Lewis Hamilton broke new ground with his 100th Formula One victory at Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

The defending champion already had the most victories in F1 history, having surpassed Michael Schumacher's 91 last season.

And Hamilton became the first driver to reach three figures as he emerged victorious in a dramatic race in Sochi, where Lando Norris spun off the track in the rain.

The Mercedes superstar badly needed this triumph, having fallen behind Max Verstappen again following the mid-season break.

Another championship this year would take Hamilton past Schumacher outright in another regard as an eight-time F1 king.

The records continue to pile up, with Stats Perform examining the numbers that make up Hamilton's latest stunning achievement.

 

CLEAR OF THE CROWD

Schumacher's 91 wins represented a daunting total until Hamilton came on the scene, with Alain Prost's 51 second on the list at the time of the Briton's breakthrough triumph in Canada in 2007.

Now Hamilton is on top and seems set to stay there for a long, long time.

Sebastian Vettel is his closest rival among active drivers, but the Aston Martin man – winless since Singapore in 2019 – is way back on 53 victories.

Hamilton also owns the record for the most wins with a single team, with 79 of his century secured in a Mercedes.

One benchmark that appears out of Hamilton's reach is Juan Manuel Fangio's remarkable winning percentage, with 24 victories from 51 grands prix giving the five-time champion a success rate of 47.1 per cent.

Among drivers with three or more wins, Hamilton's 35.5 per cent – 100 from 281 – is third, also behind Alberto Ascari (40.6 per cent).

PROFITING FROM POLE

Of course, the win was Hamilton's second F1 century, having clinched his 100th pole at this year's Spanish GP – a tally he improved with another in Hungary at the start of last month.

Of those 101, 59 have brought victories. Schumacher's 40 wins from pole put him a distant second on that particular list.

That means Schumacher is well clear still in terms of successes from further back on the grid, accounting for 51 of his wins but only 41 of Hamilton's.

After Sunday, Hamilton now has three victories from fourth, plus 27 from second, seven from third, one from fifth and two from sixth. Only in Germany in 2018, having qualified in 14th, has the 36-year-old won from behind the front three rows.

 

HEROICS AT HOME... AND IN HUNGARY

Hamilton passed up the opportunity to reach three figures at the Hungarian GP, where victory would have made him the first man to register nine wins at a single event.

He also has eight British GP triumphs, while Schumacher had the same number at the French GP.

Of course, the eight Silverstone successes mean Hamilton has the most home wins in F1 history. Prost previously held the record with six victories in his native France.

Seven British GP celebrations in the hybrid era are also unsurpassed.

The Silver Arrows great has come out on top at 28 different events and 29 different circuits – two more highs, ahead of Schumacher (22 and 23).

SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE

Having signed a two-year contract extension in early July, it appears inevitable that Hamilton will move clear of Schumacher by another measure in 2022.

The pair are currently tied with victories in 15 different F1 seasons, both achieving the feat in successive campaigns.

With five successes this year through 15 rounds, Hamilton faces a huge ask to match his 11-win mark from the past three years.

The former McLaren man has never had more than 11 in a single campaign, also finishing with that tally in 2014.

That followed his worst year in terms of wins, with just a single victory in 2013. Only in 2017 (nine) has Hamilton since dipped below double-figures until 2021.

The San Francisco 49ers are among the ranks of the seven teams to start the season unbeaten, with victories – albeit expected ones – over the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles underlining their status as playoff contenders.

Though there is satisfaction regarding their start, outside of the 49ers' facility questions about when the Niners should bench starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in favour of Trey Lance are starting to increase.

That there is an external desire for the Niners to turn to Lance is no surprise given San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up from 12 to three in this year's draft to earn the right to select him as their quarterback of the future.

Lance also offers a dual-threat skill set beyond that of Garoppolo, who had 11 rushes against the Eagles but did his most impactful work on the ground on quarterback sneaks, including one for a touchdown.

Garoppolo's display in the win over Philadelphia is a reason for the growing calls for Lance. After an offensive explosion against the Lions, the Niners averaged only 4.5 yards per play in their 17-11 success at Lincoln Financial Field.

That kind of offensive production will not put San Francisco in the Super Bowl mix and, with the Niners about to take on a difficult section of their schedule, it does beg the question: when should head coach Kyle Shanahan hand the keys over to their inexperienced but high upside rookie?

Unleashing Lance the runner

Though he threw the 49ers' first touchdown of the season with his first career pass against the Lions, Lance's true potential has yet to be seen at the NFL level.

In terms of the extra diversity he should provide the Niners as a running threat, that appears likely to change in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers in a primetime clash that starts an imposing three-game stretch that will also see them face two divisional foes in the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals.

Lance's combination of size and speed enabled him to average 6.5 yards per carry in his lone full season as a starter for North Dakota State in 2019, putting him fifth among all quarterbacks at the FBS and FCS levels. His touchdown tally of 14 was tied-fifth.

With the 49ers in the midst of an injury crisis at running back that may see only one player at the position, Trey Sermon, who started the season on the roster feature against the Packers, the window is very much open for San Francisco to utilise Lance's gifts on the ground versus an opponent allowing 4.81 yards per rush, seventh-most in the NFL, through the first two games.

Green Bay gave up 46 yards on four carries to Lions quarterback Jared Goff in their win on Monday. Goff is nowhere close to being in the same realm as Lance as an athlete, and it is tough to envision Shanahan watching that game film and not wanting to unleash his rookie on the Packers' defense.

Even with San Francisco lacking healthy bodies at running back, the 49ers' rushing attack could be spectacular against Green Bay with Lance infused into it. However, after an up and down start to the year from Garoppolo, fans may want to see what the man picked to be the long-term face of the franchise can do through the air as well.

Garoppolo's mixed bag

Garoppolo was superb in Week 1, gashing the Lions to the tune of 314 passing yards and a touchdown, averaging 12.56 yards per attempt.

He added a league-high 5.495 yards per attempt in expected passing situations versus Detroit, according to Stats Perform data; however, in a low-scoring struggle against the Eagles, Garoppolo came back down to earth.

Indeed, he finished with just 189 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt. His rate of yards added in expected passing situations dropped to 0.358, 20th among quarterbacks to have featured in Week 2.

Still, those two contrasting performances averaged out to leave Garoppolo sixth in that metric prior to the start of Week 3 on Thursday.

Additionally, Garoppolo is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball 82.7 per cent of the time, the 10th-best ratio among quarterbacks with at least 10 passing attempts.

Yet for all the good Garoppolo has done so far in 2021, it was tough not to leave Week 2 with the feeling that the Niners' passing game is being limited by keeping Lance on the sideline.

Downfield doubts

Grinding out games against an imposing defensive front for a narrow victory is satisfactory early in the season; however, a lack of explosiveness that was all too evident for the Niners in Philadelphia will not be acceptable in duels with opposing offenses that can move the ball against DeMeco Ryans' defense, which held the Eagles to just 177 net yards passing.

While Garoppolo's well-thrown percentage in Week 2 was an impressive 86.7 per cent, he averaged a league-low 3.47 air yards per attempt, with San Francisco's gameplan built around getting the ball out quickly to keep the Eagles' pass rush from making an impact.

It worked as Garoppolo was pressured only nine times and did not suffer a single sack. Despite stellar protection from his offensive line and a gameplan where he was rarely required to push the ball down the field, Garoppolo still threw a pair of pickable passes.

