The final solo golf tournament of the year across the pond is the Hero World Challenge, which as ever has Tiger Woods as the host and this year he plays in the tournament himself too, no doubt still smarting at handing $9m that only he and Phil Mickelson gave two hoots about, over to his rival.
Rickie Fowler cruised to the title in the Bahamas last year and despite that he has been invited back to defend the crown. As ever only 18 players tee it up in this select event but it is the cream of the crop so we should get an exciting, if relaxed, week.
2017 – Rickie Fowler
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama
2015 – Bubba Watson
2014 – Jordan Spieth
2013 – Zach Johnson
2012 – Graeme McDowell
2011 – Tiger Woods
2010 – Graeme McDowell
2009 – Jim Furyk
2008 – Vijay Singh
The Albany Course out in the Bahamas is once again the venue for the tournament, as it has been since 2015 when Bubba Watson won it. It is a par 72 which stretches to 7,309 yards but the quirk to it is that it has five par 5s and the same number of par 3s as opposed to the normal four. With that in mind we immediately know scoring will be low here.
The greens are pretty small here which is one defence for the course but the main one is the sea breezes. Without them these star names could tear this course apart. Rain is due in over the weekend to make the course even easier to score on so we could be in for a record low week even allowing for the insane amount of golf the field have played recently.
Tiger Woods heads the field looking to follow up from his Tour Championship win while FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose is also in the field. Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas also tee it up from towards the head of the world rankings in what is a high calibre field this week.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler is among the 18 playing here as are the two previous winners on this track Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama. Europe are represented by Alex Noren and Jon Rahm while The Masters champion Patrick Reed is also in the field. Jason Day keeps the top class names coming.
Justin Rose is a 15/2 favourite to win the tournament this week. He’s in pretty decent nick at the minute and is no stranger to this part of the world so despite his indifferent record in this tournament he looks a worthy favourite. He lives locally so he show know the track and the conditions but that hasn’t helped him in the past. He’ll be kipping in his own bed this week but he’s looked knackered for a while so he isn’t for me.
Dustin Johnson is another with a poor record around here which is a surprise when you think almost a third of the holes here are par 5s but for whatever reason he doesn’t always play well here. I suspect it is because he doesn’t really care much for the event and turns up to bank a Christmas bonus. I don’t know that for sure but that is often the aura he displays. At 8/1 I’m happy to look elsewhere.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler is the exact opposite of the two above. He loves it here with a third, third and a win in his three outings here. His win here last year was his last anywhere in the world though which highlights the struggles in his game right now. I’ll confess if we could get double figures on Fowler I’d play but we can only get 8/1 so I won’t.
Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas tee off as 10/1 pokes to land the final singles event of the year. You wouldn’t put the win beyond either of these men although Woods looked absolutely rotten by all accounts in that shambles with Mickelson last week. I like Thomas a lot and I might regret not backing him here but since the Ryder Cup he’s looked like a man whose needle is so deep into the red it is ready to snap.
This isn’t a tournament to go mad in and usually I’d probably only have one bet in an 18 runner field but there is actually a fair amount of value on the scene this week and with a few winners recently I think I’ve earned myself an extra punt.
Bryson DeChambeau has turned himself into a winning machine in recent times. He cleaned up towards the end of the PGA Tour season and he has already won his only start in America this season as well at the Shriners. I think this course will play nicely for him as well and as a result I think he’s the value in the top part of the market. There is no weakness in the game of the American and that is never a bad thing here. Some may lack motivation to win this week but on debut in his hero’s tournament I don’t think DeChambeau will struggle to get up for this. I’ll take him.
I would have left Bubba Watson alone but at 30/1 he is almost a no-brainer to back here. There are five par 5s on this course. That is 20 holes that Watson will be absolutely tearing up out of the 72 so it is no surprise that he has already won around here before.
We know Watson can be a bit temperamental at the best of times but he generally has success on the same courses – Riviera and Augusta being obvious examples. While some players will be blowing out of their arses with the amount of golf they have played in recent times, Watson will be fresh as a daisy after two months off. That suggests to me that he isn’t here for a jolly up else he may as well have just extended his break if he didn’t want to be here. I think he’s here to win and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he does so, so long as he isn’t too rusty.
Back B.DeChambeau to win Hero World Challenge (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 12.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-4)
Back B.Watson to win Hero World Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-4)