While the official PGA Tour season is on pause until January, an elite field of 20 players gathers this week for the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. In fact, 15 of the 20 players rank inside the OWGR Top 20.
Collin Morikawa, fresh off winning the Race to Dubai two weeks ago on the European Tour, is the co-favorite with Rory McIlroy at 15-2. Justin Thomas (10-1) and Viktor Hovland (11-1), who won three weeks ago at the Mayakoba, follow on the board. Bryson DeChambeau is at 12-1 after he was defeated in "The Match" by Brooks Koepka (25-1) last weekend at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.
Jordan Spieth (14-1) won this event in 2014 when it was played at Isleworth. Xander Schauffele (14-1), Sam Burns (16-1) and Scottie Scheffler (16-1) are also looking to close out their 2021 seasons with victories.
The only former event winner in the field is the last one in Henrik Stenson (66-1), who is still the defending champion (2019) of this event as last year's edition was canceled due to COVID-19.
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 Tiger Woods’ residence in Windermere, 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. Woods serves as the tournament host as the event benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. Woods has won the event five times (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011) but is still not ready to return to competition even on a part-time basis. Other previous 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 Albany Golf Course, located on New Providence Island, is around 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 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 are members, along with Justin Rose, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter. The course is a relatively flat, desert-type track with large man-made sand dunes. It is a par-72, 7,302-yard course with five par-5s, 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.
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
Note: The Hero World Challenge has been played at the Albany Golf Course since 2015.
STATISTICAL TRENDS AND ANGLES
Albany Golf Course features Bermuda greens.
SG Putting: Bermuda Greens (Last 36 rounds)
1. Matt Fitzpatrick 40.4
2. Patrick Reed 25.7
3. Xander Schauffele 21.7
4. Webb Simpson 16.3
5. Sam Burns 15.6
6. Abraham Ancer 14
7. Bryson DeChambeau 13.3
8. Jordan Spieth 9.8
9. Daniel Berger 7.2
10. Harris English 5.6
There are five par-5s on the Albany layout
SG Par-5s (Last 36 rounds)
1. Bryson DeChambeau 30.6
2. Collin Morikawa 19.6
3. Harris English 16.4
4. Matt Fitzpatrick 14.3
5. Xander Schauffele 10.2
6. Sam Burns 9.8
7. Rory McIlroy 8.2
8. Justin Rose 7.1
9. Scottie Scheffler 6.6
10. Daniel Berger 6.5
Wind can be a factor here, so players need to be sharp with their irons.
SG Approach (Last 36 rounds)
1. Daniel Berger 40.6
2. Collin Morikawa 38.6
3. Viktor Hovland 28
4. Xander Schauffele 25.9
5. Justin Thomas 23.7
6. Webb Simpson 22.1
7. Sam Burns 20.7
8. Rory McIlroy 16.3
9. Tyrrell Hatton 15
10. Abraham Ancer 14.3
Daniel Berger (20-1)
Berger could have some rust here considering he has not played much golf this fall and last teed it up at The Tour Championship, but rest might have done him some good in a compacted 2020-21 schedule.
He has only one appearance here, finishing 14th in 2017.
However, he has played consistent golf all season and has been the best ball striker in the game of late, even better than Morikawa, gaining 40.6 strokes on approach over his last 36 rounds.
Webb Simpson (20-1)
Simpson had a solid 2021 with five top-10 finishes but no victories.
Nevertheless, he has shown progressively good form as he led the field for SG: Tee-To-Green and SG: Approach en route to a T-8 at the RSM Classic.
Simpson's last six rounds read 66-65-67-67-66-66, so he looks in form to go low.
Matt Fitzpatrick (25-1)
Fitzpatrick is not the longest hitter, and is in fact one of the shorter ones off the tee, but he overcame a lack of length to win the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama several weeks ago. Furthermore, no one has been better of late with the flat stick on Bermuda greens.
He comes in off a T-2 finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He has also played some coastal golf of late with little success (T-30 in Bermuda, T-64 at Mayakoba) but should at least be used to the conditions as he makes his Hero Challenge debut in the Bahamas.