The task of making short throws accurate is not a difficult one by the lofty standards to which NFL players are held. Garoppolo succeeded in that task and led the 49ers on two decisive long touchdown drives of 97 and 92 yards that helped clinch victory.

But he still risked turning the ball over in the process and, when asked to complete more difficult throws, was unable to rise to the challenge.

Garoppolo sailed a far-hash deep out throw over the head of Mohamed Sanu, was almost intercepted on a throw too high for Brandon Aiyuk running a post delivered with pressure from Josh Sweat, sent another deep out wide of an open Trent Sherfield from a clean pocket and went close to being picked by Darius Slay on a far-hash ball thrown behind Deebo Samuel.

To Garoppolo's credit, he demonstrated mobility he is not regarded for to evade pressure and avoid negative plays and produced a perfect ball on the Niners' first touchdown drive, hitting Samuel in stride on a throw between two linebackers and setting San Francisco up inside the red zone after the defense had just delivered a goal-line stand to deny Philadelphia in a turning point in the game.

Though he can complete such passes with impressive accuracy and regularly excels doing what is asked of him, consistency on the higher-difficulty attempts has continually eluded Garoppolo and, in an NFC where Aaron Rodgers' Packers, Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams are all contenders, the Niners realistically need a quarterback who can frequently hit on explosive plays with his arm.

Lance is raw and might not have handled the situation in Philadelphia with the same composure as Garoppolo, but he is a quarterback for whom the big-time throws come naturally and one who likely would have connected on those string of misses from San Francisco's starter.

With the Packers and the Seahawks each allowing over six yards per pass play, the next two weeks present an ideal opportunity for Garoppolo to prove himself as a consistent downfield passer.

A potential reluctance to throw Lance in against a division rival like Seattle means Garoppolo should get at least the next two games, yet if he cannot take advantage of those opportunities, Shanahan may be forced to turn to the heir apparent at quarterback to ensure a playoff-calibre roster stays near the top of both a loaded NFC West division and an ultra-competitive conference.

Even in a raucous road environment, an Arizona defense that gave up 7.3 yards per pass play to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 would appear to be a close to perfect opponent against whom to give Lance his first start.

Could Week 5 see a matchup of two of the most exciting dual-threat prospects to enter the NFL in recent years? The answer may rest on the performance of the oft-criticised arm of Garoppolo in two crucial in-conference showdowns.

It was almost as though Thomas Tuchel was trolling Pep Guardiola, picking three defensive midfielders and two strikers. 

Guardiola had paid a high price for leaving his water carriers out of May's Champions League final battle between these teams. On Friday, he pointedly stressed he would not complain about his squad, yet also acknowledged City lacked a lethal finisher in the mould of a Romelu Lukaku. 

But this was a day when Guardiola resoundingly won the tactical battle, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Tuchel's Chelsea, ending City's sequence of three successive defeats to the men in royal blue. 

Chelsea had last enjoyed a longer run of wins against City when they strung eight together from December 2005 to March 2009, the balance of power in English football being very different in that period. 

Now City are champions of the Premier League and have been so five times in the last 10 seasons, and, A-list striker or no A-list striker, they might just pull it off again. 

Tuchel put an inordinate level of trust in the Lukaku and Timo Werner frontline combination working, as they began a game together for the first time. That smacked of cavalier coaching, an uncalled-for tactical shift in the biggest match of Chelsea's season so far, disrupting the system that last week delivered a ruthless 3-0 win at Tottenham. 

By sacrificing a midfield berth, Chelsea could not compete with City in that area, and duly the supply to Lukaku and Werner was hopelessly inadequate. 

And how did the Lukaku-Werner combination work out across the 90 minutes? Werner played one pass that found his new £97.5million team-mate, and Lukaku did not find the German with the ball at all. 

The midfields were silk and sandpaper, City with all the finesse and Chelsea the industry, but whereas City had a little snap too, with Rodri selected in the anchor role, Chelsea were woefully short of invention, utterly reliant on their full-backs pushing forward. They wanted to strong-arm their way to victory, and instead their limitations were laid bare. 

"Champions of Europe, we know what we are", sang the Chelsea fans at kick-off, followed by "Champions of Europe, you'll never sing that". 

Their songs soon fell flat. 

Guardiola left Rodri and Fernandinho out of his Champions League team, when at least one of them had played in 59 of City's 60 games up to that point of the 2020-21 season, and Chelsea got the better of a team lacking its usual steel. 

It was a decision that felt over-thought, Guardiola outwitting himself in his eagerness to surprise Chelsea. But Rodri was back here, helping to shield a defence that might have expected a busier afternoon. 

Of course N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea, after his starring role against City in that European showpiece, but did Chelsea really need both Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic alongside him, leaving Kai Havertz, goal hero of the May final in Porto, and Hakim Ziyech on the bench? No ship requires three active anchors, and their inclusion suggested Tuchel had gone overboard. 

Chelsea had just 33.3 per cent of first-half possession, and that figure was bolstered by them seeing more of the ball in the final 10 minutes, having been under 30 per cent until then. 

City had six shots to Chelsea's one by the break, and the visitors were winning 56.3 per cent of the duels, Rodri finding his man with 41 of 42 passes by the break, also winning possession seven times, more than anyone. 

Come full-time, City led 15-5 on shots, 4-0 on shots on target, Rodri had completed 74 of his 78 passes (94.9 per cent) and finished with a team-high 10 possession wins. His presence was colossal, allowing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to rampage. 

Guardiola said City would "do it as a group" as they aim to come up with the goals a world-class striker might score. He missed out on Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo, but in Gabriel Jesus he has a Brazil international who might just fancy showing his boss he can be a 20-goal hitman again. 

Chelsea were undone in the 53rd minute when Joao Cancelo's shot after a short-corner move only ran as far as Jesus, who turned sharply and fired, with the help of a deflection of Jorginho, into the bottom left corner. 

That was the first shot to hit the target in the match, Opta said, and there was almost a second City goal moments later when Grealish sidestepped Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and curled towards the far post, with Edouard Mendy's fingertips pushing the ball wide for a corner. 

Thiago Silva cleared off the line from Jesus, then Mendy denied Grealish late on as City pushed for the second goal they surely deserved. 

Chelsea had just 39.62 per cent of possession in the Champions League final but dominated the chances there, with an expected goals (xG) total of 1.45 to City's 0.45 reflecting their greater threat in the final third. 

Here, it was City with 1.45 xG against Chelsea's paltry 0.2, Guardiola getting one over the team who have given him plenty of anguish over the years, inflicting eight defeats, more than any other against a Pep side. 

Guardiola's players celebrated with their fans, who included Oasis' Noel Gallagher, tossing shirts into the crowd, knowing this time they and their coach had implemented a master plan. 

"I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

The Real Madrid boss was talking about arguably the standout player from Los Blancos' strong start to the season – and, brilliant as he continues to be, it's not Karim Benzema.

When Ancelotti spoke before Madrid's 2-1 win at Valencia, Vinicius Junior was on a run of four goals in as many games in LaLiga. That tally reached five in five after he fired in a late equaliser at Mestalla – as many goals as he had scored in 59 previous league matches.

For attacking players, nothing builds belief like the support of a coach and regularly sticking the ball in the net. Vinicius has both of those things going for him right now, and it's yielding the best form of his Madrid career.

