A November Masters brings "pros and cons" for Rory McIlroy in his bid to finally win a green jacket, according to Padraig Harrington.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the PGA and European Tours to a halt and meant the Masters, traditionally golf's curtain-raiser in major season, could not take place over Easter weekend.

Instead, Augusta National is slated to play host in November and McIlroy – who has five top-10 finishes at the Masters and led by four shots heading into the final round in 2011 before a final-day implosion – said this week he believes a change in the schedule could play to his favour.

"I always feel there's this bit of anticipation going into Augusta, the first big event of the year. There's all this hype. I don't think it will feel like that this year, it will feel different but it's something I'm looking forward to," McIlroy told Michelle Wie on an Instagram Live with Nike Golf.

"It's going to be a different Masters this year but personally, maybe selfishly, that's what I need to get the jacket."

Since missing the cut at his home Open at Royal Portrush last July, McIlroy has recorded an outstanding 12 top-10 finishes from 14 tournaments, including wins at the Tour Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions.

That form saw him return to the summit of the world rankings and Harrington feels that while some of the pressure that always greets McIlroy at Augusta may be reduced by the rescheduling, the halt to his momentum and renewed focus from golf-starved rivals could count against him.

"Yeah, it's possible [a November Masters might benefit McIlroy]," Harrington told Stats Perform. 

"There're pros and cons. He was in tremendous form right now so I'm sure he'd like to go out and play, he was in great form. 

"Like any player you believe the form will stay with you, with Rory it's more than likely. 

"Yes, it would take some of the stress away - it's the last major. There are positive and negatives to it. 

"I think a lot of people will have good attitudes on the golf course by the time it comes to November, they'll be delighted to be out playing golf. 

"His competition could be stronger basically. They won't have overplayed, they'll be fresh, they'll be wanting to be out there, mentally they'll be positive, any opportunity to play golf is a good thing. 

"While Rory might be stronger, I think other people might be stronger too. You'll see some good golf played when we're back out on the golf course because the mental side is such a big thing to it, players will be so relieved to be back out."

United States president Donald Trump said he is "tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old" as he eyes the return of sport following the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill around the world – the NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour and NASCAR seasons were among those suspended, while the start of the MLB campaign was pushed back and there are concerns over the NFL.

The Olympic Games have been postponed until 2021, as well as Euro 2020 and the Copa America due to coronavirus, which has killed more than 126,500 people globally and over 26,000 in the US.

Addressing COVID-19 and sport on Tuesday, Trump told reporters: "In sports – we want to get our sports back, so importantly.

"We have to get our sports back. I'm tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old. But I haven't actually had too much time to watch.

"I would say maybe I watch one batter, and then I get back to work."

Trump also revealed an advisory group that will work to help reopen the US economy.

The group includes NBA commissioner Adam Silver, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, UFC president Dana White, WWE's Vince McMahon, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

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."

Rory McIlroy believes the Masters being rearranged to take place in November could be just what he needs to end his long wait for a green jacket.

The world number one needs a victory at Augusta National to complete a career Grand Slam, having already won the U.S. Open and The Open, plus the US PGA Championship twice.

McIlroy has had five top-10 finishes at the Masters and famously led by four ahead of the final round in 2011, only for a last-day meltdown to end his hopes of glory.

This year's bid to win at Augusta has been held up by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Masters having originally been scheduled to take place over Easter weekend. Instead, the tournament is slated to take place November 12-15, a move McIlroy feels could play in his favour.

Speaking to Michelle Wie on an Instagram Live with Nike Golf, McIlroy said: "The Masters means so much. 

"Obviously it's the last major for me to win but putting that aside, it is such a special place, so many great memories already. Any time you get to play at Augusta is a lot of fun.

"November is going to be different, very cold, the course could play very long. It plays long already but it can play very long. The greens may not be as fast as in April, depending on the moisture.

"I think it will be a different feel, it's at the back end of the year. Two of the majors have already been played, hopefully the Ryder Cup's already been played. People will be in their routine and in the flow a little bit more.

