Harry Kane is poised to mount a challenge to Alan Shearer's Premier League goals record - and it all began with an April purple patch.

At the beginning of April 2014, the man who has gone on to become England captain was a lively enough Tottenham prospect, albeit struggling for game time in the Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor era.

Kane had yet to score in the English top flight, either for Spurs or in an unproductive loan spell at Norwich, although he had done better in stints in the lower leagues with Millwall, Leyton Orient and Leicester City.

His world changed thanks to a stroke of ill-fortune for Soldado, the goal-shy Spaniard injured in a thumping 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, giving Kane a chance to make his first Premier League start.

Tim Sherwood was in his final weeks as Spurs boss, but it was he who promoted Kane and a three-game scoring run was the result, changing the course of Kane's career and Tottenham's history.

BAD LUCK FOR BLACK CATS, BLOW TO BAGGIES, COTTAGERS CONDEMNED

Before starting against Sunderland on Monday, April 7, Kane had made eight Premier League appearances in his career - including three for Norwich - and had not netted in 170 minutes of action.

In the 2013-14 Premier League season, he had featured for only 32 minutes in four brief forays from the bench, having a mere two shots.

Sherwood and predecessor Andre Villas-Boas gave Kane plenty of domestic cup and Europa League opportunities, but an EFL Cup strike at Hull had been his only goal of the season.

Kane landed the Premier League goal he craved by prodding home a Christian Eriksen cross from the left in a 5-1 slaying of Sunderland, before headers in the 3-3 fightback at West Brom and 3-1 home win over relegation-bound Fulham gave him three goals in 13 days.

STILL ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES

Starting from the Sunderland game, Kane had 26 shots in six consecutive starts, with an impressive accuracy of 73.3%, let down only by being unable to convert as many of those chances as he would have wanted. Those three in three games were his only Premier League goals of the campaign.

Opta's expected goals model - known as xG - shows that Kane might have done better. He had an xG figure of 4.56 goals for that period, but it would not be long before Kane began exceeding the forecasts of such metrics.

MAKING HIS MARK FOR POCH

Kane was back on the bench for the start of the 2014-15 season as the Mauricio Pochettino era began, but a flood of Europa League and League Cup goals led to inevitable promotion within the Spurs ranks.

He ended that campaign with 21 Premier League games in 34 appearances, netting once every 122.9 minutes of action and far exceeding his 14.46 xG prediction.

GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND

Opta's xG measurements are based on the nature of the chance falling to a player, including looking at whether opportunities are defined as big chances.

Kane has consistently surpassed the xG metrics, demonstrating how clinical he has been, often taking chances when it appeared he stood only a slim chance of scoring.

In 2015-16 he bagged 25 Premier League goals (xG: 21.75), in 2016-17 he grabbed 29 in 30 games (xG: 18.59), in 2017-18 Kane hit 30 goals in the top flight for the first time (xG: 24.79), and last season his 17 goals in 28 games defied xG of 14.77.

During the current, coronavirus-disrupted campaign, Kane has netted 11 times in 20 Premier League games (xG: 7.19), again often proving his team's driving force.

CLIMBING UP THE CHARTS

It all began with that April 2014 burst, with Kane now up to 136 Premier League goals, putting him 13th on the all-time list.

Still just 26 years old, he has plenty of time to move closer to Shearer's record of 260 goals in the competition and is within striking distance of former Tottenham favourites Teddy Sheringham (146), Les Ferdinand (149) and Jermain Defoe (162).

It is little wonder Kane has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, but to Spurs he is surely priceless.

Pozas, Bilbao, could seem a peculiar place for the average football fan on the day of 'Derbi Vasco', one of Spain's most famous rivalries.

Approximately one and a half kilometres in length, it's a street that's littered with bars and leads directly to the home of Athletic Bilbao: San Mames, it's grilled east stand and external screen visible between the final buildings.

It is on this street where Athletic supporters and their Real Sociedad counterparts meet up before the derby – not to scrap, as some might expect of such an occasion, but mingle side-by-side, sing and drink, and even swap club colours before walking to the stadium. Together.

"It's like a brotherhood," Mikel Mugalari, a lifelong Athletic fan, explains to Stats Perform. "Very rarely there's fights or incidents. We don't have that kind of hatred. It's a healthy rivalry."

It's little wonder this contest has been described as the "friendly derby", or "unique" as, although passion burns strongly on both sides, there is also a sense of camaraderie and unity.

Welcome to the Basque Country.

History on hold for the phantom final

The next time these two famous clubs meet will, in theory, be the Copa del Rey final, the first between Athletic and La Real in their current guises. It was supposed to take place on April 18 but, much like virtually all sporting events around the globe, it had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While clearly a momentous occasion, coverage of this final hasn't been entirely positive. The new format of the Copa del Rey – ditching two-legged ties for one-off meetings before the semi-finals – has been met with much praise on the one hand, giving smaller clubs a greater chance of progression, but simultaneously highlighted potential bias in the mainstream media.

"People are tired of so many Clasicos and want other teams to compete for the titles," La Real fan David Gonzalez says, pointing out 2010 was the last time neither of the 'big two' reached the final.

Mikel agrees. "If you talk to someone who really likes football, many say, 'Wow, finally a final without Barcelona and Real Madrid.' My kid was reading me the comments in the main national sports papers: most of the comments from Spain were saying it's not a final, no one will watch it, cancel it [because of coronavirus]. I couldn't imagine talk of cancelling [rather than postponing] a Madrid v Barca final because of the coronavirus situation. Now there's lots of talk about cancelling it. Why? Because it's two smaller teams from the north, who aren't even Spanish."

The Basque Country, or 'Euskadi' to the locals, was granted autonomy in 1979, four years after the death of Spanish dictator General Franco, who prohibited the region's Ikurrina flag after defeating the Basque government's army in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Although Mikel acknowledges, politically, Spain and Euskadi now find themselves in "a friendly situation", the lowest approval ratings of the Spanish monarchy are attributed to the Basque people and Catalonia, another excuse for a potential postponement of the final, he feels.

"It's going to be a Basque final, it's very important. In past finals there's been controversy because there's been whistles and yelling at the king," Mikel said. "That's one of the things they don't like about this final in Spain. They are saying it should be cancelled because of coronavirus, but [in reality] don't want to have a televised final that will be viewed by millions over the world, to have whistling and yelling towards the king. What we say is, change the name [of the Copa]. That's it, it's a tournament [it doesn't belong to the king]. Change the name."

A bittersweet success?

Both David and Mikel remember the respective glory days of their clubs in the 1980s when, for four years, the league title didn't leave the Basque Country.

