Hero World Challenge
So we have one more event to take a look at before the Christmas break, The Hero World Challenge.
The Hero World Challenge was first played in 2000.
The event benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
In its first year the event was played at the Grayhawk Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was then held from 2001 through to 2013 at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks in California.
In 2014 the event was held at Isleworth G&CC in Windermere, Florida, before finally arriving at its current home at Albany, New Providence in the Bahamas in 2015.
For the earlier editions the field was made up of sixteen players however in 2008 it increased to eighteen players.
This is made up in principle of the top eleven available players from the World Rankings, the defending champion and the holders of the four major championships. There are then two special exemptions given.
In practice of course at this time of year not all eligible players choose to participate, meaning that you see players from further down the rankings make the field.
At the time of writing the market is headed up by defending champion and recent Race To Dubai winner Jon Rahm. He is then followed by Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
Albany is a par 72 measuring just over 7300yds.
The greens are TiffEagle Bermuda.
The course was designed by Ernie Els
The course is a links style course situated on the oceanfront featuring five par 5s, five Par 3s and eight Par 4s.
As you would expect allowing for its location the courses main defence is the wind.
The main thing I felt worth looking at here was how important a recent competitive start was for previous winners of this event.
The answer would appear to be that it’s pretty important. This can be seen from the following list of winners going back to 2010.
2018 Rahm – Finished 4th 2 weeks before.
2017 Fowler – Finished 3rd three weeks before.
2016 Matsuyama – Finished 6th the week before [In World Cup].
2015 Watson - Finished 3rd three weeks before.
2014 Spieth – Won the week before.
2013 Z Johnson – Finished 16th four weeks before.
2012 G McDowell – Finished 52nd two weeks before.
2011 Woods – Played Presidents Cup two weeks before.
2010 G McDowell – Finished 13th the week before.
As you can see from this list only one of these last eight winners had not played competitive golf in the previous three weeks whilst they had all played in the previous four weeks.
Its also worth noting that if we put Tiger to one side for a second [as he is obviously a law to himself] only G Mac in 2012 had not finished in the top 16 in that previous start and he obviously had the benefit of being a previous course winner.
All of the other winners this decade were coming in with positive recent form.
From a winning score point of view we have had four editions of the event now at Albany and we have seen the winning scores range from -18 to – 25 in 2016 from Bubba.
The winning scores are of course dictated here by the wind, however as we can see from these numbers unless it really blows the course is basically set up as an end of season birdie fest.
The days leading up to tournament play and all four days of the tournament itself look set fair with temperatures staying in the high 70s all week.
Wind, which is the courses main defence, does not look to be a huge issue with only the first day, Wednesday, showing the possibility for anything above 15 mph.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with two players this week as follows;
XANDER SCHAUFFELE –9-1 – 3pts win. - FINISHED 10th
There is obviously a fair bit of speculation this week as to who will turn up with their game head on and who will be in end of year chill out mode in the Bahamas, from that point of view while I am sorely tempted to side with Jon Rahm again who did us proud here last year I cant help but think he will have been enjoying the fruits of his Race To Dubai win for the last couple of weeks and wont be at his sharpest.
From the flip side of the coin though with the Presidents Cup nearly upon us you would have to think that the US guys who will be heading to Australia shortly will have their game faces on and be raring to go and I have therefore decided to side with two players who will be teeing it up for Tiger ‘Down Under’
The first of these Xander Schauffele.
I mentioned earlier that the key to success this week to me is a recent positive competitive outing with all winners since 2010 having played over the past four weeks.
From that point of view the negative to address is that Xander has not tee’d it up for five weeks now since his second place finish at the WGC.
I am willing to overlook this though for a few reasons, firstly as mentioned already you would have to think Xander will be well prepared with the impending Presidents Cup, rather than being in end of year mode, secondly it should be noted that aside from Rahm and Webb Simpson no other players in this weeks line up have played and produced anything of note in the past three weeks and finally I do like the fact that Xander came out fresh at Kapalua in January and took home the trophy showing he is more than capable of producing the goods after a break.
Talking of that win in Kapalua the other factor that draws me to Xander this week is there are undoubted similarities between the test offered up by the Sentry ToC and that, which the players face this week with both courses featuring wide fairways, undulating greens and coastal conditions.
Schauffele made his first start in this event last year and laid down a solid eighth place finish, however it caught my eye that he opened up with a 73 in his first competitive round on the course before posting rounds of 68 and 66 on days two and three.
Xander has proven over his short time on tour that he both loves big events and also that he loves limited field events so this week should be right in his comfort zone and I can see the 26yr old adding another victory in this type of event this week.
PATRICK REED – 20-1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 4 - FINISHED 3rd
I was tempted to side with Webb Simpson for our second selection based on his recent second place finish, however his infrequent win ratio coupled with the fact that he is making his debut here was enough to put me off at the odds and instead I have plumped for Patrick Reed for our final selection of 2019.
Reed, has produced some solid stuff at Albany over the recent years without quite posting a victory and he has form figures of 11 5 10 2 over the past four years.
This year Patrick arrives here having been boosted by the vote of confidence from Tiger Woods with regards to his wildcard pick for the Presidents Cup and he will surely be looking to impress his captain with a big performance this week.
Although Captain America did not do anything spectacular in his most recent start at the DP World Tour Championship where he finished 28th, unlike several of this weeks field he should be 100% game sharp having also played in Turkey on the European Tour where he finished tenth following his eighth place finish in the WGC in China.
Like Schauffele Reed is a former winner at Kapalua and in addition he was victorious in the WGC at Doral several years back, another course, which I see as boasting similarities to this week.
Reed is undoubtedly at his most comfortable on the Bermuda, which he will face this week and I see a big week for him ahead.