"I always feel there's this bit of anticipation going into Augusta, the first big event of the year. There's all this hype. I don't think it will feel like that this year, it will feel different but it's something I'm looking forward to.

"It's going to be a different Masters this year but personally, maybe selfishly, that's what I need to get the jacket."

The coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc on the golf calendar, with The Open having been cancelled and the Ryder Cup's status remaining unclear.

As things stand, the Ryder Cup is going ahead. McIlroy said playing in the biennial tournament is an altogether different pressure to the majors.

"You're not just playing for yourself, you're playing for your team-mates, you're playing for your country, you're playing for a lot of different people," he added.

"Pressure at the Ryder Cup is different. I think if you look at people who have performed well in Ryder Cups before they went on to win majors, I think it's a good precursor.

"I think for us, that the Ryder Cup is the biggest and most intense atmosphere you can play under. If you can handle that, you can handle being in contention at the majors."

Monday marks the 34th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' 18th and final major championship victory.

A stunning Masters triumph on April 13, 1986 saw the Golden Bear, who was 46 at the time, add a sixth success at Augusta to his five US PGA Championship titles, four U.S. Open wins and three Open Championship crowns.

Tiger Woods - last year's memorable Masters champion - has since closed to within three of Nicklaus' benchmark, but the latter remains golf's most prolific major champion.

We take a look at how Nicklaus amassed a tally that has still yet to be surpassed.

 

1962 U.S. Open

Nicklaus finished second in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills as an amateur. When he played the tournament as a professional for the first time two years later, after nine major appearances outside the paid ranks, the then-22-year-old secured glory.

Arnold Palmer – an established superstar in the prime of his career – had edged out the youngster at Cherry Hills, but Nicklaus held his nerve at Oakmont to prevail in an 18-hole play-off after the pair had finished regulation play level on one under.

Palmer was the big crowd favourite in the play-off, but Nicklaus stormed into an early lead before seeing off a trademark charge from his rival to become the youngest U.S. Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923.

1963 Masters

Having seen off Palmer to earn his maiden major, Nicklaus shaded another all-time great on his way to the first of six Masters triumphs.

A month shy of his 51st birthday, Sam Snead moved into the final-day lead with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, but two late bogeys followed for the veteran and Nicklaus – who had surged into contention with a second-round 66 after opening with a 74 - took advantage.

Gains at the 13th and 16th lifted Nicklaus to a winning score of two under, two clear of Snead and Julius Boros and one ahead of Tony Lema, who birdied the last to claim sole second.

1963 US PGA Championship

Still only 23, Nicklaus prevailed in stifling heat at Dallas Athletic Club to grab his second major of 1963 and become only the third player to win the Masters and US PGA in the same year.

Three behind Bruce Crampton with 18 holes to play, the Ohio native defied temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius on the final day to shoot 68 and win by two from Dave Ragan.

1965 Masters

Nicklaus' first three major successes all came via narrow margins, but that certainly was not the case at Augusta in 1965 as he recorded a record-breaking triumph.

Tied for the lead at halfway with Palmer and Gary Player, Nicklaus surged clear with a course-record-equalling 64 and ultimately finished an astonishing nine strokes clear at 17 under, having totally overpowered the course.

His 72-hole total of 271 and winning margin both stood as records until 1997, when Tiger Woods claimed a 12-shot victory with a score of 270.

1966 Masters

Twelve months later, Nicklaus became the first man to successfully retain the Masters, a feat since accomplished by Nick Faldo and Woods. However, his success came in a week of personal heartbreak.

Shortly before beginning his opening round, Nicklaus learned that close childhood friend Bob Barton had been among four people killed in a plane crash en route to Augusta.

"This tragedy has made me much more determined in what I hope to do this week," said the Golden Bear, who duly beat Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer in an 18-hole Monday play-off after the trio had all finished on 288.