For David, that period brought immense highs and crushing disappointment. From seeing La Real lose the title to Real Madrid in 1980 due to defeat at Sevilla on the penultimate day of the season, to then inflicting similar misery on Los Blancos a year later.

"It just seemed unfair to me, but then the next year we won LaLiga in Gijon with [Jesus Maria] Zamora's goal in the very last minute when Real Madrid, who had already finished their match, were already celebrating winning the title," recalls David, who spent his very first salary on becoming a season-ticket holder.

Similarly, the 80s bring back both great and sad memories for Mikel, his worst being the 1984 Copa final – in which Athletic actually beat Barca 1-0 – due to the apparent vilification of his team following the infamous mass brawl at the end.

But, although both men agree the 2019-20 Copa final is momentous for the obvious reasons, there is also a consensus that this is essentially as good as it gets now – there's little hope victory for either team will be the prelude to sustained success it may have been in the 80s.

"A few years ago, I would tell you yes, without hesitation," David replies when asked if final qualification is a sign of things to come for La Real, who were fourth in LaLiga before its suspension. "But today, unfortunately, football has changed a lot and for a club like Real Sociedad it is more difficult to maintain a good team like the one we have now."

"Until the Bosman rule's introduction [in 1995], Athletic had chances of winning, but now we have no chance of getting better than fourth, fifth, sixth," Mikel insists.

The 36-year wait

"We'll always consider the Copa to be our competition," Mikel says with a grin, as he highlights the fact only Barca have more than Athletic's 23 Copa wins.

Athletic celebrate their greatest successes in a unique way. La Gabarra, a barge, floats along the Nervion river with all the players and coaching staff aboard, the claimed title taking centre-stage, while supporters line the riverbanks and bridges to join in the party.

La Gabarra is an iconic symbol of the club but, while Mikel remembers the last time it was used, many supporters will have never experienced such an occasion, for the lack of a major title since 1984 – not including the 2015 Supercopa de Espana – has seen the tradition become legend. Younger generations are consigned to looking upon the photos decorating the walls of bars on Pozas and imagining.

If ever an occasion merited its long-awaited return to the water, it's success in an all-Basque final. Just don't expect the blue-and-white contingent of the "brotherhood" to show their faces should the Copa head to San Mames for a 24th time.

"Let's be honest, getting tickets for the Crucible is harder than getting an Iron Maiden ticket, which is saying something."

Snooker's World Championship has been postponed from its traditional April and May dates because of coronavirus, causing huge disappointment to the devotees who flock to Sheffield each year.

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain is a regular visitor to the Steel City, and the man who has played the world's biggest stadiums and rock arenas feels a unique magic every time he steps through the Crucible Theatre stage door.

Stuart Bingham was a long-time tour pro before he won the World Championship in 2015.

Both men told Stats Perform what you have missed out on if you have never paid a visit to snooker's greatest venue, which was due to host the first day of its 44th consecutive World Championship on Monday.

IT'S OH SO QUIET... SHHH... SHHH...

It's true, the silence can be overwhelming, especially when the tension ramps up.

NICKO MCBRAIN: "Oh my sweet Lord. It really is powerful. There’s certain lights that the TV use that have got fans in them, and that’s all you can hear.

"And you get the odd cough here and there. It’s super quiet, you could literally hear a pin drop. And I felt that sense of awe when the lights went down and the players came down the steps and past the press area where we were sitting.

“Even a whisper sounds like you’re shouting."

IT'S OH SO... SMALL!

The theatre might be renowned worldwide, now that snooker has spread its wings and established strong footholds in Europe and Asia, but it really is poky, seating just 980 spectators.

NICKO MCBRAIN: "Television doesn't do justice to it. Every red-blooded Englishman knows how big a snooker table is and you’ve got two of them sitting on the floor. It’s very tiny and intimate, like a club vibe in there rather than a bigger venue.

"My first impression was of the size and the intimacy in there, and I could really feel the essence of these snooker players, these wonderful professional guys, and [the difference to] novices like me who can’t break more than 39. You can see it’s an amazing atmosphere in the room, and with all the years of history, it’s in every true Englishman’s heart. As soon as you say 'Crucible', they don't associate the Crucible with theatre, which is what it was really built for."

THE PLAYERS WERE FANS ONCE - AND TO THEM JUST BEING THERE MEANS THE WORLD

Many of the top professionals had their first taste of the arena as paying spectators, including past champions.

STUART BINGHAM: "I remember coming in 1993 and 1994 to watch Brian Morgan play and getting an autograph, being a snooker fan, so I wore a Brian Morgan T-shirt as I sat in the crowd, just thinking how much I wanted to make it here as a player one day.

"So 20 years later to get my hand on the trophy... these events are every kid’s dream.

"It’s like winning the Masters or the Open in golf, winning the FA Cup or the World Cup. It’s that feeling, just unbelievable.

"I remember walking up the stairs, giving it the old Pat Cash moment, to see my manager who I’d been with since a year before I turned pro. It was just a priceless moment."

IT'S A 'MARATHON OF THE MIND'

That was a term coined by BBC commentary box great Clive Everton, and it aptly describes the 17-day tournament. The wild men of the 1980s snooker boom may have gone, but they have been replaced by a new breed of ravenous competitors. Not that the current set of players wouldn't have enjoyed those heady days of yesteryear.

STUART BINGHAM: "It would definitely have been fun to be part of it. It’s a bit more professional in these days.

"It was maybe a bit more relaxed then, with players having a drink and a smoke, but it’s so professional these days that you have to be match fit. You’ve got to be on your game from day one.

"I think this is the only tournament with the kudos. It’s special. You’ve seen so many special world champions, great memories and it comes about because of this place, the Crucible, and Sheffield."

Neil Robertson left Australia for England as a 16-year-old with £500 in his pocket and a snooker cue he dreamt would unlock the door to fame and fortune.

A false start or two followed, but 12 years later the ball-potting, modern-day Dick Whittington was wrapped up in the arms of mum Alison after getting his hands on the World Championship trophy.

Later, Robertson would parade the glistening silverware at the MCG, as his AFL first loves the Collingwood Magpies tackled the St Kilda Saints.

It was 2010, and the Melbourne boy had come good, becoming the first snooker world champion from outside the British Isles since Canadian Cliff Thorburn 30 years earlier.

Here is a 10-year anniversary look at how Robertson took his step into snooker legend, as he admits surprise visitors from Down Under almost knocked him out of his stride.

GET CARTER

Robertson beat resurgent six-time world champion Steve Davis in the quarter-finals, before taking charge early against Ali Carter in their semi-final and refusing to relinquish his grip.

Future wife Mille was days away from giving birth to their first child, but Robertson's focus was absolute and he powered to a 17-12 victory, earning a first Crucible world final appearance.

