That’s right, golf fans. Viktor Hovland has returned to defend his title at the Hero World Challenge.
Oh, you were thinking about Tiger Woods, huh? Well, he was scheduled to be back, too, but he withdrew on Monday due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He alerted followers on Twitter that he remains committed to his remaining pair of scheduled starts in his last month as a 46-year-old.
RELATED: The First Look
The entire field of 20 committed to the 72-hole competition at Albany in The Bahamas is ranked below. More on the construct of the week overall can be found with additional scrolling or swiping.
POWER RANKINGS: HERO WORLD CHALLENGE
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Sepp Straka 19 Cameron Young 18 Billy Horschel 17 Max Homa 16 Kevin Kisner 15 Sam Burns 14 Corey Conners 13 Sungjae Im 12 Collin Morikawa 11 Tom Kim 10 Shane Lowry 9 Xander Schauffele 8 Matt Fitzpatrick 7 Jordan Spieth 6 Tommy Fleetwood 5 Justin Thomas 4 Viktor Hovland 3 Tony Finau 2 Scottie Scheffler 1 Jon Rahm
The Hero World Challenge has been an unofficial event throughout the entirety of its existence (2000-present). However, like many of its kind, real prize money is distributed to all who qualify and compete. The total purse is $3.5 million of which $1 million is reserved for the champion and just in time for holiday shopping.
Albany has hosted the competition since 2015, although the 2020 edition was canceled due to the pandemic. It’s situated in the western reaches of New Providence Island. In an amusing coincidence for golf fans who play golf with something on the line in their weekly games, Nassau is the island’s most recognizable destination, albeit in the opposite corner.
The par 72 boasts a quintet of par 3s and par 5s each. It can extend to 7,414 yards, but even when it played 105 longer in 2021 than it tested the previous three editions, scoring was commensurate with its history at 69.475. After all, this is a heavyweight field.
Now, the differences of the scores between the highs and the lows for every round last year ranged from nine strokes (in R1) to a dozen (in both R3 and R4), and that was in relatively light winds compared to what’s in store this week. Sustained breezes no calmer than 15 mph are forecast throughout, but they’re going to intensify to as strong at 30 mph at times in the middle rounds. The TifEagle bermuda greens typically are prepped to measure 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, but as all tournaments profess, that is subject to the magnitude of the invisible challenge.
The targets average just 4,500 square feet, so that fields check in at least a couple of digits under par almost every year prove their quality. There is no cut and Official World Golf Ranking points piggyback the bank deposit, so adopting the marathon approach across four rounds has merit.
En route to the title in his debut appearance a year ago, Hovland prevailed by one at 18-under 270, thus becoming the fourth winner to land on that aggregate in the last five years. (There’s never been a playoff at Albany.) Hovland converted four eagles, three of which on the 307-yard, par-4 14th where “only” six were recorded by the entire field all week.
NOTE: Although PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf is off until the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Jan. 5-8, we will publish our Expert Picks for the Hero World Challenge on Tuesday, Nov. 29.