1966 Open Championship

Only five men have completed a career Grand Slam of modern-day major wins. Nicklaus was only 26 when he became the fourth, following in the footsteps of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Player.

A one-shot victory at Muirfield – at the expense of Doug Sanders and Dave Thomas – enabled Nicklaus to lift the Claret Jug for the first time. He did so despite shooting 75 in round three, with a two-under aggregate ultimately enough to earn glory on a course that featured plenty of punishing rough.

1967 U.S. Open

Another record fell to Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1967, where his winning score of 275 represented a new U.S. Open best.

Amateur Marty Fleckman was the shock 54-hole leader but he faced daunting task on the final day with Nicklaus, Palmer and Billy Casper only one shot back.

The rank outsider slumped out of contention with a closing 80 and Casper (72) also faded as Nicklaus again got the better of Palmer, shooting 65 to his playing partner's 69 for a four-shot victory.

1970 Open Championship

Nicklaus' second Open win – after a barren spell spanning three years - is remembered more for the painful experience of runner-up Sanders.

Second to Nicklaus in the same event four years earlier, Sanders needed only to par the relatively simple 18th at St Andrews to claim his first major.

However, he famously backed away from a three-footer for the win, having seemingly been distracted by something on the line of his putt, and then saw his ball slip agonisingly past the hole.

The Open's first 18-hole play-off followed and Sanders was given renewed hope when he cut Nicklaus' lead from four to one with a solitary hole to play before playing the last superbly. The American provided a clinical finish, though, draining an eight-foot birdie putt before throwing his putter into the air in jubilation.

1971 US PGA Championship

Victory in the 1971 US PGA ensured Nicklaus became the first player to win each major twice.

He went wire-to-wire at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, finishing two clear of Casper at seven under despite a one-over 73 in the final round.

1972 Masters

The following April, Nicklaus again led after every round of a major as he triumphed in the Masters for the fourth time.

He failed to break par in each of the final two rounds, but scores of 73 and 74 were more than enough for a three-shot success at two under, with no other player ending the week in red figures.

1972 U.S. Open

Legendary sportswriter and author Dan Jenkins provided the most fitting description of Nicklaus' final-round performance at Pebble Beach, which saw him defy brutal conditions to make it two wins from as many major championships in 1972.

After Nicklaus had prevailed by three strokes with a two-over aggregate, Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated: "On the last day, Sunday, when a ripping wind produced the ultimate horrors, only Nicklaus could summon the patience and the game to cope with the place. It seemed he had saved his best golf for the final round, when the course and the elements almost eliminated golfing skills in more normal men. And while that closing 74 of his for the funny old total of 290 will not look so dazzling in the record books one day, it should be stated here and now that under the circumstances it was as brilliant as any man ever shot."

Jack's hopes of winning all four majors in the calendar year were duly dashed in The Open at Muirfield, where he was the runner-up to Lee Trevino.

1973 US PGA Championship

History was made at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio as Nicklaus - playing in his home state - surpassed Walter Hagen's record of 11 professional major victories with his 12th title.

A second successive 68 on Saturday lifted him to the top of the leaderboard and he finished four clear of Crampton, who had also been a runner-up to Nicklaus in the 1972 Masters and U.S. Open.

As the game's dominant player chalked up yet another victory, another golfing great, Snead, produced a remarkable performance at the age of 61, shooting even-par 71s in every round to tie for ninth. Incredibly, he had finished fourth the previous year and would go on to share third in 1974. 

1975 Masters

Nicklaus was five ahead after 36 holes at Augusta in 1975, but entered the final round trailing Tom Weiskopf by one after shooting 73 on Saturday.

A thrilling finale ensued on Sunday, with Nicklaus just about holding off Weiskopf and a charging Johnny Miller to secure his fifth green jacket. A closing 68 was just enough to seal victory on 12 under, with Weiskopf and Miller, who shot 66, both missing makeable putts on the 18th to force a play-off.

1975 US PGA Championship

Poor old Crampton had to settle for a fourth second-placed finish in a major behind Nicklaus as the latter claimed another US PGA crown in Ohio.