'HEY, SWEETIE, WE'RE LEAVING SINGAPORE'

Robertson's mother had been keeping a close eye on his matches from the other side of the planet, and a leap of faith led her to book flights to London.

"She'd come across without me even knowing," Robertson said.

"She and her partner Chris booked tickets when I was 6-2 up in my semi-final, thinking maybe they'd never have the chance again to see me in the final.

"So after I beat Ali in the semi-final, I switched on my phone and there was a message saying 'Hey sweetie, I've just seen that you’re 10-6 up in the semi-final, we're leaving Singapore and then we’ll arrive and hopefully you're in the final'.

"It was all really rushed. They got a taxi up from Heathrow and emotionally that was a huge moment for me.

"It was the first time I'd seen my mum for nearly a year. I'd always go home in the summer off-season and then wouldn't see them for 10 months, but here she was to watch me in the world final."

THE PRESSURE MOUNTS

Stoked to see his mum, Robertson was still worried her presence might prove a distraction against Scottish battler GraDott.

"It put a huge amount of pressure on me," Robertson said.

"The first session, I was almost in tears when I came out and saw her and waved at her. I actually had tears and had to really compose myself because it's not long before you're hitting the balls.

"I was 5-3 down after the first session but managed to turn it around in the end."

AUSTRALIA TOOK NOTICE

Robertson has spent most of his career without a great deal of attention from the Australian media, but a gaggle of reporters showed up in Sheffield for the climax against Dott.

He did his fellow Aussies back home a favour too, getting across the winning line 18-13 against Dott at 12.54am - desperately late in Sheffield, England, but mid-morning in Melbourne.

"When I potted the winning ball I blew a kiss up to my mum, who was up on the balcony. I had all these weird instant flashbacks to all the hard work and everything I’d had to sacrifice and all I'd been through to get to that point," Robertson said.

"I've flown my dad over every year since. I've told him I'll fly him over every year until I win it again. I'd love to win it with him there as well, and he doesn't add any pressure because I know that he's coming.

"When my mum arrived like that - 'Surprise!' - I was in the heat of the moment."

SAME AGAIN THIS YEAR?

Robertson hoped to return to the Crucible Theatre this month to mount another title challenge, only for the coronavirus pandemic to quash that prospect.

The World Snooker Tour is planning for a rescheduled July start to the 17-day marathon, but it could be a behind-closed-doors event.

Writing on Twitter, Robertson, now 38, said in those circumstances it would be "better to play than not".

Crowds or no crowds, the Thunder from Down Under would have his work cut out to beat the wonder of that first triumph.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

For a player who has had to deal with speculation over his future since attracting attention as a 16-year-old for Valenciennes, it is little wonder Dayot Upamecano is so relaxed about recent links with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"Even though I know there are clubs that want me - that is certain - I am keeping my feet on the ground," he told Foot Mercato last month. "We will discuss my future at the end of the season with my agents and my family."

Upamecano has a habit of making the right choices, seeing him make a name for himself in the Bundesliga and star on the biggest club stage of them all, the Champions League.

With a pick of Europe's top teams to choose from, as well as the option of extending his stay at his current side, Upamecano faces a big decision at the end of the campaign as he enters the final year of his Leipzig deal.

Using data provided by Opta, we examine just why the Frenchman is attracting so much interest from across the continent and look at his next possible career step.


The story so far

Despite supposed interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal at the time, Upamecano opted for Salzburg in 2015 and soon got a taste for first-team football at feeder club Liefering.

Given the links between the clubs, it came as little surprise when the centre-back opted for Leipzig in January 2017, quickly adapting to a new country and a new league with 12 Bundesliga appearances in the remainder of the season.

Upamecano's displays over the course of the next year saw him nominated for the 2018 Golden Boy award, won by then-Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, but his game has since gone up another level under the stewardship of Julian Nagelsmann.

The Evreux-born defender has been a mainstay at the back, making 29 appearances in all competitions during the current campaign, which has been halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leipzig have the joint-best defensive record in the Bundesliga this term, alongside leaders Bayern, with Upamecano playing his part in six of their clean sheets, making the most interceptions and clearances in the side.

Pace, power, passing and positioning

Upamecano boasts a short-pass accuracy of 92.24 per cent in the Bundesliga - an impressive figure - but it is his long passing that sets him aside from the division's other elite players at his position.

Nearly 66 per cent of the 199 long passes he has attempted this season have been successful, compared to 61 per cent for Benjamin Pavard at Bayern, with Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji and 58 and 55 per cent respectively.

As impressive as his strength, pace and passing ability may be, the most notable aspect of Upamecano's game is his ability to take the ball off opponents and start attacks from deep.

He has intercepted the ball 35 times this season, five more than Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk - widely considered to be the best central defender on the planet.

They play in different leagues, of course, but Upamecano has also transferred his domestic displays onto the European stage.

Already arguably the most coveted defender around after stifling Bayern's Robert Lewandowski a few weeks beforehand, Upamecano once again stepped up in Leipzig's impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham last month, each of his enduring traits were on display.

With Leipzig successfully overcoming Tottenham to book a place in the quarter-finals, he will now have an even bigger audience to showcase his skills to when the competition eventually resumes.

What have they said and where next?

A number of current and former stars have heaped praise on the 21-year-old, with team-mate Timo Werner comparing him to Jerome Boateng, for a long time a player many youngsters would mould their game on.

Speaking this week, meanwhile, German football legend Lothar Matthaus talked up the youngster while at the same time warning him that he cannot afford to get carried away.

"He's a young player, highly rated, fast, has a good positional game and uses his body well for a 21-year-old. But a year or two in Leipzig would not hurt him," Matthaus told Sky Sport Germany.

"I can still see one or two per cent where he can learn, but he's a huge player and that's why I'm not surprised that top clubs in Europe are after him."

Upamecano would arguably suit a side that looks to get the ball forward quickly, given that is what a large part of his game centres around at Leipzig, but his defensive abilities and dribbling skills means he would not be out of place at any club.

If the rumours are to be believed and Bayern are weighing up an end-of-season move for Upamecano, it may be too big an opportunity to turn down for a player in control of his own destiny.

Tiger Woods' sensational triumph at the 2019 Masters is proof he can surpass Jack Nicklaus' record major haul, but it would be nice if he finished his career tied with the 'Golden Bear', says Padraig Harrington.

A year ago, Woods ended a painful 11-year wait to once again win one of golf's big four tournaments when he overcame a two-shot deficit at the start of round four to secure a fifth green jacket.

It was Woods' 15th major victory, but now aged 44, time is running out for him to overhaul Nicklaus' benchmark of 18.

