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 local resident Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, with defending champion Rickie Fowler, Tournament host Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas just behind them.
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 its pretty important. This can be seen from the following list of winners going back to 2010.
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 three editions of the event now at Albany and we have seen the winning scores range from -18 in both of the past two years to – 25 in 2016 from Bubba.
The winning scores are off 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 first three days of the event look to be dry with temperatures in the high 80s, however there is some possible rain in the forecast for Sunday with the temperature dropping to the mid 70s.
Wind looks like it could be a factor through the week with gusts of 20mph possible on all four days.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with two players this week as follows;
JON RAHM –14-1 – 2.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 4 FINISHED 1st!!!
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.
As I mentioned earlier though a definite guide to success in this event over recent years is siding with players who have shown positive form over the recent three to four weeks and the player that stands out for me most on this basis is Spaniard Jon Rahm.
It’s been a slightly frustrating summer and autumn for fans of the Spaniard as since he won the Spanish Open back in May he has flattered to deceive on several occasions but has ultimately been unable to get over the line.
Despite this however Rahm has still notched four further top 5 finishes including one in his most recent start at the DP World Tour Championship so it has not been all bad.
Still only 24yrs old to me Rahm still shows impatience on courses that require more of a grind, however he seems to clearly be at his best on tracks which allow him to open his shoulders, be aggressive and require a lot of birdies.
This can be seen by the fact that he won at the Irish Open last year with a total of -24 and the Spanish Open this year with a total of -20.
Looking at that Irish Open win, alongside one of his other wins last year which came at Torrey Pines, it is also clear that Rahm is comfortable on a links style test assuming the wind doesn’t really howl.
In addition, as well as his solid recent performance in Dubai, I can’t help but feeling that Rahm will still be taking a positive from the fact that he ‘took down’ Tiger at the Ryder Cup, and it may just be that he comes in to this week with a spring in his step and on a mission to ‘do the double’ over Tiger of sorts and win his event after beating him in Paris.
In a field of this strength it is possible of course to make a case for pretty much all of the players, however with the recent positive good form under his belt, coupled with the type of test the players will face, Rahm is the player who ticks the most boxes for me this week.
ALEX NOREN – 33-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 4 FINISHED 8th
Another player who performed solidly in Dubai a couple of weeks back and who catches my eye this week is Swede Alex Noren.
Noren joined the PGA Tour full time at the beginning of last season and it was a really solid first campaign for him.
His best stroke play results on US Soil came when he lost out in a play off to Jason Day at Torrey Pines and when he came 3rd at the Honda.
In addition he found time in the summer to pop across to Paris and pick up the French Open title on the European Tour.
The 36yr old teed it up in this event last year and could only finish 12th however his form had tailed of towards the end of 2017 and he had only finished inside the top 30 once in his previous five starts when he arrived here.
This year though it is a different story as Alex arrives in the Bahamas with three consecutive top 20s since the Ryder Cup including the 9th place last time out in Dubai.
The Swede has shown us time and again over the recent years that he is a great exponent of links type courses and even though he didn’t set the world alight here last year I have to think this course should suit him.
In a field therefore of only eighteen runners I am more than happy to finish our selections for 2018 by siding with the prolific Swedish winner at a juicy e/w price.