At Firestone Country Club in Akron, Nicklaus opened up a four-shot lead through the third round and a closing 71 kept him two clear of Crampton at four under. Weiskopf, one under for 72 holes, was the only other player to break par.

1978 Open Championship

Nicklaus' consistency in The Open was truly astonishing. From 1966 to 1980, he reeled off 15 top-six finishes in a row at golf's oldest major, with six of his seven runner-up placings achieved during this period.

His final victory came at the same place as his previous triumph, St Andrews, as he completed a third career Grand Slam.

A year on from the magical 'Duel in the Sun', where he was edged out by Tom Watson at Turnberry following a captivating battle, Nicklaus entered the final round of the 1978 Open one adrift of the defending champion.

However, Watson swiftly slumped out of contention and Nicklaus was able to taste victory once more, a 69 taking him to seven under and a two-shot triumph.

1980 U.S. Open

Nicklaus was viewed by some as a spent force by the time the 1980 U.S. Open rolled round, having gone almost two years without a PGA Tour win - comfortably the longest barren streak of his career at that point.

Aged 40, he showed there was still plenty left in the tank at Baltusrol.

Both Nicklaus and Weiskopf began the tournament with record-equalling rounds of 63. Weiskopf soon fell away, but Nicklaus prevailed with a tournament scoring record of 272.

The rejuvenated champion had been joined at the top of the leaderboard by Japan's Isao Aoki in round three, but he was not to be denied a 16th major crown.

1980 PGA Championship

Two months later, Nicklaus extended his record with a 17th title and fifth US PGA win. What is more, he did so in dominant fashion.

No other player could break par at Oak Hill, but Nicklaus was on another level as he carded scores of 70, 69, 66 and 69 to end the week seven clear at six under.

His margin of victory remained a record at the PGA until Rory McIlroy triumphed by eight shots in 2012.

1986 Masters

The most famous and unlikely triumph of the set came 34 years ago when Nicklaus thrilled Augusta with a sensational Sunday charge.

Four behind overnight leader Greg Norman heading into the final round, the 46-year-old surged to victory in barely believable style, playing the final 10 holes in seven under to shoot 65.

Nicklaus' memorable birdie at the last triggered an unforgettable putter-raising celebration and ensured he finished one ahead of Norman and Tom Kite at nine under. Seve Ballesteros, who had looked a clear favourite little more than an hour earlier, was a shot further back in fourth.

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 lie 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 final round went down...

 

Jordan Spieth (2015) edged out Tiger Woods (1997) on the second play-off hole to win the Fantasy Masters following a thrilling tussle between the two American young guns.

The pair, both just 21, went out in the final group at Augusta as Spieth started Sunday's round with a one-stroke lead over Woods and Raymond Floyd (1976).

Spieth headed to the 18th eyeing a record low score, having become the first player to reach 19 under, but he fluffed his lines with a bogey as Woods capitalised to record a par and force his rival into a play-off.

After both sunk nerveless pars, Spieth stepped it up a gear on the 10th, draining a birdie putt to earn the green jacket following a wire-to-wire triumph.

Spieth racked up a record 28 birdies, finishing an aggregate 12 under on the par fives to underline his clinical brilliance.

Floyd came mighty close to making it a three-way title tussle but, after birdies at 12 and 15, he could not find another gain to force the issue.

Another home hope left to rue a missed opportunity was Patrick Reed (2018), whose 71 was his worst round of the week as he closed on 15 under.

Spain's Seve Ballesteros (1980) squandered an even better chance. Having got to 16 under at the turn following a fine front-nine 33, he ended up signing for an even-par 72 to finish five strokes off the pace.

Ben Crenshaw (1995), a winner here in 1984, took fifth place ahead of Ballesteros and Fred Couples (1992) with a 68.