However, Harrington – a three-time major winner and Europe's next Ryder Cup captain – labelled Woods as the greatest ever and thinks he can still achieve the feat, even though he would love to see the two legends share the record.

"There's no doubt it was a great moment for golf, I was amazed by the style he did it in," Harrington told Stats Perform.

"I always thought he was going to win another major, now I actually think he can get to the 18 or 19.

"At the time before that I was thinking Tiger is good enough to get himself in contention, he'll be having a good week and when he's there the old Tiger will come back and he'll make a few birdies, a bit like Nicklaus winning the Masters in '86, and other guys will fall away.

"I just didn't think he'd win it the way he did - Tiger dominated that last round, the players ran away from him like it was the Tiger of old, it was a surprise to me.

"I knew Tiger could win another major, but I thought he'd win it like everyone else, get in the right position and one or two things happen at the end, but this was a dominant performance.

"It's different to what I expected, it showed he was in control, it wasn't circumstances. The likelihood is he could do that again and that's why I think now he can win another three majors.

"I'd personally like him to win another three, not four. It would be nice if he tied with Jack. I think Jack was great for the game.

"I personally think Tiger is the best player ever, I never got to play with Jack in his prime so I don't necessarily want him to beat such a legend, a tie would be very nice in my eyes, so let's hope he gets another three."

This year's Masters was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is now slated to take place in November.

Woods' history of back injuries is well documented, and Harrington says only he will know if the extra time will be good for him physically.

"I think at the moment Tiger was struggling, his injuries do seem to be there, there's a lot of ups and downs in his injuries," Harrington added.

"In November he could be just as injured or he could be much better, we're never quite 100 ,per cent sure.

"He would have been trying to compete for Augusta, Tiger tends to get these things right too, so you'd think he'd be getting right and getting his back ready for Augusta.

"Another six months would be good for his back, or I think it would be. He's six months older, I don't know really. Tiger's really the only one who can tell if this is positive or negative in terms of how he feels his physical state will be.

"It's funny, we're talking mental state for everyone else and it's Tiger's physical state we're thinking of.

"But look, everybody will make the most of their opportunity when they get there, I don't see it making a huge difference. If you're serious about winning Augusta, you're going to be preparing for that April week, now you're going to be preparing for November."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

It was in the modest surroundings of Avellino's Stadio Partenio-Adriano Lombardi that the next great hope of Italian football was introduced to professional football in August 2017.

The 17-year-old Sandro Tonali emerged as a second-half substitute for Brescia, coming into the side to help shore up the midfield a few minutes after Emanuele Ndoj was sent off.

Brescia were 1-0 up when he came on in the 70th minute. They went on to lose 2-1 – a "half disaster", he called it.

Tonali wasn't seen again in Brescia's first team until January, but since then he has barely been out of the side and established himself as one of Europe's most talked-about teenagers.

Now an Italy international – having first been called up before even playing in Serie A – Tonali looks destined to move on this year, with Brescia facing relegation back to Serie B.

After the coronavirus pandemic passes, 2020 could be the year that makes or breaks this silky midfielder's chances of reaching the top.

"A 50-year-old's brain"

Many young players can be very eager to accelerate their careers too quickly. That big leap to an elite club is sometimes taken too soon and the consequences can have ramifications for the rest of the player's career.

Tonali was a regular in the Brescia team at 17. After missing out on promotion in that first season, he stayed and enjoyed a full campaign of first team football in Serie B, establishing himself and developing as the team won promotion.

Again, the urge to join a bigger club might have proven too great for many, but Tonali stayed put and will have a season of top-level football under his belt by the time 2020-21 rolls around. It's unlikely he'll move down a division again, so, finally, it may well be the right time to take the next step.

Maturity. This is a label many have attached to Tonali, and that attitude is visible on the pitch as well, possessing great awareness and composure – you will rarely see petulance.

"The impressive thing, which I have not seen in other children, was his way of acting as an adult: very serious, taciturn, introverted," a former teacher of his once told Sky Italia.

Roberto Boscaglia, the coach who gave Tonali his debut, had a similar appraisal of the teenager in 2018, telling Radio Lo Sport: "He was a boy with a personality and a strength in fearful legs, and above all with a brain of a 50-year-old in the body of an 18-year-old."

The 'next Pirlo'?

"Blame the hair, I should cut it," Tonali said to Gazzetta dello Sport last year when asked about the comparisons to Andrea Pirlo that have become synonymous with him. "Andrea is unreachable. Like [Steven] Gerrard, the most dynamic, or [Luka] Modric, unique in style. I see myself in [Gennaro] Gattuso."

Long-locked, blessed with wonderful technique, a central midfielder and schooled at Brescia – it's easy to see how the Pirlo comparisons started.

But he is seemingly wise to distance himself from such comments. After all, that tag has rarely helped any of the midfielders it was previously reserved for, whether that's Luca Cigarini, Andrea Poli or Manuel Locatelli.

While the comparison is obvious in theory, it's clear how Tonali differs from Pirlo, who was an out-and-out playmaker and conducted almost everything his teams did.

Perhaps that's where his career will end up, but at the moment Tonali is no Pirlo, despite what the romanticists want.

Pirlo v Tonali

While it's obviously important to remember Tonali's data is collected over a much shorter period, at the same time it helps highlight just how good Pirlo was.

He was an era-defining playmaker and dictated matches unlike almost any other player on the planet during his career – perhaps bar Xavi.

Between the start of 2004-05 – when Opta records began – and when he left Juventus in 2015, Pirlo had 94 touches and 75 passes per Serie A match on average. This season, Tonali is averaging 60 touches and 39 passes.

The teams Pirlo played in generally dominated possession, whereas Brescia cannot do that – Tonali is generally tasked with aiding his side in transitions and with more direct passes, springing counters.

This potentially explains why his pass accuracy in his own half is 82 per cent and in the opposing half it is 68. By comparison, Pirlo's respective figures are 95 per cent and 82 per cent, significantly better than Tonali's.

Pirlo's accuracy with passes ending in the final third (74 per cent) is also much higher than his potential heir (64 per cent).

But don't let such facts trick you into suggesting Pirlo's excellent passing accuracy means he just played the ball simply all the time – he averaged 2.3 chances created per match in the qualifying time period, showing he dictated and crafted. Putting that into context, Tonali is averaging 2.1 every game this season, his total 48 chances created being the ninth highest in Serie A.

Where Tonali does come out on top, however, is dribbling. He has remarkable ability with the ball at his feet, beating his man with 76 per cent success this term. Only Ismael Bennacer (81 per cent) has a better completion rate of players with more than 35 attempts – Pirlo's average was 62 per cent.