 

NEW-MAR

Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

Given Marca ran a headline this week asking whether Vinicius' form in 2021-22 meant Madrid had found "the new Neymar" – a player they once wanted to bring back to Spain, no less – it would appear the wait has been worth it.

Along with five goals, Vinicius has provided two assists and created 10 chances this term, all of them from open play. Only Eden Hazard (12) and Karim Benzema (14) have created more among Madrid's squad. Indeed, among players aged 21 and under, only Erling Haaland (seven goals, three assists) has been directly involved in more goals in 2021-22 in Europe's top five leagues.

 

After the first six matches of 2020-21, Vinicius had two goals and zero assists, with three chances created for team-mates. Granted, he had spent 52 fewer minutes on the pitch in those six games than he has this season, but he has undeniably made better use of the time given to him of late.

In the first six games of 2021-22, Vinicius' 17 shots have come amid a 2.64 expected goals (xG) total, but they account for 4.36 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving some indication as to the high quality of his attempts. (The xG metric assesses the quality of chances, and xGOT looks at the player's actual effort at goal.)

By contrast, at the same stage of last season, he had xG of 2.58 but xGOT of just 1.49 from 13 shots.

KYLIAN (IN THE NAME OF)

A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

 

After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

This season, that success rate has jumped to 47.6 per cent, Vinicius having completed 20 of 42 attempted take-ons. These are identical figures to one Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain – another Madrid transfer target.

Not only that, but 42 attempted take-ons is the most by any player in LaLiga in 2021-22, while Vinicius also ranks highest for take-ons in the box (eight) and those ending with a shot (four), and joint-highest for drives into the penalty area (also four).

 

HEARTBEAT

Vinicius is also averaging 62 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, an increase from 57 at this stage of the season in 2020-21. It follows that he is more heavily involved in the action at the top end of the pitch: he has had 36 involvements in shot-ending sequences in LaLiga, a figure bettered only by Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (38) and Madrid's own Benzema (51). On average, his tally has jumped from just over three per game in 2020-21 to more than seven in 2021-22. And, of those sequences this season, 10 have ended in a goal – only Benzema (14) can do better.

This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

Perhaps competition is bringing the best out of Vinicius: with Gareth Bale back at the Santiago Bernabeu (although presently injured), Eden Hazard showing more encouraging signs and Marco Asensio fully fit again, there is no shortage of options for the Benzema support act. Or maybe Ancelotti really does have the magic touch to keep Vinicius in vibrant form for a whole season, beyond the fleeting glimpses displayed under Zinedine Zidane.

Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

Oleksandr Usyk will aim to make the most of his opportunity on Saturday, with the Ukrainian looking to upset the odds and dethrone Anthony Joshua in London. 

Already holding the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, heavyweight Joshua appeared set for a hugely lucrative unification showdown with Tyson Fury, holder of the WBC belt, that would identify an undisputed champion in the division. 

An arbitration hearing put paid to that plan, though, as Fury was ordered to face Deontay Wilder for a third time, denying boxing fans the fight they desperately wanted to see. 

However, Usyk is an intriguing prospect for Joshua to deal with. Dominant at cruiserweight before stepping up, the 34-year-old has the potential to cause problems, considering both his boxing skills and outstanding resume. 

Britain may dominate right now, but fighters from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics have ruled the roost at different times, albeit with varying degrees of longevity.  

 

VITALI KLITSCHKO

The baton passed from the famed heavyweights of the 1990s to the coming generation when Lennox Lewis uncharacteristically slugged his way to victory over Vitali Klitschko in Los Angeles in June 2003. The last man standing from his era after comprehensively beating Mike Tyson, Lewis was given hell by "Dr Steelhammer" but managed to inflict enough damage for the challenger to be stopped on cuts after six gruelling rounds.

Lewis never boxed again and Klitschko never lost again, winning 13 fights in succession either side of a four-year retirement. He lifted the WBC title and settled a family grudge by stopping Corrie Sanders in April 2004. He was never without the famous green belt in the ring up until he hung up his gloves in 2012 to focus full-time on a political career than now sees Vitali serving at the Mayor of Kyiv.

WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

The younger Klitschko was the first eastern European to lift a heavyweight title in the 21st century when he twice floored Chris Byrd on the way to a unanimous decision to win the WBO belt in October 2000. Byrd became champion in his previous fight when, way down on the cards, Vitali withdrew on his stool due to a shoulder injury. It meant Vitali was returning a favour against Sanders, who demolished Wladimir over two harrowing rounds in March 2003.

Another knockout loss followed a little over a year with the vacant WBO strap on the line against Lamon Brewster. At that stage, it was impossible to foresee the imperious dominance that would follow a second win over Byrd for the IBF and 18 successful defences. Closing out his career with losses to Fury and Joshua carried a heavy sense changing eras, as with his brother and Lewis a decade and a half earlier.

NIKOLAI VALUEV

All the men on this list could lay claim to the moniker of "Beast from the East" but none would be able to pull it off as well as the preposterously proportioned Valuev. Standing at 7ft and tipping the scales at over 300lbs, he became the tallest and heaviest heavyweight champion in history. Valuev's skills were akin to a rudimentary club fighter, but he was just far too big for most opponents to handle.

Each of his two stints as WBA ruler began with prophetically forgettable points wins over John Ruiz and after a 2008 loss to a pot-shotting David Haye he walked away to a varied post-fight career. Like Klitschko he entered politics, winning election to the State Duma in Russia's 2011 parliamentary election. He also became an unlikely face of children's television in his homeland, presenting the long-running "Good Night, Little Ones!".

SIARHEI LIAKHOVICH

Liakhovich's period reign as WBO champion lasted seven months. The Belarusian won a unanimous decision win over Brewster in April 2006, despite taking a knee in the seventh. He was up on the cards when Shannon Briggs dramatically knocked him through the ropes during the closing seconds of his first defence. Briggs was the last American to get his hands on any portion of the heavyweight title before Wilder's WBC reign began in 2015. Two years earlier, the "Bronze Bomber" left Liakhovich quivering on the canvas after a terrifying first-round KO.

OLEG MASKAEV

Three months before Briggs' late show against Liakhovich, Maskaev battered one-time Lewis conqueror Hasim Rahman to defeat inside the final minute of their August 2006 rematch in Las Vegas. A product of the Soviet amateur system, Maskaev based himself in the US for the majority of his professional career. He was 37 by the time he ripped the WBC crown from Rahman and, after a successful defence against Okello Peter in Moscow, the Kazakh-born fighter was knocked out by Samuel Peter - the "Nigerian Nightmare" who was himself stopped by a returning Vitali Klitschko next time out.

RUSLAN CHAGAEV

If the WBA was a sofa, Chagaev would be the loose change they continue to find lurking between the cushions. He first won the organisation's belt with a majority decision win over Valuev in April 2007, although subsequent illness and injury led to him being declared "champion in recess". As such, the WBA belt was not on the line when his corner waved off a June 2009 shellacking at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko after nine rounds.

The organisation then elected to install Chagaev not as its champion but number one challenger, and he dropped an August 2011 decision to Alexander Povetkin for the vacant belt. The story did not end there, however, as Chagaev and the unheralded Fres Oquendo were selected to box for the WBA's vacant "regular" title in July 2014. Almost two years and one competitive round later, Chagaev was knocked out by Lucas Browne, who then failed a drugs test. The Uzbek was given back his title, only to be stripped in July 2016 for failing to pay the WBA sanctioning fees for that already barely remembered Oquendo contest, seemingly ending the saga.

