Best bets for the Hero World Challenge

148
 

Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods not only returns to host the Hero World Challenge, benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation, but to also play in the event as he tees it up in a competitive setting for the first time since the Masters in April. Woods is the longest shot in the field listed as high as 90-1 at FanDuel.

 

Viktor Hovland (4-1) and Scottie Scheffler (+450) have finished 1-2 in that order in the last two editions of the Hero World Challenge.

Collin Morikawa (8-1) withdrew from the Netflix Cup event, which featured PGA Tour stars paired with Formula 1 drivers during the Las Vegas Grand Prix week, because of a back injury. Max Homa (+850) won three weeks ago at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, while his buddy Justin Thomas (14-1), who will be paired with Tiger in the first round here, finished T-4 in Sun City.

Matt Fitzpatrick (16-1) won two months ago at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Cameron Young (18-1) was third here last year behind Hovland and Scheffler.

Aside from Woods, another returnee from injury in this 20-man field is Will Zalatoris (40-1), who last played at the WGC Match Play and withdrew right before yhe Masters to have back surgery.

Sixteen of the top 27 players in the Official World Golf Rankings will be in attendance.

The Event

The Hero World Challenge began in 2000 at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Over its nearly two-decade history, the challenge has been held at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and at Isleworth Golf Club near Woods’ residence in Windemere, Fla., before relocating to its current location at the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas in 2015. While the event is unofficial and the prize money is not included on the PGA Tour Money List, the event has offered OWGR points since 2009. The total purse is $3.5 million with $1 million going to the champion.

Woods serves as the tournament host as the event benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. He has won the event five times (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011) albeit never on this golf course. Other major champions, including Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Henrik Stenson, have been victorious in this event.

The Course

The Albany Golf Course located on New Providence Island is about 30 minutes west of Nassau. The track was designed in 2010 by Greg Letsche of Ernie Els Design. It is a luxury resort community that opened in 2010 and was bankrolled by Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and private equity firm The Tavistock Group. In 2018, Forbes called Albany one of the most exclusive resorts in the world. Woods and Els, along with Justin Rose, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter, are members of Albany. The course is a relatively flat, desert-type track with large man-made sand dunes. It is a par-72, 7,414-yard course with five par-5s and five par-3s, and just eight par-4s.

Like many desert tracks, the wind is the primary defense for the course. However, if the winds are calm, this is an easy track where the world’s best can shoot 20 under par over a four-day span. Steady winds from 15 to 30 mph are forecast throughout the weekend. This will most likely affect golfers the most on their approach shots into these tiny greens, which measure just 4,500 square feet.

The course features Bermuda grass throughout and very little rough. Short games will be tested with short-grass chipping and collection areas that surround tough green complexes. Bermuda greens will run at around 10.5 on the stimpmeter.

Recent History/Winners

2022: Viktor Hovland (-16/272); 12-1

2021: Viktor Hovland (-18/270); 11-1

2020: Tournament canceled due to COVID-19

2019: Henrik Stenson (-18/270); 25-1

2018: Jon Rahm (-20/268); 12-1

2017: Rickie Fowler (-18/270); 8-1

2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-18/270); 15-2

2015: Bubba Watson (-25/263); 20-1

Player History

This is how the field has finished in previous appearances at Albany Golf Course:

Viktor Hovland: 1st (2021), 1st (2022)

Scottie Scheffler: 2nd (2021), 2nd (2022)

Cameron Young: 3rd (2022)

Rickie Fowler: 3rd (2015), T-3 (2016), 1st (2017), T-5 (2018), 9th (2019)

Collin Morikawa: T-5 (2022), 6th (2023)

Justin Thomas: 11th (2017), T-12 (2018), T-5 (2019), T-5 (2021), 5th (2022)

Tony Finau: 2nd (2018), T-10 (2019), T-7 (2021), 7th (2022)

Justin Rose: 13th (2015), WD (2016), T-5 (2017), 3rd (2018), T-5 (2019), T-9 (2021)

Sam Burns: T-3 (2021), 12th (2022)

Sepp Straka: T-10 (2022)

Tiger Woods: 15th (2016), T-9 (2017), 17 (2018), 4th (2019)

Matt Fitzpatrick: T-12 (2021), T-13 (2022)

Jordan Spieth: 4th (2015), T-6 (2016), T-3 (2017), 16th (2019), 20th (2021), 15th (2022)

Keegan Bradley: 15th (2018)

Jason Day: 16th (2018)

Max Homa: 17th (2022)

Brian Harman: 1st appearance

Wyndham Clark: 1st appearance

Will Zalatoris: 1st appearance

Lucas Glover: 1st appearance

Selections

Justin Thomas (16-1, BetRivers)

While Thomas had a 2023 to forget, he has shown some signs in his last two starts — fifth at the Fortinet and T-4 at the Nedbank. He also did his best to carry partner Jordan Spieth at the Ryder Cup.

Thomas has recorded three straight fifth-place finishes in this event and when we take into account that superb record in Hawaii, where he’s a two-time winner of the Tournament of Champions and also recorded a victory in the Sony Open in 2017, we have a player with a strong record in this type of event.

Cameron Young (21-1, Circa Sports)

With five par-5s and a drivable par-4, Young, who is one of the world’s biggest hitters off the tee, should flourish here and finished third here on debut last year.

He is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, and this is an unofficial event, but he will be taking this seriously just to earn some sort of victory.

Will Zalatoris (41-1, Circa Sports)

Zalatoris is a bit of speculative play here considering this is his course debut and he has not played in a competitive event in eight months because of a back injury, but he has been in practice and training mode since the early fall. He initially was going to play in a September event but smartly elected to be patient and not rush his return.