There's no doubt Tonali is a fine prospect and still very young, but the data supports those who insist he's a significantly different player to Pirlo at the moment. A move to a better team, where he will be supported by higher-quality players, could elevate Tonali to another level, and maybe he'll adapt to a more orchestrative role. But to suggest he will and also reach Pirlo's level would be widely speculative at this point.

The first win in any winning streak is often the toughest, and that applied on April 13 1957 when the Boston Celtics first landed an NBA championship, going the distance against the St Louis Hawks.

Jack Nicklaus' glory day at Augusta in 1986 turned out to be the last of his 18th majors, while 11 years later Tiger Woods secured a first-time Green Jacket success.

April 13 was a day for farewells for Kobe Bryant in 2016, when the US basketball great played his final game and made it one to remember.

Here, we take a look back at those memorable moments that happened on this day in history.

1957 - Celtics sink St Louis to launch dynasty

The Boston Celtics won their first 11 championships in a 13-season hot streak, starting here at the expense of the St Louis Hawks.

The 1957 NBA Finals proved nip and tuck, all the way to the climax in Boston.

Games 7 went to double overtime as the Celtics snuck a 125-123 win, Bill Russell with 19 points and a remarkable 32 rebounds in the game as the Red Auerbach era had its lift-off moment.

1986 - Jack is back! Veteran Nicklaus lands final Masters Green Jacket

Jack Nicklaus had not won a major since landing his record-extending 17th big one at the 1980 US PGA Championship. He remained a competitive player but the wins were drying up, just two having come on the PGA Tour in the years since that Oak Hill success before he began his 1986 tilt at The Masters.

It was therefore against almost all expectations that Nicklaus, at the age of 46, won the Green Jacket for a record sixth time, 23 years after his first success at Augusta National.

He was nowhere to be seen on the leaderboard at halfway but gradually crept into contention, and a rollicking charge over the final 10 holes on the Sunday brought him glory, with six birdies, an eagle at 15 and just one dropped shot over that stretch enough to see off Tom Kite, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.

1997 - Woods conquers Augusta, launches Tiger era

Eleven years after Nicklaus last ruled the roost at Georgia's most celebrated course, Tiger Woods' time arrived at Augusta.

A year earlier, Woods had missed the cut in his second Masters appearance as an amateur. But this time he slayed the field, becoming the tournament's youngest champion at the age of 21 and winning by a record 12 shots on an 18-under-par 270.

Woods was by now in the professional ranks, and this performance confirmed the arrival of a new main man on tour.

2016 - Kobe signs off with 60-point flourish

If his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates weren't going to raise their game for the big send-off, Kobe Bryant realised he would have to take charge for his last outing before retirement.

At the end of their wretched season, the Lakers looked spent as they trailed the Utah Jazz by 15 points at one stage. But Bryant wasn't done, and he stepped up to levels not seen for several seasons, bagging a 60-point haul in a 101-96 win for LA.

"Mamba out!" he declared, addressing the fans who in 2020 would mourn the death of their hero in a helicopter crash.

It is exactly 16 years since Brian Lara swept Gareth Batty behind square and trotted through for his 400th run of a remarkable innings.

On April 12, 2004, Lara not only reclaimed the record Test innings, he set a mark that remains standing today.

The West Indies great frustrated England's attack across two and a half days in Antigua, the Test eventually finishing as a draw to ensure the hosts avoided a 4-0 whitewash.

The 1,696th Test of all time belonged to Lara. Here, we take a look back at his 400 not out in numbers.

 

16.66 average - Lara's fourth Test score was all the more incredible given he had made just a combined 100 runs at an average of 16.66 across the previous three matches in the series.

12 hours, 58 minutes - Lara batted for 12 hours and 58 minutes to get his record. That is only the seventh longest Test innings of all time, though, with Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad having occupied the crease for over 16 hours against West Indies in 1958.

582 deliveries - England used seven bowlers in that West Indies innings and Lara faced 582 balls without getting out. However, that does not even make the top 10 longest vigils in terms of balls faced, with Len Hutton leading the way when he faced 847 balls in 1938.

43 fours, four sixes - Of Lara's unbeaten 400, 196 runs were made via boundaries (43 fours and four sixes). He scored more fours (45) when making 375 against England a decade earlier, though he failed to clear the ropes in that match.

68.72 strike rate - Across 232 Test innings, Lara had a strike rate of 60.51 so he was actually marginally more aggressive than normal during his knock against England.

Unbroken 282-run stand for the sixth wicket - Lara shared two partnerships worth over 200 runs during his innings. He made 232 alongside Ramnaresh Sarwan (90) for the third wicket then made 159 of the 282 he and Ridley Jacobs (107 not out) accumulated before the Windies declared on 751-5.

185 days - Just six months after Australia opener Matthew Hayden broke Lara's previous Test record with 380 against Zimbabwe, the previous holder took back the honour.

5,844 days - Lara's record has now stood for 5,844 days. Since his innings, Mahela Jayawardene (374 in 2006) and David Warner (335 not out in 2019) are the two men who have come closest to eclipsing it.

As what would have been Masters week draws to a close, Jordan Spieth can reflect upon the fifth anniversary of one of the most dominant displays the famous Augusta National course has ever seen.

April 12 also brought great deeds earlier in the century from Brian Lara, who became the first and still-only Test batsman to score 400 as he racked up an unbeaten quadruple century against England in Antigua.

Meanwhile, it also marks the date when Manchester United once again got the better of 2008 Champions League final foes Chelsea in Europe's top competition.

Here, we take a look back at those memorable sporting moments.

 

2015 - Spieth dominates at Augusta

At the tender age of 21, Spieth became the first wire-to-wire winner of the Masters since Raymond Floyd in 1976.

His final score of 18 under tied Tiger Wood's all-time best winning mark from 1997, obliterating the field to become golf's latest superstar.

It was the beginning of a purple patch for Spieth, who added the U.S. Open in thrilling fashion 10 weeks later and came second at that year's US PGA Championship, while a third major came into his possession at the 2017 Open Championship.

However, with golf joining the bulk of the sporting world on hiatus at present, the American finds himself languishing 56th in the world rankings and without a win to his name for almost three years.

2004 - Lara regains Test cricket's world record

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.

Michael Vaughan's England could console themselves with the fact a famous series victory was already in the bag as Lara ploughed on for 582 deliveries across 12 hours and 58 minutes at the crease.

Lara swept Gareth Batty behind square to reach 400 not out, prompting the declaration. His 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994 remains the highest first-class score of all time.

2011 - United best of British again against Chelsea

Three years on from John Terry's fateful slip in a Moscow penalty shoot-out, Chelsea had the chance for Champions League revenge against Manchester United.

Carlo Ancelotti's side, who pipped Alex Ferguson's men to Premier League glory the previous season, faced an uphill task at Old Trafford having lost the first leg of their quarter-final 1-0 to a Wayne Rooney goal.

