We’ve had the final event of the regular PGA Tour calendar year and now it is time for the final individual tournament of 2021. The Hero World Challenge is an unofficial event, but boasts a strong field, even if two of the year’s major champions (and the Tour champion) have elected not to play. Tiger Woods will not be competing but is hosting of the week and unsurprisingly his future has already been a big talking point.
Last time out
Showing faith in Webb Simpson and Denny McCarthy by the sea and on grainy greens once again proved more worthwhile in the RSM Classic two weeks ago. Both of them finished top 10. Supporting Charles Howell III in his sweet spot was also worthwhile as he landed a top 20, and J.J. Spaun, who was identified at a bargain $6,700, landed us another.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||C. Morikawa||$10,600|
Collin Morikawa ($10,700): There are three golfers with salaries above $10k this week and Morikawa is the pick. Rory McIlroy continues to flatter to deceive, most recently blowing a winning chance in Dubai (and ripping his shirt in frustration afterward). Justin Thomas may well want to put on a show for his friend (and tournament host) Tiger Woods, but his knack over the last 18 months of getting into contention and not winning is something that is clearly bugging him. Take the man who has the better knack of getting into contention and then winning. The fact Morikawa has such a superb approach game ought to help him deal with the small greens at Albany, too.
Webb Simpson ($6,700) Never make apologies about taking an interest in Simpson when it is breezy and the fairways, rough and greens have Bermuda grass. In an ideal world the par would be 70, but it’s no bad thing otherwise. He understands the grass and he isn’t fazed by wind. This year alone he has finished top 10 at Waialae, Harbour Town and, last time out, Sea Island. He also finished 10th here two years ago on his course debut.
Henrik Stenson ($6,000) You could argue that picking someone to fade this week is a fool’s errand, because the field is so small. And you could suggest that Stenson has to do very little to perform above his salary expectation – in fact anything better than coming last. But his long term form against quality opposition is poor. He doesn’t have one top 30 on the PGA Tour in 12 months and his last top 20 at that level came at the 2019 Open. His win here really was something of a bolt from the blue.
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This week’s course is an Ernie Els design and a glance at the scorecard hints at a key factor for the week: five, rather than four, par-5s and also two par-4s that can be attacked from the tee box. If you sense that there are therefore multiple opportunities to land eagles, you’d be right. Golfers who enjoy being aggressive from the tee will be licking their lips. Jon Rahm said: “I say it every day, if you can capitalize on those seven holes, you have a chance.”
From the tee, there is an invitation to open the arms. “You don’t have to be perfect,” said Justin Thomas. “It’s pretty generous from the tee.” The real test comes with the approaches. “The first time I saw the course I said I can’t play here, the greens are too small,” cried Bubba Watson. Bill Haas added: “It puts real emphasis on hitting good iron shots.”
Jordan Spieth highlighted an important factor with those tiny putting surfaces: “We’re used to perfectly manicured courses and it’s sparse around these greens. This type of Bermuda doesn’t grow very full. You get some weird lies around the greens.”
It’s essential you keep an eye on the weather forecast because it can get very windy and the course has been designed to be playable when it is breezy so is a little vulnerable when conditions are flat.
With Bermuda grass on the greens and those blustery conditions performances at the likes of Plantation and Waialae in Hawaii, El Camaleon in Mexico, Port Royal in Bermuda, Grand Reserve in Puerto Rico, plus Harbour Town and Kiawah Island will be worth considering.
The weather forecast for New Providence, Bahamas is good and initially suggests that the wind will offer some protection of the card rather than provide a brutal test. Through the first three days expect sunny conditions and little chance of disruption. Sunday is predicted to see afternoon rain. Temperatures will be in the high 70s, as will humidity. And so to the wind. Thursday is forecast 8mph, Friday 12mph, the weekend 11mph. We can probably expect it to be a little gustier than that owing to location, but it’s not set to be a significant examination at the moment.
Past Champions of The Hero World Challenge
As makes perfect sense given the nature of the event, the winner’s roster is a line-up of major champions and world number ones. The exception is Rickie Fowler, a man who spent a long part of his career being expected to become the former.
It’s most relevant to focus on winners at Albany and the first of those was Bubba Watson in 2015. As we’ve already discovered, at first glance he thought he had little chance, with the wind and small greens more or less frightening him. What we can perhaps learn from this is that golfers are not always the best judges – and also the genuine importance of the breeze. With nothing more than 15mph predicted we can maybe expect lower scores and wind experts to miss out on a big advantage (although I’d still prefer them).
