaments for the next six weeks.

After the NCAA announced no fans would be permitted at March Madness on Wednesday, the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, American, Atlantic 10, C-USA, MAC, America East, Big East, Big Sky and WAC announced their conference tournaments had been cancelled.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to lead to widescale disruption in the world of sport on Thursday.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in the ATP Tour being suspended for six weeks, while the PGA Tour will be played behind closed doors until April 5.

Football in Spain, the Netherlands, the United States and Portugal has been put on hiatus, while Champions League games between Manchester City and Real Madrid, and Juventus and Lyon have been postponed.

A second Serie A player has been confirmed to have contracted coronavirus, while the Utah Jazz announced a second positive test for COVID-19. Donovan Mitchell confirmed he was the latest individual with the infection, while Rudy Gobert is reported to be the other.

We look at the biggest events to have been impacted by the proliferation of the virus.

 

A six-week suspension was implemented by the ATP Tour, which it said came in the wake of the World Health Organization declaring the spread of COVID-19 constituted a pandemic and 30-day travel restrictions imposed by the United States.

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said: "This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide. However, we believe this is the responsible action needed at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health in the face of this global pandemic."

The WTA Tour was yet to follow suit, but the Miami Open has been scratched from its schedule after a state of emergency was declared in Miami-Dade County.

Following the news that LaLiga had suspended its next two matchdays and Real Madrid had established a self-imposed quarantine in the wake of one of their basketball players testing positive for COVID-19, Los Blancos' Champions League last-16 second leg against Manchester City on Tuesday was postponed.

The meeting between Juventus and Lyon has also been pushed back after Daniele Rugani was confirmed to have contracted coronavirus and the Serie A champions implemented isolation procedures.

UEFA will hold a videoconference with European football stakeholders on Tuesday to discuss the response to the outbreak. The talks will include all domestic and European competitions, including Euro 2020.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has requested its Euro 2020 play-off against Northern Ireland on March 26 be postponed, while Denmark expects its friendly against England five days later to be cancelled.

One game that has been cancelled is Wales' friendly against the United States on March 30.

Sampdoria announced Manolo Gabbiadini was the second professional Serie A player to test positive. The club said he had "a slight fever, but is otherwise fine". On Sunday Gabbiadini played 61 minutes against Hellas Verona, who also activated isolation procedures as a result.

Hannover confirmed a second case of coronavirus in their squad, with Jannes Horn following Timo Hubers in testing positive. All players from the German team will be under home quarantine for the next 14 days, with the club asking for their upcoming 2.Bundesliga games against Dynamo Dresden and Osnabruck to be called off.

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers revealed three of his players have shown symptoms of coronavirus and have been isolated from their team-mates. Stats Perform understands all players put into isolation have only displayed mild symptoms, meaning they have not met the threshold to be tested for the virus.

In the Netherlands, all football has been cancelled until March 31. This includes amateur and professional games, as well as the national team's fixtures against the USA and Spain.

Portugal's Primeira Liga and the CONCACAF Champions League have been postponed for an indefinite period, while MLS has been suspended for the next 30 days.

Elsewhere in the USA, the NHL season has been paused. Comissioner Gary Bettman said: "Following last night's news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus - and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point - it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time."

The PGA Tour will continue as scheduled, though fans will be barred from attending events starting from Friday at the Players Championship until the Texas Open, which finishes on April 5.

However, the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship has been cancelled due to potential logistical issues associated with players and staff travelling internationally.

The Washington Wizards have imposed self-isolation on players, coaches and basketball operations personnel for three to four days. The Wizards played the Jazz – who have confirmed two cases of coronavirus among their roster – on February 29 and the New York Knicks on March 10. The Knicks had a game with Utah six days before the Wizards did.

The Jazz's second positive test came after their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday was called off. Mitchell said on Instagram: "Thanks to everyone who has been reaching out since hearing the news about my positive test. We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realise that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them."

After the NCAA announced no fans would be permitted at March Madness, the American, Atlantic 10, C-USA, MAC, America East, Big East, Big Sky and WAC announced their conference tournaments had been cancelled.

The Washington Redskins became the first NFL team to announce a change in protocol in relation to the coronavirus. Redskins owner Dan Snyder said: "Due to health and travel concerns surrounding COVID-19, Redskins have informed all coaches and scouts to suspend all travel until further notice."

Promoters Top Rank have confirmed their upcoming boxing shows at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden will go ahead behind closed doors.

Shakur Stevenson is scheduled to defend his WBO featherweight world title against Miguel Marriaga in the main event on Friday's card in New York, while Michael Conlan headlines next Tuesday when he takes on Belmar Preciado in a 10-round contest.

The remaining two ODIs between India and South Africa will also be played behind closed doors, the International Cricket Council announced. There will also be no fans at Pakistan Super League games in Karachi.

In rugby union, the Pro14 has been indefinitely suspended. A statement said: "Resumption of the 2019-20 season will now become a matter of constant review. To this point Pro14 Rugby has ensured that it has the latest information and guidance made available by the local and national authorities via our participating unions in the UK, Ireland, Italy and South Africa."