Javier Hernandez doubled United's advantage on the stroke of half-time and, even though Didier Drogba came off the bench to equalise on the night despite a red card for Chelsea midfield Ramires, Park Ji-sung made sure of United's progress 3-1 on aggregate.

United went on to reach the final, where they were beaten by Barcelona in a repeat of their experience in the 2009 showpiece. Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the Premier League season with Chelsea a distant second to the Red Devils.

As sporting drama goes, few things are more reliably captivating than the final round of the Masters.

On what would have been Masters Sunday eve, we take a look at how the previous six Augusta finales have played out.

 

2014

Champion: Bubba Watson

Margin of victory: Three shots

Position after R3: T1 (with Jordan Spieth)

Final-round summary: Tournament debutant Spieth threatened to pull off a major shock when he pulled two clear of fellow third-round leader Watson - the 2012 winner - through seven holes on Sunday. However, a four-shot swing over the next two put Watson in charge and he ultimately triumphed with relative comfort. Spieth and Jonas Blixt finished three shots off the pace in second as Watson completed a 69 to secure his second victory at Augusta in three years.

 

2015

Champion: Jordan Spieth

Margin of victory: Four shots

Position after R3: 1 (leading by four)

Final-round summary: Twelve months on from his impressive debut, Spieth was a class above the rest as he cruised to a remarkable, record-breaking success. Only 21 at the time, the Texan had led after each of the first three days and demonstrated supreme composure to retain a healthy advantage over the final 18 holes. Spieth's lead was never less than three on Sunday and he equalled the lowest score in tournament history - matching Woods' aggregate of 270 in 1997 - despite bogeying the final hole. Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, his nearest challengers, were four shots adrift.

2016

Champion: Danny Willett

Margin of victory: Three shots

Position after R3: T5 (three off the lead)

Final-round summary: Spieth looked set to record another wire-to-wire win and prevail by an even greater margin when he birdied four holes in a row to open up a five-shot lead with nine holes to play. Yet a stunning collapse lay ahead as he followed bogeys at the 10th and 11th by finding the water twice on his way to a staggering quadruple-bogey seven at the short 12th. That nightmare for Spieth left Willett in charge, the Englishman having just birdied the 13th and 14th holes up ahead. Willett could have buckled under the pressure, but he duly picked up another shot on 16 and parred the last two to finish three clear of Spieth and Lee Westwood at five under. 

 

2017

Champion: Sergio Garcia

Margin of victory: Play-off

Position after R3: T1 (with Justin Rose)

Final-round summary: For the second year running, the closing stages of the Masters provided outstanding drama, as Garcia and Rose slugged it out in a titanic duel. So often the nearly man in majors, Garcia was three clear of Rose after five holes but appeared likely to fall short once again as he slipped behind early on the back nine. A miraculous par save at 13 and an eagle at 15 revived the Spaniard, yet he then missed a five-footer for the win on the final hole. Amid increasing tension, Garcia eventually broke his major duck in a play-off, making birdie to Rose's bogey when the pair returned to the 18th. 

 

2018

Champion: Patrick Reed

Margin of victory: Two shots

Position after R3: 1 (leading by three)

Final-round summary: Rory McIlroy was chasing a career Grand Slam and expected to provide the biggest challenge to Reed, who began Sunday three clear at the top of the leaderboard. However, McIlroy slumped to a 74 and it was left to Rickie Fowler and a charging Spieth to threaten Reed's position. Spieth put together a stunning 64, but came up two short as Reed pipped Fowler by one with a closing 71 and earned his maiden major title.

2019

Champion: Tiger Woods

Margin of victory: One shot

Position after R3: T2 (two off the lead)

Final-round summary: Stormy weather meant an early start and groups of three, with players going off the first and 10th tees. Former Open champion and 2018 Ryder Cup hero Francesco Molinari's bid for Masters glory was derailed when he found the water at 15, a hole where Tiger Woods carded a birdie to assume the outright lead. Another gain followed at 16 and the likes of Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka could not keep pace. A bogey at the last was enough to secure Woods' fifth green jacket, 14 years after the previous one.

As Jurgen Klopp waits for Liverpool's 2019-20 Premier League coronation, he might look back fondly on this day in 2012 when he was nudging ever closer to glory with Borussia Dortmund.

BVB were also involved in a major news story exactly five years later, when their players were stunned by a bomb attack on their team bus before a Champions League game.

Phil Mickelson landed his first major golf title at the Masters in 2004, and a South African cricket great's downfall came on this day in 2000.

Here we look back here at standout sporting moments to have occurred on April 11 through the years.

 

2000 - Disgraced Cronje loses South Africa captaincy

Hansie Cronje was one of South Africa's greatest cricketers, and one of the country's most popular figures. His life unravelled in 2000, however, as it emerged that he had been corrupt.

He was stripped of the South Africa captaincy on April 11, 2000, within days of the first claims emerging, initially from India.

Cronje initially denied wrongdoing, but he later came clean, revealing the depths of his match-fixing dishonesty.

He was banned from cricket for life and died in a plane crash in June 2002. Cronje, nevertheless, is still fondly remembered by many in South Africa.

2004 - Mickelson's Masters

'Lefty' had been a leading contender for major glory for many years, and had been racking up second-placed and third-placed finishes, so it was high time he made a breakthrough.

At the age of 33, it finally came when the American landed a first Green Jacket, fending off Ernie Els by one shot at The Masters.

It was the first of three Augusta triumphs to date for Mickelson, whose third also came on April 11 in 2010, when a closing 67 saw Mickelson overtake 54-hole leader Lee Westwood to win by three.

2012 - Klopp's Dortmund pip Bayern to move to Bundesliga brink

This was Klopp's golden age at Dortmund, as BVB backed up their 2010-11 Bundesliga title campaign with what would be a double-winning season.

A 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich on April 11 was a pivotal moment, as it saw Dortmund pull six points clear of the Bavarians at the top of the table.

The only goal came in the second half with a neat backheel from Robert Lewandowski, who two years later would join Bayern in a stunning snatch for Die Roten.

Bayern, bossed by Jupp Heynckes at the time of this 2012 game, had a late opportunity to draw level, but Arjen Robben had a penalty saved.

Dortmund drubbed Bayern 5-2 in the DFB-Pokal final a month later, Lewandowski grabbing a hat-trick, and they won the league by eight points.

2017 - Dortmund rocked by bomb attack

All of Europe was shocked when three explosions struck the Borussia Dortmund team bus shortly before a Champions League home match against Monaco.

Dortmund defender Marc Bartra was injured, suffering a broken wrist and hand injury and had to undergo surgery, and there was relief nobody was killed. A police motorbike escort rider was also hurt after pipe bombs detonated in a roadside hedge by the team hotel.