At the wrong end of the leaderboard, Nick Faldo (1996), Arnold Palmer (1964) and Angel Cabrera (2009) ended on 12 under.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Jordan Spieth: "It's the most incredible week of my life. This is as great as it gets in our sport. I'm still kind of shock a little bit."

LEADERBOARD

Jordan Spieth (2015) -18 (won on second play-off hole)

Tiger Woods (1997) -18

Raymond Floyd (1976) -17

Patrick Reed (2018) -15

Ben Crenshaw (1995) -14

Seve Ballesteros (1980) -13

Fred Couples (1992) -13

Angel Cabrera (2009) -12

Arnold Palmer (1964) -12

Nick Faldo (1996) -12

*Play-off result determined by average score, rounded to nearest whole number, on 18th and 10th holes across all four rounds

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.

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 third round went down...

 

Tiger Woods (1997) carded a stunning 65 to move to within one stroke of Fantasy Masters leader Jordan Spieth (2015).

The young duo, both just 21, face stiff competition from Raymond Floyd (1976), who sits level with Woods on 15 under after recovering from a double-bogey six at the 11th to sign for a 70.

Seve Ballesteros (1980) cut the gap to the summit from five shots to three with a 68, leaving the Spaniard one behind Patrick Reed (2018) following the American's excellent 67.

Woods, who shot a 66 on Friday, went one better in round three, where he piled the pressure on Spieth, who is eyeing a wire-to-wire triumph.

Having started the day six shots behind Spieth, Woods was quick out of the blocks and made the first of four front-nine gains on the second hole.

He put the seal on a fine Augusta outing by birdieing the last to conclude a blemish-free round that stood in stark contrast to Spieth's scorecard.

Spieth's 70 saw him struggle badly on the par fours, where he was three over – seven shots worse than his first-round effort – and a run of four birdies in five holes was largely undone by a a bogey at 14 and a double at 17.

A field shorn of the likes of Jack Nicklaus (1965) and Gary Player (1978) following the cut is now tightly packed heading into the final round, although Nick Faldo (1996) slipped well off the pace.

The Englishman, who won back-to-back Masters titles in 1989 and 1990, posted a scruffy 73 which included a double bogey and five other dropped shots, salvaged slightly by a birdie at the last.

Arnold Palmer (1964), who only narrowly made the weekend, was one of four players to register a 69, along with Fred Couples (1992), Angel Cabrera (2009) and Ben Crenshaw (1995).

 

LEADERBOARD

Jordan Spieth (2015) -16

Tiger Woods (1997) -15

Raymond Floyd (1976) -15

Patrick Reed (2018) -14

Seve Ballesteros (1980) -13

Fred Couples (1992) -11

Angel Cabrera (2009) -11

Arnold Palmer (1964) -10

Ben Crenshaw (1995) -10

Nick Faldo (1996) -7

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?

Padraig Harrington says some European Tour players, along with the majority of caddies, will now be struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proliferation of COVID-19 has led to a widespread halt of top-level sporting activity, with golf no exception.

Harrington, the three-time major winner and Team Europe captain for this year's Ryder Cup, believes only a few weeks without golf would leave some players further down the rankings in trouble.

But he feels the European Tour is more restricted than the more lucrative PGA Tour in what it can do to help.

Asked about possible solutions, Harrington told Stats Perform: "Obviously it's very difficult for the European Tour, they don't seem to be in a financial position to do something that's fair to every player and supports every player. 

"You can be sure there are some players on the Tour that have a month, or two or three months' living expenses and they need to make money to go past that.

"You can be pretty sure there's plenty of caddies who are close to week-to-week in terms of financial security. 

"There are people struggling out there so any ideas brought forward would be considered, but the European Tour doesn't have that financial clout.

"It is an interesting one and the PGA Tour have offered to pay some of your pension contribution back to you based on your performance.

"I know the Tour looks like it but not everyone is making that big money. There will be a few players and a significant number of caddies struggling financially. 

"It could be tough for players and I'm sure case-by-case they'd be considered by the Tour in general but they have to be fair to everybody.

