Post by: Mike Philipps
For the second straight year, the eyes of the sporting world fall on the Bahamas and the Hero World Challenge, as golf’s biggest icon looks to kick off his return to greatness. Tiger Woods’ return to professional golf after a 10-month layoff due to another back surgery has again made an event in December arguably the most exciting one of the year. At the very least, it will be the most talked about, as Woods hopes his comeback fares far better than last year’s attempt.
Held at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California for 14 years, this will be the third straight year that Albany (par 72, 7,267 yds) in New Providence, Bahamas serves as the venue. Results from the Hero World Challenge do not count towards the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup or the European Tour’s Race to Dubai or any money earned rankings, but there is still plenty to play for. The total purse ($3.5 million) is only about half the size of ones of regular Tour stops, but with nearly eight times fewer players. The event also earns points towards the Official World Golf Rankings.
Bet on the 2017 Hero World Challenge Online at:
2017 Hero World Challenge Betting Odds
The best golf betting sites have published the 2017 Hero World Challenge odds and once again, we see familiar faces at the top of the list. The return of Tiger Woods has not done much to impact the odds as he is priced at the bottom of the list pretty much across the board.
The following tables compare the odds for each player to win outright across three major golf bookmakers. As always, the purpose here is to make comparing the odds easy so you can get the best price for your top picks.
Odds from the Best International Bookmakers
Odds from the Best USA-Friendly Betting Sites
Top Picks and Preview
The field’s invitation list is determined almost entirely on merit. The year’s major champions, the event’s defending champion and the top 11 available players from the Official World Golf Rankings are invited. Add in two special exemptions and you have quite an impressive list of names. With such a small, accomplished field, there won’t be any categories for this week’s preview. There are seven first-time players this week. Below is a breakdown of each player.
- World Golf Ranking: 1199
- What to like: The name. And the memories of arguably the most dominant player the game has ever seen. But that’s really it. Unless you’re putting a lot of faith in what you’ve been seeing on social media. All that said, just his presence is the biggest reason people are paying attention this week.
- What not to like: Tiger’s troubles have been well-documented. Simply put, he hasn’t been healthy for a long time and will certainly be rusty. Finishing the event healthy will be a success in its own rite.
- At the Hero World Challenge: It seems only fitting that Tiger would dominate an event associated with his foundation. He has won it five times in 14 starts since 1999, most recently in 2011. From 2000 to 2011, Tiger finished either 1st or 2nd in 10 of his 11 starts. He finished 15th last year, but he gave everyone a thrill with a near flawless 65 in the second round. Unfortunately, while he made a lot of birdies the rest of the way, he made more mistakes, especially during a final-round 76.
- Last event: Woods’ back problems reared their ugly head again in February, when back spasms caused him to withdraw from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He carded an opening-round 77 before succumbing to the injury.
- World Golf Ranking: 1
- What to like: Johnson followed up his PGA Tour Player of the Year season with an arguably even stronger performance in 2016-17. He set a career-high in wins with four and in money earned with nearly $10 million. He led the PGA Tour in three Strokes Gained categories – Off-the-Tee, Tee-to-Green and Total.
- What not to like: Watching Johnson collapse on Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions was not a good thing to see, but the World No. 1 is still a dominant force and capable of overpowering any course.
- At the Hero World Challenge: After an average finish of 16th (in an 18-man field) in his previous four starts at the Hero World Challenge, Johnson broke through with a T-3 finish last year. He held a share of the 36-hole lead after firing a pair of 66s to open, but played the weekend in just one-under-par to fall off the pace.
- Last event: Johnson looked poised to add another WGC title to his resume at the WGC-HSBC Champions in October – he held a five-shot lead going into Sunday – but a final-round 77 opened the door for Justin Rose, and DJ had to settle for a T-2.
- World Golf Ranking: 2
- What to like: For the third straight season, Spieth won at least three worldwide tournaments, highlighted by his exhilarating victory at the Open Championship. Spieth also finished his season by placing in the top seven in all four FedEx Cup Playoff events. He ranked in the top two on the PGA Tour in three Strokes Gained categories – Approach-the-Green (1st), Tee-to-Green (2nd) and Total (2nd).
- What not to like: As with nearly every tournament he plays, the 24-year-old Spieth will have the pressure of being one of the favorites this week, but he’s been dealing with that burden for years already.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Spieth has placed in the top six each of the last three years at the Hero World Challenge, winning in 2014 at Isleworth. He finished T-6 last year, but looked to be a prime contender before a double bogey on the last hole of the second round killed his momentum.
- Last event: Spieth carded a final-round 67, thanks to an eagle on the 18th hole, to finish in solo eighth place at the 102nd Emirates Australian Open. Despite 10 bogeys for the week, Spieth carded four rounds of par or better.
- World Golf Ranking: 6
- What to like: Rose has been on a tear lately. He’s finished in the top-four in three of his last four starts, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Turkish Airlines Open since late October. Going back to the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Rose has collected eight straight top-10s, lifting him to No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings.
- What not to like: If you look at things cynically, you could assume a stretch of prolonged high finishes such as Rose’s has to come to an end soon. Nothing else suggests that Rose will slow down.