SULTAN IBRAGIMOV

Not one to linger like Chagaev, Russia's Sydney 2000 heavyweight silver medallist Ibragimov outpointed Briggs in his 22nd professional bout to lift the WBO belt in June 2007. Under the tutelage of Jeff Mayweather, he comfortably beat the great Evander Holyfield in his first defence. A unification showdown with Wladimir Klitschko was most notable for the Madison Square Garden crowd booing a safety-first affair. With that sole defeat, Ibragimov was gone, retiring in 2009 due to persistent injuries to his left hand.

ALEXANDER POVETKIN

Another decorated amateur, Povetkin won super-heavyweight gold at the 2004 Olympics and made four defences of the WBA title after beating Chagaev. To repeat a theme, all roads led to an uncompromising Klitschko, with Wladimir sending him to the canvas four times during a landslide Moscow triumph in October 2013. Failed drugs tests did little for Povetkin's wider reputation and put paid to a proposed meeting with Wilder.

A promising start unravelled to a seventh-round stoppage when challenging Joshua in September 2018, although Povetkin sensationally recovered from two knockdowns to ice Dillian Whyte this year. After losing the rematch, the Russian announced his retirement at the age of 41.

Is it Week 3 already? The advent of a 17th game means the regular season will stretch further into January, but the NFL campaign always seems to fly by at breakneck speed.

In the world of fantasy football, plenty of managers may be seeing things spiral out of control in a hurry after an 0-2 start.

Or maybe you're on the other end of things, with at least one win on the board and feeling satisfied that your draft-day decisions were the right ones.

Either way, it's important to remember that fantasy is a weekly game, and success hinges on the selection calls made each weekend.

Stats Perform is here to try to help you make the correct calls. Here's this week's look at four players and a defense in strong spots to produce matchup-winning fantasy scores.

Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Herbert was frustrated in Week 2 as the Chargers let opportunities go begging in their defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, with two interceptions undermining an otherwise impressive display that saw him throw for 338 yards and a touchdown.

However, Herbert should be enticed by a matchup with a Chiefs defense that has produced turnovers but has proved extremely hospitable to opposing offenses.

Indeed, the Chiefs are allowing a league-worst 7.56 yards per play through two games. Only the Detroit Lions (9.44) are allowing more yards per pass play than the Chiefs (9.37).

Going against a porous defense and with Patrick Mahomes a near-certainty to deliver points on the other side, Herbert has a clear opportunity to record his third successive 300-yard game to start the season and put up a massive fantasy performance in a potential shootout.

Running Back: Ty'Son Williams, Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions

Despite seeing their running back depth decimated by injuries, the Ravens saw their backfield get going in a huge way in their stunning Week 2 win over the Chiefs.

Baltimore gashed Kansas City for 251 yards on the ground at an average of 6.1 yards per carry. The complexity that quarterback Lamar Jackson's running threat brings to their rushing attack played a significant role, but the Ravens will have been extremely encouraged by Williams' performance.

Williams averaged 5.9 yards per carry as he put up 77 yards on 13 carries, and he now gets the opportunity to go against a Lions defense that has been relatively stout against the run but has given up a league-high nine offensive touchdowns.

For fantasy managers light at running back, Williams could be an intriguing option.

Wide Receiver: D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans

On the surface, there is not much intrigue in Thursday's primetime clash between the Panthers and Texans.

However, with Sam Darnold showing signs of improvement in Carolina following his departure from the New York Jets, potential fantasy matchup winners can be found among their passing game options.

Aside from Christian McCaffrey, Moore is the top threat on the Panthers' offense. He had eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week against a New Orleans Saints defense that is superior to that of the Texans, which allowed Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to complete 90 per cent of his passes in Week 2.

Targeted 19 times across his first two games, if Moore gets a double-digit share as he did versus New Orleans, he will be set up perfectly to deliver another productive performance.

Tight End: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens

While the Lions may be in a rebuilding year, Hockenson is constructing an excellent case for him to be considered among the NFL's premier players at the tight end position.

He has 163 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games and now gets to face a Ravens defense giving up the most fantasy points per game in the league to opposing tight ends.

Shredded for 109 yards and a touchdown by Travis Kelce in Week 2 and for 105 yards and a score by Darren Waller in Week 1, the odds of the Ravens preventing Hockenson from producing a similar statline appear slim.

Defense: Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Backing a defense to excel after a game in which that unit gave up 26 points in a 34-33 shootout win may seem foolhardy.

While the Cardinals' defense is certainly vulnerable, as the Minnesota Vikings proved last week, Arizona could hardly ask for a better matchup in which to bounce back on that side of the ball.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence is tied for the league lead in interceptions having tossed five already this season. His air yards per attempt average of 10.49 is second among quarterbacks with at least 10 passes, but he is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball just 66.3 per cent of the time.

That combination of aggressiveness and inaccuracy is a recipe for a bounce-back performance from the Arizona defense.

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

From the Miracle at Medinah to the Battle of Brookline and the War on the Shore at Kiawah Island, there is something uniquely special about the Ryder Cup on American soil.

The hoopla and the hollering, the fanfare and the ferocity. At times it felt like the cries of "U-S-A, U-S-A" were interrupted only at Hazeltine five years ago by the "I believe that we will win" chant, a nadir for the sporting songbook.

Let's go round again, then, this time at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where the show gets under way on Friday, three days of sporting theatre set to play out in front of a global audience.

Postponed from last year, there will be crowds lining the course in a full-blown face-off between the United States and Europe, led off by the foursomes and fourballs before Sunday's singles provide a tantalising climax.

It is hard not to love the Ryder Cup, whether a year-round golf fan or not, and here are five reasons we have taken it to our hearts.


1. THE AGGRO

Team golf changes the sport from top to bottom. This individual pursuit, the every-man-for-himself nature of tour golf, goes out of the window as players compete for the collective good. Players streamed in and out of news conferences on Tuesday, each declaring their commitment to fight for their locker-room chums. Many of the world's elite have assembled this week, but there will be no champion golfer, only a team triumph come Sunday evening.

Golf crowds might irritate players at times during the regular season, but by and large they are a respectful bunch. Yet at the Ryder Cup, frenzies break out as team allegiances change the perspective of spectators. The partisanship reflects that of a football game, boorishness breaks out and is frowned on, and then it breaks out again, and again, until it is part of the fabric of a Ryder Cup weekend. Telling a Ryder Cup crowd to dial down the aggro and the noise would likely only serve to ramp it up. The crowd feels a part of the event, players can be inspired and some will cower, and of course this happens on each side of the Atlantic. Don't expect anything different this weekend, besides the fact the crowd will be overwhelmingly American, given travel limitations.

"I think that the Ryder Cup epitomises everything that's great in the game of golf," Europe's Rory McIlroy said this week. "It's competitive, but there's also a lot of sportsmanship shown. And obviously there's partisan crowds and all of that, but that's part of being in a team environment. You're going to have a majority of the crowd rooting for one team or the other.

"I think the most animated I've been in my career has been at Ryder Cups. It just brings something out of you that you don't get playing individually. There's something more there when you're playing as part of a team, and everything you do doesn't just affect yourself but affects the other 11 players, the captain, the vice captains, all the support team."