However, the quarter-finals in the European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup remain set to go ahead as planned.

The next two NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway over the next two weekends will be undertaken behind closed doors.

Tyrrell Hatton held his nerve to close out a maiden PGA Tour triumph at the Arnold Palmer Invitational by a single stroke.

Englishman Hatton went into Sunday with a two-shot lead but was taken to the wire by Marc Leishman amid unforgiving conditions at Bay Hill, where there was only one round in the 60s over the course of the weekend.

Rory McIlroy was one of the stars to suffer, as a run of five over in the space of five holes effectively ended his challenge before finishing tied for fifth with a four-over 76.

Hatton opened with a bogey but reached the turn three ahead thanks to back-to-back birdies.

He found water at 11, where a double bogey put his bid for glory back in the balance and he headed to the last one ahead of Australia's Leishman.

It was an advantage the 28-year-old managed to retain, carding 74 to finish four under for the tournament.

"It's hard to explain. It's just an incredible feeling," Hatton told the Golf Channel after his win.

"It was such a tough day today, actually felt like I was kind of playing myself out of it a little bit when I made double on 11. When I saw the scoreboard on I think it was the 14th green I realised I had I think it was a one- or two-shot lead at the time and I was a little bit surprised.

"But to hold on and win here at such an iconic venue, I'm just over the moon."

South Korea's Im Sung-jae finished third at two under, with Bryson DeChambeau fourth on one under overall.

Tyrrell Hatton opened up a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational as players struggled in difficult conditions on Saturday.

The Englishman is on track for his first PGA Tour win, sitting at six under despite his one-over 73.

Hatton is two shots clear of Marc Leishman (72) and Rory McIlroy (73) after a tough third round at Bay Hill.

Having held a share of the overnight lead, Hatton mixed four birdies with three bogeys and a double bogey, but it was enough to sit top of the leaderboard.

Leishman and McIlroy were solid, making 14 and 15 pars respectively during their rounds, and are in contention.

Such were the challenging conditions, Max Homa was the only player to shoot a round under par with his 70, although he is back in a tie for 16th at one over.

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout (73), South Korean Im Sung-jae (74), New Zealander Danny Lee (75) and American Harris English (74) are tied for fourth at three under.

Sung Kang, who shared the overnight lead with Hatton, battled to a six-over 78 that left him outright eighth at one under.

The South Korean was even through 10 before producing two triple bogeys – at 11 and 18 – including finding the water twice at the former.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka carded a nine-over 81 that included eight bogeys and a double as he dropped to a tie for 64th at 10 over.

Tyrrell Hatton and Sung Kang hit the front at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as overnight leader Matt Every endured a horror second round and missed the cut.

With Every carding an 11-over-par 83, Hatton and Kang and pounced by moving onto seven under for the tournament at Bay Hill, while world number one Rory McIlroy was two shots off the pace in a tie for fourth.

After an opening seven-under 65, two-time champion Every had four double bogeys on Friday and became the first outright leader to miss the cut at a PGA Tour event since Camilo Vegas at the Honda Classic in 2013.

Every's display included doubles at the fourth, 10th, 11th and 18th, with a three putt from inside 18 feet at the last compounding his wretched day.

Hatton, who teed off from the 10th, registered a second bogey of the day on the third but responded by sinking an 18-foot putt on the par-five fourth and posting another gain on his penultimate hole.

Kang, meanwhile, picked up strokes on the 12th and 13th before a birdie-par-birdie finish earned him a share of pole position.

McIlroy slipped to three over for the day when he got stuck in the rough on the eighth and carded a double bogey, but he holed a putt from 20 feet on the 17th and signed for a 73.

The four-time major champion is level with Harris English (70) and Im Sung-jae (69) on five under for the tournament.

Marc Leishman (69) and Patrick Reed (70) are one shot further back, while former world number one Jason Day withdrew due to a back injury and Emiliano Grillo was disqualified after an eight-over 80.

Danny Lee produced the best round of the day, sealing a five-under 67 and third position with a wonderful birdie from the rough on 18.

Tiger Woods faces a race against time to be fit for his Masters title defence after opting out of next week's Players Championship.

The 15-time major winner has not played on the PGA Tour since he finished a lowly 68th - last of all players who made the cut - at the Genesis Open three weeks ago.

He elected to skip the WGC-Mexico Championship and this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, due to a stiff back.

And the back remains an issue for 44-year-old Woods, who will be determined to line up for the year's first major at Augusta, with the Masters getting under way on April 9.

The Players Championship, which runs from March 12-15 at Sawgrass, has come too soon, however.

His agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN: "Back just not ready. Not concerning long term, just not ready."

Woods has gone through four back operations to sustain one of sport's great careers, the procedures allowing him last year to end an 11-year title drought at the majors with a stunning victory.

A subsequent success at the Zozo Championship in October took Woods to 82 wins on the PGA Tour, tying Sam Snead for the all-time record.

Page 1 of 26
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.