- At the Hero World Challenge: In his two prior starts at the Hero World Challenge, Rose finished in 13th and a tie for 6th.
- Last event: Rose carded three rounds of 68 and a 69 to earn a T-10 at the UBS Hong Kong Open last week.
- World Golf Ranking: 3
- What to like: Thomas is the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year after winning five times and collecting his first major victory and his first FedEx Cup. He already has a win on the ledger for 2017-18, too. Not bad for the 24-year-old Kentuckian.
- What not to like: Thomas hasn’t played in the event before, and first-timers tend to struggle a bit. Thomas has proven to be a pretty quick learner, though.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Thomas plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Thomas got right back to his winning ways, taking home the trophy at The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in October. He came out on fire, carding an opening-round 63, but had to hold on to get into a playoff, eventually defeating Marc Leishman on the second hole of sudden death.
- World Golf Ranking: 5
- What to like: Going back to the 2016 PGA Championship, Matsuyama has finished in the top five in nearly half of the 34 events he has played. Six of those 15 top-fives have been victories, including at last year’s Hero World Challenge.
- What not to like: Matsuyama has set such a high standard, that despite fifth-place finishes in two of his last three starts, his results over the past three months have been disappointing. He struggled in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, with a T-23 as his best finish.
- At the Hero World Challenge: After struggling in his first two appearances, Matsuyama nearly ran away from the field in his victory last year. He fired rounds of 65, 67 and 65 to take a seven-shot lead into Sunday. Even with a final-round 73, Matsuyama secured a two-shot win over Henrik Stenson.
- Last event: Matsuyama finished fifth at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament of the Japan Golf Tour. Don’t let the tour name fool you – he finished behind Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. He carded three rounds under 70 for the week.
- World Golf Ranking: 7
- What to like: Koepka has his game in tip-top shape in the early going this season. After finishing T-2 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, he went to Japan and dominated the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament to earn his ninth career win as a pro. Could Koepka be the player to break through with a dominant early season run in 2017-18 like Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama did last year?
- What not to like: Koepka seems to have everything working right now. Not much to dislike here.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Koepka will be making his third-straight start in the Hero World Challenge. He finished seventh and T-13 in his first two starts.
- Last event: Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament of the Japan Golf Tour, besting Xander Schuaffele and Matsuyama in the process. The reigning U.S. Open had everything clicking, running away from the field for a nine-shot victory after rounds of 65, 68, 64 and 67.
- World Golf Ranking: 9
- What to like: Fowler is coming off a statistically outstanding 2016-17 season. He ranked in the top 40 of all six Strokes Gained categories, including being second in Putting and fourth in Total Strokes Gained. Those numbers helped him earn a win for the third straight season and rank fourth on the PGA Tour in top-10s with 10.
- What not to like: Fowler is consistently in contention, but has trouble closing. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Fowler has collected 13 top-fives, but converted just two into victories. Six times in his career he has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead, but only managed to win two of them.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Fowler has never finished lower than sixth in his previous five starts at the Hero World Challenge. Since the event moved to Albany, he’s earned a pair of third-place finishes.
- Last event: Fowler has just one start this season, a runner-up finish at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. While it was an excellent result, it feels like a missed opportunity, as he was outplayed by Patton Kizzire, a previously winless player on Tour, in the final round. Still, a 65 and three 67s is an excellent start to 2017-18.
- World Golf Ranking: 8
- What to like: Stenson finished second at last year’s Hero World Challenge and already has a second-place result under his belt in 2017-18 (WGC-HSBC Champions). When his tee-to-green game is on, he is a major threat to move up one spot from last year.
- What not to like: 2016-17 was a bit of a down year for the 41-year-old Swede. His top-five, top-10 and top-25 percentages were all the lowest they’ve been in five years. Stenson also injured a rib a few weeks ago during a “unique” photo shoot involving him being suspended in the air whilst wearing a superhero cape. That stunt caused him to withdraw from two events at the end of last season.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Stenson has played the Hero World Challenge four times, and he’s never finished lower then fifth. His last two starts, 2014 and 2016, have each resulted in runner-up finishes. Last year, in his only official event at Albany, Stenson fired three rounds of 68 or better to finish at 16-under-par.
- Last event: Stenson finished T-35 at the Turkish Airlines Open despite a third-round 66.
- World Golf Ranking: 18
- What to like: Fleetwood had a breakthrough 2016-17 season, and thanks to his six worldwide top-six finishes, it was capped off by winning the season-long Race to Dubai. He doubled his career win total to four by winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the HNA Open de France.
- What not to like: Not a lot to dislike about the 26-year-old Fleetwood right now. His big season has proven he belongs in a field like this, and his current streak of seven straight top-25s shows that he’s playing well.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Fleetwood plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Fleetwood fired four rounds in the sixties at the UBS Hong Kong Open, finishing at nine-under-par, which was good for solo ninth place.
- World Golf Ranking: 15
- What to like: Kuchar has no real weaknesses in his game – he ranked in the top 70 on the PGA Tour in all six Strokes Gained categories – helping him earn five top-fives and five more top-10s last season. He played in best in the majors, finishing in the top 16 in all four.