2. THERE'S A STAR MAN

Although this is a team game, somebody has to be the hero. Three years ago, Italian Francesco Molinari won all five of his matches, the first European to ever do so, and in previous editions there have been unforeseen defining performances from the likes of Boo Weekley and Christy O'Connor Jnr.

There was a certain romance about the all-Spanish partnership between Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, master and apprentice, who won 12 points from their 15 matches together, and latterly their compatriot Sergio Garcia has gone on to amass the most points in a Ryder Cup career: 25.5 and counting.

The beauty is that the star man rarely happens to be the leading man. Tiger Woods, now a 15-time major champion, was 0-4 at the last Ryder Cup and has won just 13 of his 37 matches in the event.

This is a competition where Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter at least match, and arguably outrank Jack Nicklaus, despite neither European having a major to their name.


3. TENSION OFF THE COURSE

Nick Faldo was a wonderful Ryder Cup player but flopped as a captain at Valhalla in 2008, delivering a string of pairing puzzlers and a clanging confection of press-room and team-room missteps. Three years later, Graeme McDowell said: "What was missing for us? We didn't have that extra spark in the team room, didn't have that X-factor in terms of someone to get up and rally the troops. Jose Maria [Olazabal] gave a great speech on the Saturday evening when the singles line-up came out. But that was the first really emotional speech we'd had all week."

Captains know victory is everything, and their selection calls can define Ryder Cups as much as the players on the course perform. Find the right combinations and a captain can sit back and reap the benefits.

Few expect Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to partner each other at this Ryder Cup, amid a spat most assume is ongoing. DeChambeau looked to calm the chatter about his relationship with Koepka on Tuesday, saying much of the talk had been "driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two".

"We had some great conversations in Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week, as well," DeChambeau said. "I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine."

Steve Stricker, you suspect, would be wise to keep them apart in competition, but eliminating any sense of rivalry or enmity within a team can go a long way towards bringing success.


4. THE KITS CAN BE BAD

This year's outfits have a touch of class about them, understated elegance on both teams, which is always disappointing.

The Ryder Cup has delivered some shockers over the years, with a prime example being the USA's waterproofs that let in water during the 2010 match at Celtic Manor, forcing team chiefs to splash out on more reliable kit from on-site merch suppliers. Already garish, with large-lettered player names on the back of the shellsuit-like jackets, they were also considered not fit for purpose by several players as the rain came down in Wales.

In 1999, the USA committed a fashion faux pas with a shirt that featured scores of framed photographs of Ryder Cups gone by. It belonged on the bargain rails, but turned out to be the outfit in which the Americans sealed their win at Brookline, the images of their triumph enshrined in folklore, but surely never to feature on the shirts of any future cup team.

Europe have typically been more demure about their outfit selections, perhaps wary of being frowned on in the clubhouse or by history.


5. THE COMEBACKS

This is a sporting contest par excellence, and Europe's 17.5-10.5 annihilation of Tiger Woods and co three years ago in France means the hosts are craving delicious revenge.

USA wildcard Jordan Spieth is likely to be a major factor, given his strong season, and the three-time major winner describes the feeling of competing as like being in the thick of a title chase at a major championship.

"Maybe it takes two or three years if you're playing really well to have four or five times you're in contention in a major, but you get to do it three, four, five times this week," Spieth said.

On the final day, that sense is amplified, and a team's overnight lead is far from any guarantee of success. At Medinah in 2012, the US team led 10-4 at one stage on the Saturday, before Europe won the final two matches to narrow the gap, Poulter pulling out all the stops with a string of birdies as he and McIlroy took down Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Still, Europe were up against it going into Sunday, but Justin Rose provided a highlight amid a rush of blue on the scoreboard as he scored a stunning win over Phil Mickelson in the singles, with the likes of Lee Westwood and Garcia also coming good before Martin Kaymer ensured Europe would retain the trophy and Molinari halved his clash with Woods to win the cup outfight by a 14.5-13.5 margin.

The USA roared back from 10-6 at Brookline to also win 14.5 to 13.5, with near riotous scenes at the end as players and spectators overstepped the mark by invading the green, interrupting Olazabal's mission to keep Europe in it.

Whether Whistling Straits sees a comparable comeback, one team waltzing away to win, or a close-fought battle, remains to be seen. Samuel Ryder's notion, back in the 1920s, that a team golf event between teams from either side of the Atlantic should make for a sporting spectacle, has proven to be one of sports great prophecies.

The United States are favourites to make home advantage count and regain the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this weekend.

An emphatic 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September 2018 saw Europe regain the trophy under Thomas Bjorn, as the likes of Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter played starring roles.

Yet while Europe have won six successive home Ryder Cups, their recent record on American soil has been mixed.

We take a look at the last five editions of the event in the USA.

 

2016 - Hazeltine

Result: United States 17 - 11 Europe

Europe had won three Ryder Cups in a row ahead of the 2016 event, but they were in for a shock at Hazeltine.

Darren Clarke's hopes of masterminding victory suffered a hammer blow on the first morning as the United States, captained by Davis Love III, pulled off a clean sweep of the Friday foursomes.

Rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello impressed as Europe narrowed their deficit, but the USA regained control in the second fourball session and went on to triumph by a six-point margin, the talismanic Patrick Reed defeating Rory McIlroy in a dramatic opening singles match to set the tone for the hosts.

2012 - Medinah

Result: United States 13.5 - 14.5 Europe

Is it really nine years since the 'Miracle of Medinah'?

In the first Ryder Cup since the death of European icon Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard's close friend Jose Maria Olazabal oversaw the most remarkable of comebacks to ensure Europe retained the trophy they had claimed at Celtic Manor two years earlier.

The USA were 10-4 up on Saturday afternoon, having won five of the day's first six contests.

However, Europe crucially won the last two fourball contests, with Poulter the architect of an astonishing turnaround in the anchor match.

Poulter and his team-mates then overhauled a four-point deficit in the singles, something that had only happened once before in Ryder Cup history, with Martin Kaymer sinking the winning putt to spark emotional scenes of celebration from the visiting team.

2008 - Valhalla

Result: United States 16.5 - 11.5 Europe

No European golfer in the professional era has claimed more major titles than Nick Faldo's six and the Englishman was also the most prolific points scorer in Ryder Cup history before Garcia moved past his tally of 25 at Le Golf National.

However, Faldo was nowhere near as successful in a miserable stint as Europe's captain, which yielded a heavy defeat to Paul Azinger's United States team at Valhalla.

The infamous 'sandwich-gate' incident - in which Faldo was photographed holding an apparent list of pairings only to then claim, somewhat unfeasibly, it was a list of lunch requests - was not the only gaffe made by the former world number one before the event had even begun.

Europe were then handsomely beaten when the action did get under way, trailing throughout on their way to a 16.5-11.5 loss.

Hunter Mahan was the leading points-scorer for the USA, who prevailed in seven of the 12 Sunday singles contests, but the likes of Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Justin Leonard and J.B. Holmes were among others to play starring roles.

 

2004 - Oakland Hills

Result: United States 9.5 - 18.5 Europe

In contrast to Faldo, the meticulous Bernhard Langer did not put a foot wrong in 2004 as Europe stormed to victory by a record margin at Oakland Hills.