Various terrorism theories were raised and investigated before a man was arrested and later charged and found guilty of the attack, having plotted it as part of an attempted elaborate, derivatives-based, financial fraud.

The man, a 29-year-old German-Russian, was jailed for 14 years after being found guilty on 28 counts of attempted murder.

With the 2020 Masters postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have drawn from the well of the tournament's rich history to produce something unique.

From its inception in 1934 right up to last year's stunning triumph for Tiger Woods, this major has always delivered the goods.

While the Augusta course may lay dormant for now, echoes of a glorious past still ring around its verdant fairways and greens.

Using daily leaderboards from a selection of the most memorable editions of the event, we have created a Fantasy Masters.

And here is how a thrilling second round went down...

 

Jack Nicklaus (1965) remarkably failed to make the cut as Jordan Spieth (2015) and Raymond Floyd (1976) pulled clear of the chasing pack on day two of the Fantasy Masters.

Spieth, who came up just short of an Augusta course record when he shot an opening 64, carded a 66 on Friday to maintain his one-stroke lead over Floyd.

But there was a huge shock lower down the leaderboard as Nicklaus, two years on from claiming the green jacket, fluffed his lines on Amen Corner to ensure he will miss the weekend.

Nicklaus bogeyed the 11th, 12th and 13th, ensuring his back-to-back gains at the 15th and 16th came in a fruitless effort.

He was far from the only big name to drop out of the tournament, with Tom Watson (1977) and Gary Player (1978) also missing the cut, along with Ben Hogan (1953), Phil Mickelson (2010) and Charl Schwartzel (2011).

The big movers were Tiger Woods (1997) and Patrick Reed (2018), who both signed for a 66, leaving them on eight and nine under respectively.

Spieth and Floyd's relative comfort at the summit owes much to the fact Seve Ballesteros (1980) could not keep the pressure on, despite a late rally.

After slipping below the cut mark with six holes left, the Spaniard birdied four of the next five to end the day third, but five shots from the top.

Arnold Palmer (1964) survived an even closer call with the cut line, the 34-year-old keeping his nerve to make a decisive three on the par-four 18th.

Other players who kept their hopes alive were Nick Faldo (1996), Fred Couples (1992), Angel Cabrera (2009) and Ben Crenshaw (1995).

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Paul Azinger: "He [Tiger Woods] didn't miss a putt inside 10 feet. If he's going to drive it great and not miss a putt inside 10 feet, he is going to beat you."

Gary Player: "One of the things I am is an eternal optimist. I was playing excellent golf, and I hadn't made any putts. But you have to keep on aiming at them."

 

LEADERBOARD

Jordan Spieth (2015) -14

Raymond Floyd (1976) -13

Seve Ballesteros (1980) -9

Patrick Reed (2018) -9

Tiger Woods (1997) -8

Nick Faldo (1996) -8

Fred Couples (1992) -8

Angel Cabrera (2009) -8

Arnold Palmer (1964) -7

Ben Crenshaw (1995) -7

-CUT-CUT-CUT-CUT-CUT-

Jack Nicklaus (1965) -6

Phil Mickelson (2010) -6

Tom Watson (1977) -5

Ben Hogan (1953) -5

Charl Schwartzel (2011) -4

Gary Player (1978) Even

"Oh my goodness … Oh WOW! In your life have you seen anything like that?"

The excitable exclamation of legendary announcer Verne Lundquist has gone down in golfing folklore almost as much as the scarcely believable shot that left millions watching around the world gaping in utter disbelief.

His next words were deliberately a little more understated: "This guy's pretty good."

There was no sign of what was to come. Tiger Woods, who had already seen what was at one stage a four-shot lead on this fateful Masters Sunday eviscerated to just a solitary stroke, smacked an iron off the 16th tee beyond the green. He stood, hunched, with that trademark steely look of determination over his ball, which was pitched around 20 feet above the hole. It trickled down with almost excruciating slowness, perched precariously on the cusp and then…"Oh WOW!". You know the rest.

One ultimately luckless man had the best vantage point for one of the greatest shots of all time.

"The funny thing was I was over my ball ready to hit [on the 15th] and Trevor Immelman in the group in front of me makes a hole-in-one on 16 and the place goes ballistic," Chris DiMarco recalled in an interview with Stats Perform.

"I kind of sit back there for a good five minutes and wait for the crowd to settle down for him. A shot like that energises you anyway, I could almost see his shot going in the hole and I was able to kind of step back and let my nerves kind of resist a little bit and hit a great shot in there to about four feet, and he [Woods] two-putted and I made birdie. So, it's still one down going into 16 and I had the honours because I had birdied 14 and 15. 

"I hit the exact shot you're meant to hit on 16, I hit a seven iron to the right – it kind of hit and dug a little bit because it was wet, if it would have hit and got maybe a yard or two of bounce release it would have come right down to the hole. But it kind of came backwards down the hill, so it left me about 15, 16 feet short.

"And then obviously we know what he did. He didn't hit the best shot he's ever hit in his life, pulled an eight iron and then obviously I had the best seat in the house sitting down there by the bunker by the lake. Me and my caddie watched him chip it up and I saw it basically just come all the way down like it was gonna be good and certainly it was obviously a pretty epic shot he hit, and it went in the hole."

It's funny how a moment like that can distort memories. Sure, the history books show Woods won a fourth green jacket and a ninth major title at the 2005 Masters.

But it barely scratches the surface of one of the most memorable major golf tournaments in history.

For context, and bear in mind this is no ordinary athlete we're talking about, Woods entered that year's Masters having failed to win on his previous 10 major attempts. A new swing, honed with a new coach in Hank Haney, and the loss of his status as the world's top-ranked golfer added to the scrutiny on a man whose every move was followed.

An opening round 74 did little to help. Meanwhile, DiMarco – who had a reputation as a fierce competitor and true battler on the PGA Tour – masterfully navigated two days of abysmal conditions, which wreaked havoc with the schedule, to post a pair of 67s and reach 10 under.

But things turned Sunday morning. DiMarco came out to play the final nine holes of a delayed third round, having reached the turn at three under, and dropped five shots on the way home. Woods found his groove and recorded seven straight birdies and, even with back-to-back dropped shots at 14 and 15, he led by three ahead of the final 18 holes.

"It happened so fast we basically got off the course really late [on Saturday], got dinner and kind of went to bed. The next thing you know it's five in the morning and we're getting up for seven o'clock in position to start. All of a sudden it was nine thirty and I went from having a two or three-shot lead to three shots behind," DiMarco continued. 

