4th - 7th December
The 2019 Hero World Challenge (December 4-7) sees 18 of the best players in the world line-up for what is an invitational run by the Tiger Woods Foundation.
The event takes place in the Bahamas at the Albany Golf Course in New Province, a Par 72 measuring just over 7,300 yards. The course is the apple of designer Ernie Els’ eye, and he describes it as a combination of the Els Club Dubai and Royal Birkdale, with bunkering reminiscent of Royal Melbourne in Australia.
The holes are generally flat but players that venture off-line may have to deal with some house-high sand dunes. The course is also unusual in that it features five par 5’s, which may go some way to explaining why the winning scores in the past four editions that have been held at the Albany Golf Course have ranged from -18 to -25.
The wind can be a major factor in how the course plays, but early weather forecasts suggest it will just be breezy from Wednesday to Friday, whilst even Saturday’s forecast shouldn’t bother players that are at the top of the game.
Good recent form has certainly been a major pointer to success in the last four editions of the Hero World Challenge, and it’s no surprise to see Jon Rahm head the market this week. The bookies may only be offering 4/1 about him but, with many bookies going ¼ odds four places, it’s hard not to include him in your betting strategy.
Rahm arrives here in brilliant form having defended his title in the Open de Espana. He then had the balls to miss the Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Golf Challenge before turning up in Dubai to claim the DP World Tour Championship and the coveted Race To Dubai Title. Those successes mean he’s now up to number three in the world and, having conquered Rory McIlroy in Dubai and with world number one Brooks Kopeka injured, he’ll surely have world number one firmly in his sights in his current form.
Rahm is also the current Hero World Challenge champion and, whilst defending isn’t easy in the face of top-class opposition, he did at least show he can defend with his win in the Open de Espana. That’s enough reasons to make Jon Rahm the first of this week’s free tips for the Hero World Challenge 2019.
The other reason for backing Rahm is the lack of obviously in-form players amongst his opponents. Second favourite Justin Thomas always needs respecting and he has winning recent form having claimed another CJ Cup in October. But that was an event he normally plays well in and he only finished 11th and 12th here in 2017 and 2018. Both those appearances came on the back of breaks of five weeks so, as he returns from a similar break this time, there’s no great impulse to back him.
Third favourite Patrick Cantlay returns from an even longer break of eight weeks. He did finish fifth in this event last year but only has two wins to his name, whilst Rahm has plundered nine titles since breaking his duck at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2017. Cantlay also finished seven shots behind Rahm last year.
Xander Schauffele finished nine shots behind Rahm last year and is another player that may need to blow away the cobwebs after a five-week break. But he was in decent form when last seen, when he followed losing a play-off in China to Rory McIlroy with a tenth in the Zozo Championship. However, he blew two great chances to win in those events and may have mental issues about getting across the winning line than Rahm.
The likes of Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, and Kevin Kisner were also nowhere near their best when last seen in action.
That means the second and final of this week’s Hero World Challenge Free Tips is Webb Simpson. He’s finished seventh and second on his last two outings with totals of -19, suggesting he’s making enough birdies to contend this week. He’s also a decent wind player and he seems to have discovered his best game in the last two seasons, whilst he was also in action just two weeks ago and can, hopefully, carry that form into this week.