Every member of Langer's team contributed at least a point, with wildcard selections Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald among those to excel in a stunningly one-sided match.

In contrast, a USA team led by Hal Sutton and featuring three of the world's top 10 failed to deliver, with Chris DiMarco the only player to score more than two points for the hosts.

Montgomerie, in his penultimate Ryder Cup appearance as a player, famously holed the winning putt and went on to say: "That singles win over David Toms, in fact that whole week, rejuvenated me and my career."

 

1999 - Brookline

Result: United States 14.5 - 13.5 Europe

Prior to Europe's fightback at Medinah in 2012, the only previous instance of a team coming from four points behind in the singles came at Brookline, in distinctly fractious circumstances.

Mark James was Europe's skipper for an event sadly overshadowed by boorish abuse of visiting players by a partisan crowd and raucous scenes on the 17th hole on Sunday.

A mammoth putt from Leonard prompted an invasion of the green from the US team, even though Olazabal still had a putt of his own to come.

Ben Crenshaw's USA ultimately triumphed 14.5-13.5, but the 'Battle of Brookline' would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

In a subsequent autobiography, Sam Torrance - a vice-captain for Europe that week - described the final day of the 1999 event as: "the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf."

As Europe and the United States go through the motions, the ceremonies and the practice rounds that precede the serious business at Whistling Straits, spare a thought for those Ryder Cup heroes that might have been.

This will be officially the 2020 Ryder Cup, but the pandemic impact has not been merely to delay the showpiece by 12 months. The teams have taken a hefty shake-up too, since last season was so unexpectedly interrupted.

There are players that looked destined to play a big part on the Straits Course last year that will instead be far from Wisconsin, their hopes of starring having been scotched by the postponement.

Qualifying criteria were necessarily changed, to ensure it will be in-form players who line up for each team, and both the US and European teams would likely have looked radically different in September 2020.

Here is a look at some of the winners and losers of the team-picking puzzle from each side of the Atlantic.

EUROPE

Winners: Englishman Paul Casey had made a sketchy start to his bid to qualify for the team, with little to shout about before the COVID-19 crisis struck. He had time to make up ground, certainly, but Casey needed results quickly. He has since had them in abundance, with a tied-second finish at the US PGA Championship last year a reminder to Padraig Harrington that he wanted in on the action. Ten top-10 performances in 2021 catapulted the 44-year-old to automatic selection and a fifth appearance on the team.

Norway's Viktor Hovland was not in the conversation 18 months ago, when the tours ground to a mid-season halt, although a win at the Puerto Rico Open in February 2020 saw him leap from 100th to number 60 on the world rankings. The Oklahoma State University alum's form since golf resumed has been nothing short of spectacular, with 24-year-old Hovland climbing to a career-high ranking of 10th in August. Since the turn of the year, he has had seven top-five finishes, including a win at the BMW International Open, and his hot form could mean the heavy metal fan cranks up the dial for Europe.

Losers: Danny Willett and Victor Perez were firmly in the picture when the tours halted in March 2020, but neither will be making an appearance. Englishman Willett, the former Masters champion, has slumped from inside the world's top 40 golfers to outside the leading 150 on the rankings after a wretched run of results that meant he stood no hope of a wildcard.

Perez's form dipped at an inopportune moment, after he previously stayed firmly in the mix. Across his last five tournaments, Perez has endured five missed cuts – at The Memorial and all four of the majors – and no top-10 finishes, meaning the Frenchman could also not realistically be thought of as deserving of a call from Harrington.

Perez wrote on Twitter: "I am, of course, disappointed to not be selected to the team. However, this is an opportunity for me to evaluate, become stronger and apply new lessons to all parts of my career, and for that I am grateful."

UNITED STATES

Winners : The US were planning on picking four wildcards but switched that to six amid the COVID-19 uncertainty, meaning the automatic selections also shrank from eight to six, and their line-up for Whistling Straits looks markedly different to how it surely would have turned out a year ago.

On the fringes of the world's top 50 and emerging as a bright talent, in March 2020 Collin Morikawa still needed to get a move on to come into captain Steve Stricker's thinking. The 24-year-old is now a two-time major winner, ranked the number three best golfer on the planet, and he led the final US points list, reflecting his dramatic surge. Bryson DeChambeau would likely have found the results to make the team, given he was coming into form after a rocky spell; now he is a U.S. Open champion and has the big personality to take the Ryder Cup by storm. Patrick Cantlay also eventually qualified by right, winning the Tour Championship and consequently the $15million FedEx Cup, earning a debut.

Losers : All-time great Tiger Woods was still in the picture when global sport called a hiatus, yet the last time the 15-time major winner was seen in public he was struggling by on crutches after the February car crash that police said he was lucky to survive. Three-time Ryder Cup man Patrick Reed – 'Captain America' – was in the frame for an automatic pick, too, along with Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson, until the world changed.

Eighteen months down the line and those four have been usurped, with Stricker taking the players ranked seven to 10 on the points list (Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Harris English) as wildcard picks but deciding against choosing 11th-placed Reed or 13th-placed Simpson. He also selected the players in 12th and 14th (Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler).

Reed, having been troubled by pneumonia and an ankle injury lately, took his omission "like a true champion", Stricker said. Six rookies feature for the US, Stricker looking to the future but backing his team to succeed in the present.

There isn't much time for patience in the NFL, and the ownership of the Arizona Cardinals would have been forgiven for running out of it after an opportunity to end their postseason drought in 2020 was passed up. 

Year two of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experience was a rollercoaster, with explosive offensive performances and last-gasp Hail Mary plays giving way to an uneven and uninspiring stretch run that raised questions about Kingsbury's ability to get the best out of the 2019 first overall pick, as well as piling pressure on a general manager in Steve Keim who had been given the rare luxury of selecting a first-round quarterback in successive years. 

Two weeks into the 2021 season, the Cardinals have reason to believe the partnership of Air Raid disciple Kingsbury and their diminutive dual-threat quarterback is one that can yield the dominant offensive season many have expected and, in the process, propel them to the playoffs. 

Playing in the hyper-competitive NFC West, which would still be undefeated as a division if not for the Seattle Seahawks' bizarre home collapse against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Cards should not get too far ahead of themselves, particularly with memories of last season's 6-3 start that ultimately proved a false dawn still fresh. 

Sunday's captivating 34-33 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings was far from perfect and owed to Greg Joseph shanking a last-second field goal that would have condemned Arizona to defeat. 

However, it served as a scintillating showcase of what the Cardinals' offense can do when firing on all cylinders and a vindication of the offseason moves made with an eye on elevating Murray, with his diverse skill set perfectly suited to the modern NFL, to another level. 

History-maker Murray

After throwing four touchdown passes and running for another score in the Cardinals' blowout win over the Titans in Week 1, Murray tossed three touchdowns and registered another on the ground against Minnesota. In doing so, he became the first player with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in each of his team's first two games of the season in NFL history. 

He now has 12 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the fourth-most by a quarterback in his first three seasons, behind only Cam Newton (20), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13). 

Those new entries into the record books were a product of what defenses have come to expect from Murray, who frustrated the Vikings by making magic happen with his legs on a 15-yard touchdown throw to DeAndre Hopkins and a 77-yard bomb to a wide-open Rondale Moore, and also demonstrated his still underrated ability to stand in the pocket and deliver with unerring accuracy. 

