Only eighteen golfers are set to do battle at the 2018 Hero World Challenge but, with 14 of the world’s top 20 players in this elite field, punters will be looking forward to some high-class action.
If you’re looking at tournament form to give you an insight into who might lift the trophy this week, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Albany Course in the Bahamas is staging the event for just the fourth time, so only the form of the last three renewals is probably worth considering.
The Albany Course measures around 7,400 yards and is a Par-72 layout designed by Ernie Els. The course feature five par 5’s and five par 3’s, so it’s different from the courses usually used for PGA Tour events that normally feature 10 par 4’s. The course also resembles a links course and the wind could have a huge impact on a course that is relatively exposed.
Designer Els describes his creation as a special course, a mix of the Els Club in Dubai and England’s Royal Birkdale, whilst the bunkering takes its inspiration from classic Australian sand-belt courses such as Royal Melbourne.
Scoring has tended to be low since the tournament moved here, with Bubba Watson shooting 25 under par, whilst the last two winners Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler have both won with scores of –18.
The three winners of the event all arrived in the Bahamas in decent form, with Bubba Watson placed in Japan before his success, whilst Flower had placed in the OHL Classic. Meanwhile, Matsuyama was in the form of his life, and was making it four wins from five starts when winning here.
If the recent form trend is set to continue, there’s no way you can have Dustin Johnson on side this week, despite the bookies making him joint-favourite. We all know he can win anywhere, but he was 30th on his last start, and nobody could blame him for easing his way into the new season with a relaxing week in the Caribbean. He could be motivated by wanting to get back to world number one, but there’s a long season ahead to regain his top-spot.
That could be a similar scenario for the other market leader Justin Rose, who may well enjoy spending some of the $10 Million he won for winning the Fedex Cup, and this also may be a way of fine-tuning his golf swing for bigger targets ahead. Rose’s course form is also nothing to get excited about.
Host Tiger Woods is a more interesting contender, as everyone knows the Tiger is back after his win in the Tour Championship. However, it’s hard winning a tournament you’re hosting, whilst his game hardly looked razor-sharp when he squandered the chance to pick up some easy money in the Woods/Mickelson shootout last week. Justin Thomas also looked out of form when last seen.
The other player in single-figures this week is Rickie Fowler and, as his form-figures here read 3/1/1, he clearly loves the place. The big question is whether he’s got what it takes to defend a title, especially as he’s not yet the prolific winner everyone expected him to become.
One player whose star is firmly in the ascension is Bryson de Chambeau and his win last time out was his fifth PGA Tour victory. He also leaves no stone unturned in his preparation and, after forming a close friendship with Tiger Woods, it’s easy to see him wanting to make it six wins this week. Already up to number five in the world, it wouldn’t be a shock if this highly self-motivated character makes it to world number one at some point this season.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest statistics to come out of the last three years of this event is the winners performed exceptionally well on the par 5’s. That should be music to the ears of last season’s top-5 PGA Tour performer Tony Finau, who hits his driver phenomenal distances. He’s also made himself one of the most consistent performers on tour in the last few months, and this small-field is a great opportunity for him to notch up another win.
It was also tempting to include Xander Schauffele in this week’s betting strategy, considering his decent links form at the 2018 Open and his recent good form, but the odds don’t really warrant backing three selections.
Hero Golf Challenge Free Tips
Bryson de Chambeau (each-way) @ 11.00 PaddyPower, BetStars (5 places)
Tony Finau (each-way) @ 15.00 PaddyPower, BetStars (5 places)