"I am sure they've looked at it and discussed it and I am sure the Players' Committee would accept any proposals brought to them and again examine what would be the best."  

Harrington explained that even in normal times, golf is an expensive sport to play if you are not winning the biggest tournaments.

He said: "I often say to any of the young guys just turned professional, if you're young, free and single professional golf is a great life, there's enough money in it that you're going to survive.

"It gets tougher for the guys if you've got a partner and you've got a mortgage, you've got expenses, you've got to be playing good golf to keep yourself going.

"You can comfortably spend five grand some weeks on expenses, so you've got to be earning money." 

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

Europe captain Padraig Harrington views the rescheduled date for the U.S. Open as beneficial for the form of his Ryder Cup players.

This week the PGA Tour confirmed the U.S. Open would be moving from June to September as part of a rescheduled calendar which was released due to tournaments being postponed or cancelled by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Open will now begin on September 17 at Winged Foot in New York and it will conclude five days prior to the first day of the Ryder Cup.

The 43rd clash between Europe and USA will take place at Whistling Straits and, rather than fear his players arriving in Wisconsin burned out from the U.S. Open, Harrington expects them to firing on all cylinders.

"It's well above my pay grade, deciding on the actual schedules," Harrington told Stats Perform.

"There was always a chance there would be a major that week when all this came out.

"I think players will be in prime peak [condition] for that major - whatever they can do to be ready for the U.S. Open, that would be the biggest priority for the players.

"My experience is players often end up peaking the week after a major so that's not a bad thing.

"The major the week before will affect anyone who gets in contention, after that most of the players will be fine.

"When they get there for the Ryder Cup on Monday evening, they'll refocus, we'll assess who needs to rest and who doesn't."

Harrington explained he will not adopt a collective approach and will be willing to grant some players more time off if they feel they need it.

"Don't forget last time at the Paris National [in 2018], Justin Rose had just come in and he'd just come off so many big weeks, the FedEx Cup final, so he was like, 'Yeah, I need a bit more time' and we can do that," the Europe captain added.

"Gone are the days when I started out where everybody traipsed out and did the exact same thing for the three days, so individual things will be considered."

On the eve of what would have been the opening round of this year's Masters, we take a look back at seven magic moments from the Augusta archives.

1935 - Gene Sarazen hits 'the shot heard around the world'

The Masters was established in 1934, but it was in the following year that the tournament really captured people's attention - thanks largely to a stunning albatross that helped Gene Sarazen to victory. Sarazen trailed Craig Wood by three shots as he headed to the 15th tee, but wiped out that deficit in sensational fashion by holing his second shot with a 4-wood from 235 yards. He went on to claim his seventh and final major title in a Monday play-off, although Wood finally tasted success at Augusta six years later. The Sarazen Bridge at Augusta's 15th hole commemorates one of the most famous shots in the history of golf.

1986 - The Golden Bear rolls back the years

The legendary Jack Nicklaus remains the oldest winner of The Masters, having claimed victory in the 50th staging of the tournament at the age of 46. Nicklaus' 18th major title - a total that has yet to be surpassed - was secured by a remarkable late-round surge on Sunday that saw the 'Golden Bear' follow an eagle at 15 with successive birdies to reach nine under. As his putt for a three at the par-four 17th dropped, giving Nicklaus the lead for the first time in the tournament, the veteran raised his putter in the air and adopted a pose that would soon become iconic.

1987 - Local hero Mize leaves Norman stunned

Few people gave Larry Mize a chance when he went up against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in a sudden-death play-off at the 1987 Masters. A relatively unheralded Augusta native, Mize had won only one previous event on the PGA Tour and was unsurprisingly viewed as a rank outsider in a battle with two of the world's best. However, Ballesteros bowed out with a bogey at the first play-off hole, the 10th, and Mize then claimed glory courtesy of a magnificent birdie on the par-four 11th. Having missed the green to the right, and with Norman on the front edge in two, Mize remarkably chipped in before bounding on to the putting surface in celebration. "It was total elation," he told Perform ahead of this year's event. "I was just running around screaming like a mad man." Norman missed his birdie putt and mentions of 'Larry Mize country' are frequently heard on Masters commentary to this day when players go right at the 11th.