Through two weeks, Murray has produced an accurate, well-thrown ball on 88.7 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, putting him fourth among quarterbacks to attempt at least 10 passes. For quarterbacks with an air yards per attempt average of at least eight yards, Murray's well-thrown percentage is second only to Jalen Hurts (89.1%). 

Murray's accuracy shone through on a pinpoint completion to Christian Kirk between two defenders on 3rd and 16 in the second quarter. The same receiver was on the end on a perfectly lofted fourth-down pass to set up what proved the game-winning field goal, Murray putting the ball in the ideal spot despite having to deliver off his back foot with two defenders in his face. 

Yet the Cardinals' approach was not simply one where they relied on Murray to pull rabbit after rabbit out of his hat. There was a clear effort from Kingsbury to make Murray's life easier, much of which centred around rookie receiver Moore. 

Moore help

Arizona selected Moore in the second round this year despite doubts over an extremely spotty injury history, and his explosiveness has weaponised the Cardinals' short passing game. Kingsbury has regularly utilised screens and pop passes to Moore - and they will remain staples of Arizona's passing attack in 2021 so long as the former Purdue star continues to maximise their upside, as he has done in the first two weeks. 

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 69.2% of targets, Moore's average depth of target is just 4.3 yards, the joint-seventh lowest in the NFL. However, he leads the league in burn yards per route with 16.5. 

The Cardinals have managed to get similar efficiency out of receivers with more experience in the offense. Kirk (15) and Hopkins (14.6) are each in the top 15 for wide receivers in burn yards per target and are above the league average of 4.7 for burn yards per route with 7.5 and 5.7 respectively. Ninth in the NFL with an average depth of target of 17.7, Kirk is producing at a level that suggests he could blossom into a premier deep threat in his fourth year. 

The numbers are not as pretty for veteran free-agent addition A.J. Green (8.38 burn yards per target), but a touchdown on a screen pass in the third quarter and a 29-yard completion that saw him get a step on Bashaud Breeland downfield, selling an inside move before drifting back outside, offer hope he could enjoy an unexpected late-career renaissance. 

Imperfect vision

That is not to say there are no concerns, though. Murray's pickable pass percentage of 4.84 is above the league average of 3.44 and each of his interceptions against Minnesota hinted at issues seeing the field. 

His pick-six saw him fail to spot linebacker Nick Vigil lurking underneath as he attempted to find Kirk in the soft spot in the zone, while his second interception was a poor decision on which he tried to force the ball downfield against a two-deep safety look. 

Those valleys are ones Kingsbury can live with, however, when the peaks Murray frequently delivers belie a stature that had plenty questioning whether he could make it at the highest level. Murray will need more than two remarkable showings against defenses each ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in yards per play allowed to make a convincing argument that the Cardinals are ready to contend and he is worthy of MVP consideration. 

Still, the evidence to this point has been pretty compelling. The Cardinals' offense boasts the explosive element that was present in the first half of last season but, with the addition of Moore and to a lesser extent Green, has also grown more diverse.

The menu of options available to Murray has expanded and while tougher tests lie in wait, the early signs are that Arizona's burgeoning offensive arsenal can finally satisfy the appetite for playoff football.

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Crystal Palace on Saturday, to take their place at the top of the Premier League.

Title rivals Manchester City could only draw at home to Southampton, but Manchester United and Chelsea subsequently joined Liverpool on 13 points.

Here are some of the more curious facts from across the Premier League weekend.


Premier League first for Reds trio

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita scored Liverpool's goals in their win over Palace at Anfield.

It is the first time in the Premier League that a game has ended 3-0, with all three goals being scored by African players.

Mane opened the scoring with his 100th goal for Liverpool. The Senegal forward has now scored in each of his last nine league appearances against Palace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score in nine straight matches against a single side.

All three of Liverpool's goals came from corners. Not since City beat West Brom in March 2015 has a top-flight game ended 3-0 with all the goals coming from corners.

Dave saves... finally

There was late drama aplenty at London Stadium on Sunday as United joined Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 win over West Ham.

After Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fantastic start to his second United stint to drag the Red Devils level, Jesse Lingard came on to break West Ham hearts late in the game.

London Stadium is the 66th different stadium that Ronaldo has scored at in matches played in Europe's big five leagues, and he has scored at more unique venues than any other player since his United debut in 2003-04, ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (64).

Lingard, meanwhile, became the 47th player to score for and against West Ham in the Premier League. Excluding own goals, West Ham have had more players score for and against them than any other side in the league's history.

But it was David de Gea who proved to be United's hero, as he saved a last-gasp penalty from Mark Noble, who was brought on specifically by David Moyes to take the spot-kick.

De Gea's save ended a drought stretching back to April 23, 2016 of 40 spot-kicks faced without making a save for both club and country, in the process helping United claim a dramatic win at London Stadium. 

Of those penalties, 11 were scored by Villarreal players in May's Europa League final, with De Gea ultimately missing the decisive kick in the Red Devils' shoot-out defeat. 

The 30-year-old did keep out a Jordan Ayew penalty in last September's league meeting with Palace, but that was retaken and scored by Wilfried Zaha after De Gea was deemed to be off his line. 

Veteran Silva helps give Spurs the blues

Aged 36 years and 362 days, Thiago Silva became the second-oldest Chelsea player to score in the Premier League behind only Didier Drogba, who scored against Leicester City aged 37 years and 49 days in April 2015, when the Brazilian headed Thomas Tuchel's side ahead at Tottenham.

N'Golo Kante's deflected effort made it 2-0. The midfielder scored for the first time in 49 league appearances, having last found the net against Man City in November 2019. Three of his last four top-flight strikes have come from outside of the box.

Antonio Rudiger condemned Spurs to a second successive 3-0 defeat; they have lost consecutive Premier League matches by a 3+ goal margin for the first time since their opening two games of the 2011-12 campaign.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, cut a forlorn figure up top for Nuno Espirito Santo's side. He has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, attempting just four shots so far.

Super-sub Bailey bursts Benitez's bubble

Everton's unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez came crashing to a halt as Leon Bailey starred with a blistering cameo in Aston Villa's 3-0 win.

Bailey came on from the bench and had an instant impact. With Matty Cash's first Premier League goal having put Villa ahead, the Jamaica forward whipped in a corner that Lucas Digne turned into his own net.

Digne has now scored three own goals in the Premier League, level with Younes Kaboul for the French player to have done so on the most occasions.

Villa were not finished there, however, and Bailey burst clear to lash home his first Premier League goal. Moments later, he went off with an apparent thigh injury, becoming only the second Villa player to come as a substitute, score, and then be substituted in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim against Derby in September 2000.

Farke's losing streak rolls on, Toney at the top

Ivan Toney scored and assisted another as Brentford defeated Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

Since the start of last season, Toney is the outright leading goalscorer in the top four tiers of English football (excluding play-off matches), with 33 strikes to his name.

Another promoted club, Norwich City, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign. In total, the Canaries have now lost each of their last 15 Premier League games, meaning Daniel Farke is the manager with the longest losing run in top-flight history.

Mick McCarthy (14) was the last manager to go close to almost as long as Farke without a top-tier win, though that was back in 2005.

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup is almost upon us. A year later than initially planned, the finest golfers Europe and the United States have to offer will do battle at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington's team will be looking to defend the title Europe clinched in Paris three years ago, while Steve Stricker's men will hope to make home advantage count as the USA look to win the tournament for only the third time since the turn of the century.

