Tiger Woods doesn’t need a 15-month hiatus from competition to generate attention upon return, but that’s the setup at the Hero World Challenge, which he hosts.
Contested for the second consecutive year at Albany on the western end of New Providence Island in The Bahamas, the Hero boasts an exclusive field of just 18 golfers, but household names they are. Woods is making his first appearance in meaningful competition since finishing T10 at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2015. Twelve of last year’s participants at Albany are back this year, including each of the top-four finishers. Bubba Watson defends his title.
POWER RANKINGS: Hero World Challenge
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Jordan Spieth 2 Brooks Koepka 3 Patrick Reed 4 Henrik Stenson 5 Rickie Fowler 6 Russell Knox 7 Bubba Watson 8 Hideki Matsuyama 9 Dustin Johnson 10 Jimmy Walker 11 Emiliano Grillo 12 Brandt Snedeker 13 Justin Rose 14 Louis Oosthuizen 15 Matt Kuchar 16 Zach Johnson 17 J.B. Holmes 18 Tiger Woods
Just like all official PGA TOUR events, world-ranking points will be distributed following the conclusion of this week’s 72-hole, stroke-play competition. There is no cut, so all 18 in the field will receive points as long as any doesn’t withdraw or get disqualified. This is of particular interest for some as it concerns the tournament host since he arrives slotted 898th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Albany can extend to 7,267 yards, so its wide-open layout caters to long hitters like the defending champ. This is even further emphasized in the quintet of par 5s on the Ernie Els design. Watson averaged 4.35 on the set for the week with an eagle, 11 birdies and eight pars. The Big Easy countered with five par 3s to achieve a par of 36-36=72.
Watson prevailed by three strokes at 25-under 263 last year. So, if there’s a drawback to the picturesque test, it’s that those who rely on ball-striking as a premium are going to find themselves in a putting contest at times.
Warm and humid conditions are expected throughout. You can rarely rule out a raindrop in The Bahamas, but the threat is barely worth the mention. Winds could kick up a bit on the weekend, enough to cause pause if in between clubs.