2004 - Mickelson breaks major duck

Having long held the unwanted tag of being the best player never to win a major, Phil Mickelson answered his critics on April 11, 2004 by coming out on top in one of the most thrilling conclusions in Masters history. 'Lefty' had eight top-three finishes in majors to his name, but had yet to land one of the game's biggest titles when he began his final round level with Chris DiMarco at the top of the leaderboard. A familiar outcome appeared likely when Mickelson played his first six holes in two over par, but he responded by birdieing five of the last seven, including the 18th, to pip Ernie Els in a titanic duel. His successful 18-foot putt for a three at the final hole sparked scenes of unbridled joy and a delighted Mickelson said: "To have it be such a difficult journey to win my first major makes it that much more sweeter."

2005 - 'That' Tiger Woods chip

DiMarco topped the leaderboard after each of the first two rounds in 2005, only for Tiger Woods to storm into a three-stroke lead courtesy of a third-round 65 played across two days due to inclement weather. To his credit, DiMarco fought back in the final round and was only one behind Woods as both players approached the par-three 16th. When the underdog hit the green with his tee shot and Woods missed the target, their battle looked set to go right down to the wire. Woods had other ideas, however, as he made birdie courtesy of a sublime chip that saw him aim well left of the hole and use the slope of the putting surface to great effect. The world number one's ball hovered on the edge of the cup for what seemed an eternity before finally toppling in to deafening applause. CBS commentator Verne Lundquist summed up the drama by screaming "Oh, wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?!" Woods was made to work hard for his fourth green jacket as he bogeyed the next two holes before eventually prevailing in a play-off.

2012 - Bubba produces miracle hook

There were nerves aplenty when another play-off was required to decide the champion at Augusta in 2012. Bubba Watson and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen started off the sudden-death decider by each parring the 18th and then finding the woods on the right of the 10th, the second play-off hole. Oosthuizen came up short of the green with his second and there appeared little chance of Watson improving on his rival's effort. However, the maverick left-hander duly produced a miraculous escape from the pine straw, hooking his ball around the trees and onto the green. When Oosthuizen failed to get up and down, Watson was left with two putts to win and made no mistake in securing the first of two green jackets to date.

2017 - Sergio's major wait finally ends

In a sport of fine margins, Sergio Garcia was probably golf's ultimate nearly man. The Spaniard was tipped for the top from a young age, underlining his vast potential with a runner-up finish at the 1999 US PGA Championship, when he was just 19. However, that close brush with glory set the tone for a career that was for a long time defined by heartbreak. In 2002, Garcia placed in the top 10 at all four majors. Heading into the 2017 Masters, he had 22 top-10 finishes in the quartet of headline events, but no victories to show for his efforts from 73 attempts. In 2017, he stood over a five-foot putt to win The Masters on the 72nd hole, with Justin Rose an anxious onlooker. Garcia missed, leading to a play-off with Rose. It was there that Garcia finally ended his long wait for major success, coolly sinking a birdie putt to secure the green jacket.

2019 - Woods wins again to end near 11-year major drought

Woods' 2018 Tour Championship success hinted his comeback was on the right track and his return to the upper echelons of the game was completed with a remarkable victory. Fifteen years after his previous Augusta title, and almost 11 years after he last won a major, Woods put years of off-course issues and injury problems behind him. As overnight leader Francesco Molinari capitulated, Woods remained strong, using all his experience to finish with a two-under-par 70 to win on 13 under, one clear of fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. There were raucous celebrations on the 18th green as Woods celebrated with his children. He said: "To have my kids there, it's come full circle. My dad was here in 1997 and now I'm the dad with two kids there. It will be up there with one of the hardest I've had to win because of what has transpired in the last couple of years."

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