Ahead of the action in Wisconsin, Stats Perform looks back at some of the most memorable moments from tournaments gone by.

 

Miracle at Medinah, 2012

Where else to start other than a moment that is widely considered to be one of sport's greatest ever fightbacks. The "Miracle at Medinah" took place in Illinois nine years ago, with the Chicago crowd witnessing a remarkable European recovery, inspired by Ian Poulter – who will be playing again this weekend.

Europe were 4-10 down heading into the final day, with the USA needing just 4.5 points to win. Yet Poulter, who won all of his matches, got the ball rolling for the visiting team, who took 8.5 points from a possible 12 on the Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner offered the hosts hope, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer won their matches to leave Tiger Woods needing to beat Francesco Molinari to secure a tie. The round was halved, ane Europe triumphed 14.5 to 13.5.

 

Battle of Brookline, 1999

Thirteen years prior to the Miracle at Medinah, the USA forged an incredible comeback of their own at Brookline, Massachusetts. Europe held a 10-6 lead heading into the final round, yet were pegged back as the USA, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd that riled some of the European players, with Colin Montgomerie coming in for particularly strong treatment, won the first six matches of Sunday's play.

Yet the decisive moment came when Jose Maria Olazabal – who would go on to lead Europe to victory at Medinah - lost three successive holes to Justin Leonard when he had been four up with seven to play. The match was tied on the 15th when the American holed a 40-foot putt, and on the 17th, Leonard struck a brilliant birdie, with the US team and fans storming onto the green in celebration as the half-point required to complete the comeback was secured. Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt to make to send the match to the 18th, only for the Spaniard's effort to trickle wide.

Torrance ends US dominance, 1985

The Belfry is entrenched in Ryder Cup history and, in 1985, Europe earned their first win in what was the fourth attempt since the team had spread to include the continent and not just players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve Ballesteros was in exceptional form, but it was left to captain Sam Torrance to sink a 22-foot putt, inflicting the United States' first defeat since 1957.

Clarke leads emotional European victory, 2006

Having taken a three-month break from golf following the loss of his wife, Heather, to cancer, Darren Clarke was named as a wildcard pick by Europe captain Ian Woosnam for the 2006 Ryder Cup, hosted in Clarke's native Northern Ireland at the K Club.

Clarke produced a performance for the ages, winning both of his pairs matches and going on to defeat Zach Johnson in his singles game. "I doubt there was a dry eye in the house," said Clarke afterwards, as Europe went on to secure an 18.5-9.5 win.

 

Langer fluffs his lines, 1991

Possibly the tightest Ryder Cup contest in history came at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the US taking a slim lead into the final day. However, by the time the final match rolled around, they needed half a point to reclaim the title.

It came down to the final hole, too. Bernard Langer required to hole a six-foot putt to tie his match with Hale Irwin, and Europe would keep their hands on the trophy. Yet he failed to do so, the ball rolling off the lip and away, with the US triumphing for the first time since 1983.

The concession, 1969

The Ryder Cup had been dominated by the United States from the end of World War II, with Great Britain (as the team was then) winning only one, in 1957.

However, the first tie in the Ryder Cup was recorded at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when American great Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole – the moment going down as one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship. 

It's a funny old game, but it might take gallows humour to raise much of a smile around north London this season. 

Tottenham's season-opening streak of three straight 1-0 wins bought Nuno Espirito Santo substantial early goodwill as the Portuguese began his reign as head coach, yet there was plenty that did not sit right. 

Spurs were riding their luck, out-shot 25-8 by Wolves at Molineux and beaten on the expected goals count there too. Similar applied to the fantasy start to the season when they edged out champions Manchester City. 

But Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace were ruthless interlopers to Nuno's honeymoon in early September with their 3-0 Selhurst Park demolition, and now Chelsea have repeated the trick, scoring freely in the second half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Chelsea also won 3-0 but might easily have had five or six. Sixty years have passed since Tottenham Hotspur were English champions. It might be a matter of months before Chelsea can describe themselves as such again. 

It was glaringly obvious this was not the game in which to put on a show, much as Tottenham wanted to pay homage to Jimmy Greaves, whose "funny old game" catchphrase has become part of the immemorially cliched lexicon of the English game. 

Greaves netted 220 league goals for Spurs and is their all-time record scorer, but he also plundered 124 in the old First Division for Chelsea, and his allegiances for this game would have been split. 

On the day his death at the age of 81 was announced, and a host of Spurs greats turned out to pay tribute, it was Greaves' first club who showed they are light-years ahead in London. 

As Tottenham and Arsenal prepare to confect a battle perhaps for fifth or sixth place this season, Chelsea have the title in their sights and the second-half exhibition in this space-age stadium was one that Greaves would have surely quietly admired. 

Thomas Tuchel watched his team fail to hit the target in the first half, but he struck bullseye with a substitution at the break, hauling off Mason Mount and introducing N'Golo Kante. 

The game changed absolutely from that point on, Chelsea finishing 10-2 ahead in the shots-on-target stakes, at times queueing up to score against a lamentably dire Spurs. 

As Chelsea's game took off, Spurs flatlined. Harry Kane, who said last month he would be "100 per cent focused on helping the team achieve success" this season, must be wondering what form that success might take. He and Son Heung-min were deadly in the early stages of last season; here, they played almost like strangers, the intuitive chemistry that defined their partnership woefully absent. 

Kane had two shots, a free-kick into the wall and a 22-yard grass-cutter that Kepa Arrizabalaga clutched fuss-free. Of course he will score again for Spurs, and add to his 166 Premier League goals, but Greaves' club record should be safe for a good while on this evidence. He has scored just once in his last nine league games against Chelsea now. 

Spurs won 65.4 per cent of the first-half duels and Tuchel, whether he had that exact data or not, realised what was wrong. 

"We lacked energy and we lacked being more relentless in duels, to decide 50-50 balls for us," Tuchel told Sky Sports. "I had the feeling we wanted to impress by pure skills." 

He told his players they would get reward by showing aggression and getting on top of those 50-50s. 

"We spoke clearly about it at half-time," Tuchel added. 

Thiago Silva was "outstanding" for Chelsea, Tuchel noted, and the Brazilian's header in the 49th minute gave Chelsea the breakthrough. 

Kante's 25-yard strike bounced off the left shin of Eric Dier and left Hugo Lloris flat-footed as Chelsea moved 2-0 in front, before the team in royal blue got the third they deserved as Antonio Rudiger scored in stoppage time. 

Spurs are a work in progress, of course they are. But this was ultimately a heavy loss against a Chelsea side who won handsomely despite Romelu Lukaku performing in a low gear throughout. 

Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers, Glenn Hoddle. They all watched on as Spurs were humbled. 

'Greavsie' joined Spurs shortly after they won that last league title all those years ago, and it might be decades more before they seriously challenge again. Kane said Spurs would "hopefully put in a great performance in his honour", but perhaps that tribute will have to wait seven days. 

It's the derby against Arsenal next Sunday as the two north London giants, both lurching somewhere between transition and turmoil, duke it out. 

Perhaps parochial bragging rights will be the zenith of their achievements this season, as this excellent Chelsea side go after the prizes that matter. 

Page 1 of 43
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.