This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
HERO WORLD CHALLENGE
Winner's Share: $1M
FedEx Cup Points: 0
Location: New Providence, the Bahamas
Course: Albany Golf Course
2017 champion: Rickie Fowler
The past few years, the big question about the Hero World Challenge was: Will Tiger Woods play? This year, the question is: Will Tiger Woods win?
Yes, Tiger is back to his old self, winning the last official tournament he competed in, the Tour Championship. No need to bring up the Ryder Cup or The Match here (oops.) Woods is a five-time winner of the Challenge, with his last victory coming in 2011, but he has also missed the event three times, in 2008, '09 and '15. When he played last year, it was the start of his sixth comeback (and 10th overall) since his injury woes began in earnest in 2014. This is what we wrote in this space a year ago: In the five previous, we were fooled every dang time just as if we were Charlie Brown trying to kick that dang football. Could this one be different? Golfers who've seen Woods play recently say he looks great, he's hitting the driver far and his swing is far more effortless than in previous versions. Well, those golfers were proven right. Even though Woods had not played a tournament in 10 months and arrived around No. 1,200 in the OWGR, he finished ninth in last year's Hero World Challenge, "vaulting" inside the top-700. The year before, after missing some 15 months, Woods led the field in birdies, and it was only a Sunday 76 that dropped him into 15th place. So, Woods surely can win this week. And if he does? He would move from his current No. 13 ranking to No. 6, according to noted OWGR observer on Twitter, Nosferatu (@VC606).
As always, Woods has comprised – and will face – an elite field for his tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. Although only 18 deep, six of the top-10 will be on hand – No. 2 Justin Rose, No. 3 Dustin Johnson, No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 8 Jon Rahm and No. 9 Rickie Fowler – and no one is lower than No. 32 Gary Woodland. This will be only the fourth time the Albany golf course has played host to this event. The three previous champions are back: Fowler (2017), Hideki Matsuyama (2016) and Bubba Watson (2015). Almost half the field is made up of newcomers who have never played this tournament at Albany: DeChambeau, Rahm, Woodland, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay (a late replacement for Webb Simpson) and Keegan Bradley (who replaced Tommy Fleetwood). Well, since we have mentioned almost the entire field already, let's just list who's left: Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren.
The Albany course features wide fairways and smallish greens. It is a rare layout with five par-5s and five par-3s on a par-72 track. Birdies will be mandatory, and there have been lots of them through the years. Fowler and Matsuyama won at 18-under, while Watson was an eye-popping 25-under. We'll further detail how those three emerged victorious in the Champion's Profile below.
Focusing on lineup construction, there are a few things to consider. First, with only 18 golfers, every one of them will have at least moderate ownership. So, don't wrack your brain trying to find a hidden guy – no one is hidden this week. Some guys have been inactive for much of the fall, others have been busy. For instance, Reed followed up the European Tour season-finale in Dubai two weeks ago with a tournament in Hong Kong last week. Conversely, Thomas has been idle for five weeks. What we are seeing, though, is that more guys are playing more often during the fall season. The days of guys arriving at the Hero World Challenge without having played since East Lake are in the past. Lastly about lineups: Some of the golfers will take this tournament seriously, others will view it as a six-figure cash grab with a week at the beach. Some of these guys might even be a bit nervous in such an elite field.
Weather-wise, temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s and 80s, with high humidity. The wind will stiffen as the tournament progresses. While there was a strong chance of thunderstorms on Tuesday afternoon, much of the week is expected to be dry, at least until a chance of rain kicks in again on Sunday.
Key Stats to Winning at Albany
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Par-5 birdie or better percentage
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
2017 - Rickie Fowler
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama
2015 - Bubba Watson
2014 - Jordan Spieth
2013 - Zach Johnson
2012 - Graeme McDowell
2011 - Tiger Woods
2010 - Graeme McDowell
2009 - Jim Furyk
2008 - Vijay Singh
Last year, Fowler registered a whopping 30 birdies. But he shot only 18-under because he didn't notch any eagles and also had six bogeys and three doubles, one of them on a par-5. He shot 9-under on the par-5s. The year before, Matsuyama did almost all of his damage on the par-5s, going 15-under on them en route to his 18-under winning score. He totaled 22 birdies and two eagles. You'd think Watson would've had the most birdies by a wide margin, but he had only 27 to go along with two eagles. He was able to score so low because he was almost bogey-free on the week. Watson was only 13-under on the par-5s. There is no rough at Albany, but wayward drives will land the golfers in the native area. Sometimes that's trouble, but oftentimes it's just fine. Fowler had trouble keeping the ball straight – at least until Sunday, when he ran away from the field by shooting an 11-under 61. With a field this small, any in-form golfer who takes this week seriously and isn't too starstruck has a chance to win. Unfamiliarity with the Albany course should not be a big issue for newcomers.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Justin Rose - $11,100 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
Rose finished fifth here a year ago, toward the beginning of a surge that has continued to this day. He's in the top-10 often and in contention more weeks than not, and with a three-way tie for second or better in the Bahamas, Rose can recapture the No. 1 ranking he keeps swapping with Brooks Koepka.
Tiger Woods - $10,300 (9-1)
Woods has likely already put his match with Phil Mickelson in the rear-view mirror. But if nothing else, it got him somewhat close to tournament golf a week before the Hero World Challenge. As we mentioned, Woods played well for the most part here the past two years, and he surely would like to send a message to everyone that he will be even better in 2019 than he was in 2018.
Rickie Fowler - $9,800 (8-1)
Fowler won here last year and was third the two previous years, so he obviously comes to play. And isn't it just like Fowler to win a tournament that's not really a tournament, at least not in the eyes of the PGA Tour?
Justin Thomas - $9,200 (9-1)
Thomas had a sniff of No. 1 earlier this season, but has been bypassed by three guys and now sits at No. 4. If he wants to regain the top spot, this would be a good place to start, where his long game can eat up the par-5s. Thomas didn't do that a year ago, when he even bogeyed two of the par-5s while finishing 11th.
Tier 2 Values
Patrick Reed - $7,100 (18-1)
One thing we know for sure about Reed is, he always comes to play. And he surely wants to stick it to some of his Ryder Cup teammates for his perceived mistreatment (granted, Jordan Spieth and Jim Furyk aren't around, but Reed takes what he can get). Reed has played well here the past three years: fifth, 10th and runner-up to Bubba Watson.
Patrick Cantlay - $6,700 (20-1)
We think Cantlay will take this week seriously – since he appears to take everything seriously. Hey, Patrick, lighten up! But, seriously, Cantlay often plays well in elite fields. He was top-25 at The Players and the Open Championship, and just outside that at the PGA. And while he's been idle for a few weeks, he notched top-10s in his past two starts, one of them at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Gary Woodland - $6,300 (25-1)
Woodland had a torrid stretch of high finishes broken his last time out at Mayakoba. Before that, he had nine top-10s in 10 starts. Woodland of course hits the ball far, and he's also very accurate. So even though his putting is not top-notch he should be able to feast on Albany's quintet of par-5s.
Keegan Bradley - $6,200 (30-1)
Bradley and Woodland are the two guys at the very bottom of the DraftKings board. Anyone could get hot at the right moment and soar up the leaderboard, so we'll take a flyer on some cheap options, allowing us to load up at the top with Rose, Woods, etc. Besides, Bradley should be well suited for this track, with his solid tee-to-green game. And as we've mentioned in this space before, his putting has been getting better. He is ranked 10th on the young season in putting average. And there are no worries about missed cuts this week; everybody plays four rounds.