This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Hero World Challenge
Course: Albany Golf Course (7,309 yards, par 72)
After being cancelled last season due to COVID-19, the Hero World Challenge returns for the 22nd edition and the sixth time since moving to the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas. The field size was expanded by two this season from 18 to 20 players who will compete for a $3,500,000 prize fund with the winner receiving a cool $1,000,000. This is not an official PGA Tour event, so there will be no FedExCup points, but OWGR points will be available.
The field is absolutely loaded this week featuring 18 of the top-27 in the OWGR. Only Albany member Justin Rose and defending champion Henrik Stenson are outside the top 30 in the OWGR. Collin Morikawa comes into the Hero World Challenge fresh off a victory at the DP World Tour Championship to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai. He was able to hold off Rory McIlory, who is coming off a recent win at the CJ Cup and will be teeing it up in the Bahamas. Both Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who competed in "The Match" last Friday are teeing it up this week as well. 2014 Hero World Challenge Champion Jordan Spieth is making his first start since become a father a few weeks ago. Spieth and Stenson are the only former champions of this event in the field.
The weather appears to be pretty consistent for this week's tournament. Temperatures should reach into the upper-70's all four rounds with sustain winds likely to be between 10-15 miles per hour throughout the duration of the event. Precipitation in not expected to be a factor, but the proximity to the ocean may lead to challenging wind gusts for the 20-man field to have to navigate over the course of four rounds.
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- Birdie Average
- SG: Putting
It's expected that we should get another shootout this week. Albany features five par-3's and five par-5's along with a couple of other short par-4's. Depending on wind direction, all of the par-5's can be reached in two shots. That extra par-3 as well should put even more emphasis on iron play. There isn't much rough at all, as the main defense of the course will be sandy areas, water, and wind. Because of the close proximity of sandy areas and water off some of these tees, it's not necessarily a course where you can just wail away. Precision will be needed, but power will definitely be rewarded as well. In five prior trips to Albany, there has been just one time in which the scoring average for the field did not break 70. That was in 2017 when Rickie Fowler prevailed by four strokes. Bermudagrass greens are set to run around 12 on the Stimpmeter, which is similar to recent tests such as Houston and Sea Island.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas ($11,200)
We last saw Thomas scoring a solo third-place finish a few weeks back at Mayakoba. He hasn't putted great in his two starts this year, but his ball striking has remained extremely strong. Thomas ranks 11th in SG: Approach and fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green. He is also first in birdie average and the last time he played at Albany he scored a top-5 finish.
Rory McIlroy ($11,000)
McIlroy has shaken off his disappointing showing at the Ryder Cup with two very strong performances. He picked up his second win of 2021 at the CJ Cup and then was in control for much of the way at the DP World Tour Championship before fading to a T6. Something is obviously clicking for McIlroy as he makes his Albany debut on a course that demands you to be strong with your driver.
Jordan Spieth ($10,400)
Spieth is going to a nice place to make his first start since becoming a father. In four career starts at Albany he has finished top-6 three times. Spieth isn't the driver some of some other players on this list are, but that part of his game has taken the biggest step forward in 2021. His combination of iron play and putting should allow him to rack up a ton of par-breakers in this projected shootout.
Viktor Hovland ($10,200)
Albany just feels like a place where Hovland should really excel at. The Oklahoma State product is one of the top-five best drivers in the world right now and has shown great touch with the short irons over the last handful of months. Hovland ranks fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee, second in total driving, third in GIR percentage, and second in birdie average this season. He is coming off a successful title defense at Mayakoba in his last start.
Longer Shots with Value
Sam Burns ($9,500)
Burns has been arguably the best player during the fall portion of the PGA Tour schedule. He scored a win at the Sanderson Farms Championship then followed that up with finishes of T14,T5, and T7. The 25-year-old is 15th in SG: Off-the-Tee, fourth in SG: Approach, first in SG: Tee-to-Green, and fifth in birdie average this season. Burns is looking to impress in this elite field and show that he deserves to be mentioned among the best game.
Daniel Berger ($9,000)
Nobody in this 20-man field enters fresher than Berger, who has had some much deserved time off after helping the U.S. to a Ryder Cup victory. Berger has been so consistent the last couple years. He hasn't missed a cut on the PGA Tour since the Masters. That same stretch also includes six top-15 finishes. The Florida State product ranked fifth in SG: Approach, 14th in SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh in GIR percentage, and 16th in birdie average last season.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($8,600)
Fitzpatrick has stayed very busy on the last few months, a stretch which includes a win at Valderrama and a T2 two weeks ago at the DP World Tour Championship to finish 2021 fourth in the Race to Dubai. The Englishman should have no issues bringing that momentum into Albany where his accurate driving, elite short game, and hot putter will play beautifully.
Henrik Stenson ($8,000)
Stenson is a very sneaky play this week. Yes, he is easily the lowest-ranked golfer in terms of OWGR, but he also easily has the best record of anyone in the field at Albany. Along with his win last time here in 2019, Stenson finished runner-up in 2016 and solo fourth in 2018. The Swede is also not that far removed from a nice T4-3-T15-T30 stretch on the European Tour.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
These type of events are always tough to play because it's in the middle of a lot of players offseason, it's not an official PGA Tour event, and it's a very laid back atmosphere. It makes gauging the players who are focused and near the top of their game difficult. I think for the most part it will be easiest to lean on players who have shown form during the fall or who have ample experience around Albany. This is also the strongest field we see all season from top-to-bottom, meaning that player 1-20 could very easily find themselves holding the beautiful Tiger trophy this week. There will be no shortages on ways to construct a roster. Two players I would stay away from this week and the two players we saw compete last week at "The Match". Bryson DeChambeau has not played well at Albany in two tries and that's because his wild driving can get him in trouble off the tee, while Brooks Koepka has gone T67-T38-MC-MC this fall.