Tiger Woods and crew are gearing up for the Presidents Cup but they have one final tune-up event before heading to Australia.
It's the Hero World Challenge which is an 18-man exhibition that does not reward FedExCup Points but it does give out OWGR Points. Not a bad way to pad your world ranking before the calendar flips to 2020.
To help with the travel to Royal Melbourne, the event will run from Wednesday to Saturday. A day earlier than we are used to.
As you can imagine with a field of just 18 golfers, there is no cutline to sweat and everyone will be guaranteed 72 holes of action, barring any WDs.
The host course this week is Albany in The Bahamas.
This Ernie Els design looks like it's straight out of a video game. Extremely crisp and very unique terrain. It could be classified as a desert links layout.
Diving straight into the scorecard, it's a par 72 that plays right around 7,300 yards.
The key attributes of the course are five par 5s and a pair of driveable par 4s. That keeps scoring really low, even with the coastal breezes and length to deal with. Four of the pars play over 470 yards and three of the par 5s play over 585 yards.
It's no surprise that big hitters like Bubba Watson and Jon Rahm have won here. There are legitimately seven eagle opportunities with those par 5s and driveable par 4s. In reality, most will just see a couple of eagle chances per round, but that is still plenty.
The fairways are generous and water comes into play on about 3 to 5 holes. Again, not much of a challenge unless the wind is really howling. They are getting gusts up to 25 MPH today (Monday) but the winds are scheduled to lie down for two of the four rounds this week. Of course that could change but more on that in the weather section.
The turf is tricky bermudagrass and the greens are typically set up on the speedy side of the spectrum. Especially for a coastal course. I say tricky bermuda because the around-the-green shots are always some of the toughest here. Very tight lies on grainy bermuda.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jon Rahm: "Like I said every day after the round, if you can capitalize on the five par 5s and the two drivable par 4s, which I did all of them today, you have a chance. "
Justin Thomas: "It’s not like it’s a course where you have to be perfect, it’s pretty generous off the tees. Obviously it can get windy and some crosswinds, but I expected him to play well in terms of a number. "
Jordan Spieth: "it’s because we’re used to perfectly manicured and this is, it’s just real sparse around the greens. It becomes like some spots it’s almost like chipping off mud. This type of Bermuda and where we’re located, it just doesn’t grow as full as other spots....But yeah, I think it’s as difficult because us high-maintenance golfers get a course that’s not quite perfectly manicured and you get some kind of weird lies around the greens. "
Bubba Watson: "The first time I saw the course and I looked at Teddy and I said, I can’t play here. I mean, it’s too windy, the greens are really small, and then the wind died down a little bit."
Bill Haas: "I do like the fairways, they’re generous off the tee, and I do like the greens being small which puts an emphasis on hitting a good iron shot and the greens surfaces are excellent."
Overview: The golfers talk about the generous fairways and difficulty that can be found inside of 100 yards if you find the waste areas or other tricky lies.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
El Camaleon (Mayakoba)
Torrey Pines (Farmers)
Trinity Forest (Byron Nelson)
Plantation Course at Kapalua (Tournament of Champions)
We are primarily looking for easy coastal courses but bermudagrass turf and/or long courses are also relevant.
Wednesday: Partly Cloudy and Breezy with a high of 75 degrees. Winds at 10 to 20 MPH.
Thursday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.
The winds don't look to be extreme right now which should lead to a winning score that approaches or eclipses 20-under. The exception is round four (Saturday) which is forecasted to see gusts in the 20 MPH range. Should make things interesting down the stretch.
Golfers to Watch
Took off six weeks to rest recently but showed no signs of rust as he rallied to win the DP World Tour Championship upon his return. That was his second straight win (both on the European Tour) and fourth podium finish over his last seven worldwide events. Playing the role of defending champ this week and has to be considered one of the favorites to hoist the hardware.
The tournament host (and local resident) is also arriving with a victory in his most recent start (ZOZO).
Sits at 18th in my rankings this week but this field is so tightly packed that it wouldn't be shocking to see the last man in my ranks to win the event. That being said, Kisner has no good form to lean on, despite playing with some motivation to impress Captain Woods during that time. Kisner finished last season with back-to-back top 10s but he's finished outside the top 25 in all four starts during his fall campaign.
The Texan snagged a late invite to this event despite being just 44th in the OWGR. He has the most to gain rankings-wise with a strong showing this week. He's been very erratic for a couple years now but he continues to rack up plenty of birdies. Should benefit from the generous fairways since the errant tee ball is what held him back for most of 2019.
Has failed to truly impress for months now but he gets a home game this week in The Bahamas. Rose considers this his home course but admitted that it's not always a big advantage since they ramp up the green speeds and he had lots of off-course obligations to handle this week.
First competitive action since the TOUR Championship. Will be eager to silence the doubters who don't like him getting a Captain's Pick despite him not playing for months. Will there be too much rust to shake off, though? It's the perfect course to find out since he's finished top 5 in all four of his appearances here including a win in 2017.
Ranking the Field
1. Jon Rahm
2. Justin Thomas
3. Patrick Cantlay
4. Tiger Woods
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Webb Simpson
7. Patrick Reed
8. Justin Rose
9. Tony Finau
10. Rickie Fowler
11. Bryson DeChambeau
12. Gary Woodland
13. Matt Kuchar
14. Henrik Stenson
15. Jordan Spieth
16. Chez Reavie
17. Bubba Watson
18. Kevin Kisner
Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our Expert Picks.