"It happened so fast that I had time thankfully that morning to kind of reflect and go over and think about what I did on basically holes 46 to 54. I didn't hit a shot I didn't like and just happened to shoot that 41. 

"That golf course you have to be pretty precise on and I was off just a little bit with my distance and it kind of came up and bit me and thankfully I had time to reflect and go back and was able to realise, 'I'm still in this, I'm still playing the best golf I can play and let's go chase him down.'"

Chase him down he did. Anyone with ideas that Woods' heroics at 16 would be the final nail in the coffin were well wide of the mark. Back-to-back bogeys forced a sudden death play-off.

It nearly didn't get that far. Woods' approach at 18 found a greenside bunker. DiMarco's chip for birdie hit the pin and rebounded 10 feet away. It was the kind of shot that can often jam in the hole.

"Absolutely [there's a feeling of what if]," DiMarco admitted. 

"It was one of those chips that 50 per cent of the time it hits the pin and goes straight down. That one just kind of hit and ran and ran by about five feet. 

"The funny thing is, it wasn't even going that hard, it kind of picked up speed by hitting the pin and it was almost like it was going to go in and a little hand came out of the hole and said, 'No, no, Tiger still needs to win this tournament.'"

Certainly, it seemed the stars were aligned for Woods in a weekend teeming with drama as DiMarco fell agonisingly short in a sudden-death play-off. 

His is a fate that befell so many of the top talents going up against Woods in his unplayable pomp. This cruellest of defeats was one of several major near misses. Just eight months prior, DiMarco suffered disappointment at the US PGA Championship, albeit on that occasion he had fought his way from five back starting the final round, as Vijay Singh won a three-way play-off at Whistling Straits.

A little over a year on from his Masters defeat, DiMarco had another runner-up finish to his name at The Open. The victor at Hoylake that year? Like you even need to ask.

Could things have been different were, in a hypothetical situation, Woods not playing at that time?

"I mean there's a lot of us that feel that way – I can tell you one thing, we certainly wouldn't have made as much money as we did," DiMarco replied with typical honesty. 

"He certainly brought the monetary factor of the game of golf to all new levels and the guys that are reaping the rewards right now – I reaped a lot of rewards from it.

"My rookie year on tour a big purse was $1.1million so where golf has come since Tiger's era, he's made it one of the coolest sports in the world and he's been – if not the greatest athlete, if not the most recognisable athlete – one of the coolest athletes to play any major sport in the last 25 years.

"He's transcended the game, no doubt about it. I mean Mr [Jack] Nicklaus, Mr [Arnold] Palmer and Mr [Gary] Player they all did it – but Tiger took it to a different level by himself, it's pretty amazing what he's done."

Indeed, for DiMarco going up against Woods at the peak of his powers was something to relish.

"I actually love the fact I got to compete against quite arguably – between him and Mr Nicklaus, you can go back and forth over who you think the greatest is – but for me to get to perform and play a lot of golf with him and do well with him, I actually took a seat back and actually watched him play this golf and was honoured to be a part of it," he replied when asked about Tiger's aura at that time.

"A lot of guys didn't like Tiger – I'm not saying PGA Tour guys – but a lot of people because he won so much.

"I always tell people, 'Sit back and enjoy this, you're probably never going to see this again, you're never going to see anything [like it].' 

"I mean 82 [PGA Tour] wins, 15 majors in this day and age is ridiculous, those are the likes you'll never see again.

"For me, being able to perform down the stretch and kind of make birdies and track him down a little bit is always something that I bring away with a lot of self-confidence."

So, 15 years on from 'that' chip-in and one of the most dramatic Masters of all time there are no regrets … but still, just what if?

With the 2020 Masters postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have drawn from the well of the tournament's rich history to produce something unique.

From its inception in 1934 right up to last year's stunning triumph for Tiger Woods, this major has always delivered the goods.

While the Augusta course may lay dormant for now, echoes of a glorious past still ring around its verdant fairways and greens.

Using daily leaderboards from a selection of the most memorable editions of the event, we have created a Fantasy Masters.

And here is how a thrilling opening round went down...

 

Jordan Spieth (2015) leads a star-studded field after shooting a stunning 64 in the opening round of the Fantasy Masters.

The American sits proudly atop a leaderboard dominated by his compatriots, sinking nine birdies to reach eight under at Augusta.

Spieth, 21, was eyeing a course record until a bogey at the 15th slowed his progress, although he was not too downbeat.

"I wasn't aware what the course record was here, let alone that it actually would have been the lowest round in major championship history. So that's a little frustrating," he said, with Nick Price's 63 safe for now.

"But I'm certainly okay with the day."

However, he faces pressure from Raymond Floyd (1976), who birdied each of the four par fives to stay within one stroke of the summit.

Seve Ballesteros (1980) is flying the flag for Europe, the Spaniard taking a typically bold approach in his 66, putting him one ahead of Jack Nicklaus (1965) and Phil Mickelson (2010).

A scruffy start left Tiger Woods (1997) well off the pace at the turn, sitting four over, but he surged on the way home – highlighted by an eagle three at 15, where Spieth faltered – to sign for a lop-sided 70, taking 40 shots on the front nine and 30 on the back.

Argentina's Angel Cabrera (2009), winner of the 2007 U.S. Open, is in the frame after carding a 68, putting him a solitary stroke clear of a five-man chasing pack consisting of Arnold Palmer (1964), Nick Faldo (1996), Fred Couples (1992), Patrick Reed (2018) and Charl Schwartzel (2011).

Meanwhile, Ben Hogan (1953), Ben Crenshaw (1995) and Tom Watson (1977) matched Woods' score, with Gary Player (1978) propping up the pile as the only man failing to shoot an under-par score.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Tiger Woods: "I was pretty hot going to the 10th tee. I couldn't keep the ball in the fairway. I couldn't attack the pin. I knew what I was doing wrong. I was in such a bad position at the top of the backswing, I was coming off the ball. But after I realised that, it was just a matter of trusting the motion."

Patrick Reed: "It was one of those steady days where you go out and play normal golf and let the birdies come to you. Around this place, pars are good. I was able to plop myself around and when I had an opportunity I capitalised on it."

LEADERBOARD

Jordan Spieth (2015) -8

Raymond Floyd (1976) -7

Seve Ballesteros (1980) -6

Jack Nicklaus (1965) -5 

Phil Mickelson (2010) -5

Angel Cabrera (2009) -4

Arnold Palmer (1964) -3

Nick Faldo (1996) -3

Fred Couples (1992) -3

Patrick Reed (2018) -3 

Charl Schwartzel (2011) -3

Tiger Woods (1997) -2

Ben Hogan (1953) -2

Ben Crenshaw (1995) -2

Tom Watson (1977) -2

Gary Player (1978) Even

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