Watson was succeeded by Hideki Matsuyama in 2016, with Rickie Fowler prevailing in 2017 and Jon Rahm in 2018. Can we learn anything from the identity of those first four winners? Well, maybe we can because it has been said of Albany that it resembles a desert style resort course by the sea and that quartet have excelled at TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Watson is a two-time runner-up there, Matsuyama a two-time winner, Fowler a past champion (and also two-time runner-up), while Rahm has played the track six times and always finished top 20. Scottsdale favours agressive drivers so it is another element of the test that feels familiar.
Henrik Stenson defends this week after his success two years ago. He has no experience of Scottsdale, but he is a prolific player in the desert course of the Middle East and also an Open champion, proving his abiliy to play by the sea.
The TPC Scottsdale link makes sense: the ability to make the most of those five par-5s and the vulnerable par-4s. But so does competence on breezy ocean-side tracks, and course form will always help.
Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For The Hero World Challenge
|A list||V. Hovland||$9,900|
|B list||X. Schauffele||$8,700|
|B list||J. Spieth||$8,300|
Viktor Hovland ($9,900) We’re by the sea, in a tropical location, the wind might easily be a factor and the greens have grainy grass. It’s not what you’d call an obvious link with a Norwegian golfer, but Hovland is not especially typical. He’s very good in wind and acknowledges it’s because he went to college in Oklahoma and still lives there. What of warm weather seaside golf? Well, he won the Puerto Rico Open and is two-time winner of the Mayakoba Championship at El Camaleon. Also has the bold intentions and length to attack from the tee. Lots to like.
Xander Schauffele ($8,700) Asked why he has performed well in elite field event with no cut he said: “I think if I’m playing well, and I get into these no-cut events, there’s a chance that subconsciously I’m sort of freewheeling it. I’ll take more risk and not really feel any pressure to pull it off because I know there’s no penalty in the end.” That one of those wins came in the Tournament of Champions at Plantation (similar ocean-side condition to this week, another course vulnerable to attacking) is good news. As is Schauffele’s record of four top 20s at TPC Scottsdale (including second this year). He’s finished eighth and 10th at the course.
Jordan Spieth ($8,300) The course offers width from the tee, it demands good approach play, and also a fine short game because missed greens are inevitable. Seems like a really good fit for Spieth, right? Almost perfect. His course record backs that up. When he was at his peak he went 3-for-3 at landing a top six finish, but when out of form in 2019 he labored to 16th. Unquestionably he has been close to his best again this year so we can expect a good week.
Tony Finau ($7,000) Finau had his difficulties with TPC Scottsdale, but was second there in his last visit in 2020. That and his win in Puerto Rico make him look a nice fit for this week. So, too, does his course record. He was second on debut in 2018 and then T–10 a year later. Both times he got off to poor starts (72 and 79) but thereafter he piled on the birdies (64-67-69 in 2018, 68-69-65 in 2019). He’s not played great since the Ryder Cup, but he’s a winner this year and this jolly often reminds a fellow of what he’s achieved in the year and acts as a confidence booster. Big upside with Finau at this salary.
Patrick Reed ($6,400) One top 30 in his last five starts has prompted a low salary. But that good week was in Bermuda so not a million miles literally or metaphorically from this week. The low salary might also reflect the sense that he returns to the scene of his rules controversy in 2019, but Reed often proves he doesn’t care for social niceties. Look at the salary and then look at the course record: five starts, never worse than 11th, three top fives including second and third. Like Finau, big upside.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($6,600) The slender Englishman is a fine performer on his home circuit (twice a winner of the DP World Tour’s end of season finale) and a solid one on the PGA Tour, too. But in elite company he has just one top 10 in 26 major championships, one in five starts at THE PLAYERS Championship, five in 21 World Golf Championships. That’s seven in 52. It’s not a great track record.
Other Player Options For The Hero World Challenge
• Brooks Koepka has problems at Albany. He was seventh on debut, slipped to 13th a year later and 18th a year after that.
• Harris English could go well. He was a winner at Plantation at the start of the year and has won at El Camaleon too. Against that he has gone MC-WD-MC since the Ryder Cup.
• Bryson DeChambeau has played here twice. He was 12th on debut and 13th in 2019. He’s yet to break 70 before the final round.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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