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PREVIEW: PGA Tour – Hero World Challenge

Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of PGA Tour’s Hero World Challenge coming your way from the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

Tony Finau - PGA Tour
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of PGA Tour’s Hero World Challenge coming your way from the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

US PGA Tour 2022/2023
Hero World Challenge
Albany Golf Club, New Province, Bahamas
1st-4th December

Plantar fasciitis has denied everybody the possibility of seeing Tiger Woods return to action this week (that’s basically acute heel inflammation for the layman).

I’m sure that Woods would have relished returning to action in the loose atmosphere of the Hero World Challenge. He is the host of this event and most of the proceeds of the week go directly to the Tiger Woods foundation.

The Hero World Challenge

The Hero World Challenge is a limited invitation event that dates back to 1999. Twenty of the world’s best players will be teeing it up this week (with Sepp Straka replacing the injured Tiger Woods).

This can make for soporific viewing, with commentators often having to do double-duty to keep things lively. As it is an unofficial PGA Tour event, players will not be competing for FedEx Cup points or official money this week.

This event was first staged at the Greyhawk Golf Club in 1999. It went through several different iterations before finally finding its home at the Albany Course in 2015. It has hosted every edition since (minus the cancelled 2020 renewal).

Albany Golf Club

Designed by Ernie Els and opened in 2010, the Albany Course is very much made in the image of its designer. Els, one of the most celebrated links operators of his era, has created a stunning links-style course.

It is an exposed, flat layout that moves through sweeping dunes. It also features plenty of strategic bunkers (Els is arguably one of the top ten bunker players of all time).

This course is clearly made for those players who understand the eccentricities of links golf. Players with the ability to navigate strong gusts of wind should also prosper here: gusts upwards of 20 mph are expected all week.

This is also an idiosyncratic par 72 layout. It features five par 5’s and five par 3’s. I think this week will be dominated by strong links players with an ability to score low on par 5’s. That will prove essential to victory.

The Contenders

Jon Rahm is clearly the man to beat this week. He won his third Dubai World Tour Championship just two weeks back and he loves Albany. He won the title here in 2018 and finished runner-up in his only other appearance. He has endured a chequered season but seems to be finishing with a flourish.

Scottie Scheffler will be keen to end 2022 with a bang having recently surrendered the World No.1 ranking to Rory McIlroy. It will be interesting to see how Collin Morikawa fares this week.

He has enjoyed a disappointing campaign and returns to the scene of perhaps his biggest meltdown. He led by five shots going into last year’s final round. But he choked horribly, gifting Viktor Hovland the championship.

Elsewhere, the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau come into this event with excellent form.

Past Winners

2021: Viktor Hovland (-18)
2020: no event
2019: Henrik Stenson (-18)
2018: Jon Rahm (-20)
2017: Rickie Fowler (-18)
2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-18)

To Win Outright:

Jon Rahm 6/1 | Scottie Scheffler 8/1 | Xander Schauffele 10/1 | Justin Thomas 11/1 | Tony Finau 11/1

Value Bet

Tommy Fleetwood- To Win 20/1 | To Place 32/10

Often hyped as an almost certain Major champion, Tommy Fleetwood has somewhat flattered to deceive over the past couple of years. But the likeable Englishman seems to be rediscovering his best form and he does play brilliantly in coastal events. He picked up back-to-back fourth places at the Scottish Open and Open Championship (highlighting his ability to play on windy links layouts). And just look at his last three starts. He finished T4 in a competitive CJ Cup field. He then tasted victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. And he finished in a tie for fifth at the Earth Course. He has played Albany only once, finishing in a tie for third in 2017.

The Man to Beat- Tony Finau- To Win 11/1 | To Place 7/4

You could make a strong argument that Tony Finau is the in-form player in world golf at present (Cam Smith and Rory may disagree). He has won three times in his last seven starts. That included back-to-back wins at the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic. He also won last time out at the Houston Open. In that span, he has picked up five top finishes. He has evolved dramatically, adding short-game expertise to a brilliant tee-to-green game. He also has strong course form, finishing runner-up to Rahm in 2018.

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