- What not to like: Kuchar has yet to crack the top 25 in either of his two starts this season, and he has really struggled off the tee. He ranks 181st on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 199th in Driving Distance.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Kuchar has the longest streak of consecutive starts in the Hero World Challenge of anyone in the field, making his eighth straight start this week. He has three top-four finishes during that time – including a T-3 last year – but also has 14th and 18th place finishes on his resume.
- Last event: Kuchar collected four rounds of 69 or better, but that was only good enough for a T-29 finish at the RSM Classic.
- World Golf Ranking: 23
- What to like: Reed finished 2016-17 on a high note, earning a T-2 at the PGA Championship and a T-6 at the Dell Technologies Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He finished the season 7th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. Reed also has a strong record in his starts at the Hero World Challenge.
- What not to like: It appears that Reed is making a habit of getting off to slow starts in the new season. He finished T-50 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and missed the cut at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
- At the Hero World Challenge: Reed has a pair of top-three finishes in three career starts at the Hero World Challenge. Last year he finished in solo 10th place.
- Last event: Reed took the first-round lead at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai with an opening-round 65, but fell back after a second-round 72. He played the weekend in eight-under-par to move back into the top 10 (T-10).
- World Golf Ranking: 25
- What to like: Kisner set career-highs in Cuts Made (25), top-10s (8) and top-25s (12) last season. He also got his second career PGA Tour win at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational.
- What not to like: Kisner did not finish last season on a strong note. He placed T-42 or worse in four of his last five starts.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Kisner plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Kisner got his 2017-18 off to a great start, finishing T-4 at the RSM Classic. He carded four rounds of 68 or better to finish at 14-under-par, highlighted by a 65 on Saturday. He ranked fourth in the field in Total Putts for the week.
- World Golf Ranking: 28
- What to like: For the second straight season, Berger amassed a win and five more top-10s on the PGA Tour. He ranked in the top 20 in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (12th) and Total Strokes Gained(19th). At just 24 years old, he’s one of the best young players in the game.
- What not to like: Berger hasn’t placed in the top 10 since mid-July, a stretch of nine events. His average result was 33rd place, with a missed cut, during that span.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Berger plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Berger opened with a round of 68 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but couldn’t break 70 the final three rounds, finishing at two-under-par, good for a tie for 24th.
- World Golf Ranking: 27
- What to like: Hoffman is coming off arguably the best season of his career, setting new personal bests in money earned, top-fives, top-25s and cuts made. At 40 years old, he made his first-ever international team event, participating in the United States’ lopsided Presidents Cup victory.
- What not to like: Since second- and third-place finishes in back-to-back weeks in August, Hoffman’s results have really fallen off. His average result in his last seven starts is 31st place with a missed cut.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Hoffman plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Hoffman missed the cut at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba by three shots, failing to break par either day.
- World Golf Ranking: 17
- What to like: Since 2016, Noren has five worldwide wins and nine more top-10s. He rocketed up the World Golf Rankings, going from 110th to a peak of eighth (July 2017) in just 26 events.
- What not to like: Noren seemed to come out of nowhere in 2015-16, and last year he had difficulty backing it up. He dropped from fifth to 49th on the European Tour in Scoring Average and went from 18th to 128th in GIR Percentage.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Noren plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Noren broke 70 just once at the DP World Tour Championship, finishing T-45, 16 shots out of the lead.
- World Golf Ranking: 21
- What to like: Molinari had his best season as a pro in terms of money earned, breaking the $4 million barrier for the first time in his career. He made the top 25 in 17 of 27 events he played, including three top-four finishes. He ranked in the top seven of the PGA Tour in three Strokes Gained categories – Approach-the-Green (3rd), Tee-to-Green (4th) and Total (7th). Known as one of the most accurate players in the game, Molinari also ranked sixth in Driving Accuracy.
- What not to like: Molinari has played enough rounds on the PGA Tour to qualify for the Strokes Gained categories in each of the last three years. He has yet to crack the top 100 in Strokes Gained: Putting during that time.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Molinari plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Molinari finished T-17 at the DP World Tour Championship after firing a pair of 68s on the weekend, moving his total to 12-under-par.
- World Golf Ranking: 32
- What to like: Chappell had a lot of firsts last season, most notably his first PGA Tour win and his first Presidents Cup term berth. His play from tee to green has been his strength, and that part of his game seems to be in good order. He ranks in the top 14 on the PGA Tour in four Strokes Gained categories so far this season, including second in Tee-to-Green and sixth in Off-the-Tee.
- What not to like: While Chappell’s ball striking has been excellent in the early going, his flat stick has not. He ranks 202nd on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting and ranked 160th or worse each of the two prior seasons.
- At the Hero World Challenge: This will be the first time Chappell plays the Hero World Challenge.
- Last event: Chappell missed the cut at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba after a second-round 77
Notable players NOT in the field: Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy
Past winners of the event in the field: Matsuyama, Spieth, Woods (5
Major winners in the field: D. Johnson, Koepka, Rose, Spieth (3), Stenson, Thomas, Woods (14)