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
2021 champion: Viktor Hovland
December is normally the one month of the year when golf is on the back burner, even among the most diehard of golf fans. But that's not the case this year. Why? Two words: Tiger Woods.
We were about to embark on a three-week stretch of Woods appearances -- The Tiger Swing? -- which would've matched how many times we've seen him so far in all of 2022. But on Monday, Woods announced he would not be playing in the first of those three events, his own Hero World Challenge, because of plantar fasciitis. He said he still plans to play in the latest iteration of The Match -- Woods and Rory McIlroy vs. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas -- on Dec. 10 and then perhaps the most anticipated event of the three. Woods will team with his 13-year-old son Charlie Woods for the third time in the PNC Championship, a two-day father-son tournament on Dec. 17-18. DraftKings will have games for the Hero World Challenge but not for the other two. Still, seeing Woods even with no games, at a time when no one knew how much we'd ever see him play golf again, is a gift.
Woods played in the Masters (T47) , the PGA Championship (WD) and then the Open Championship (MC) and that's been it for him in 2022. He was planning to walk in the 72-hole Hero, which would've been challenging even without plantar fasciitis as he continues to recover from last year's auto accident. The Match will be only 12 holes and the PNC event will be 36, and he will likely drive during both.
As unfortunate as it is to not have Woods playing, he always makes sure this 20-man, no-cut tournament is filled with A-list golfers.
Seventeen of the top-23 OWGR will be on hand. Of the six missing, world No. 1 McIlroy and No. 4 Patrick Cantlay took a pass and No. 7 Will Zalatoris and No. 19 Hideki Matsuyama are injured. As for No. 3 Cameron Smith and No. 22 Joaquin Niemann, um, well, let's just say their invitations sent to LIV headquarters got lost in the mail.
Not to get too far off track, but since someone just brought up LIV, Greg Norman has been teasing that more big-name guys are headed that way after New Year's. It's hard to fathom that anyone playing in Tiger's tournament would turn around a few weeks later and exit the PGA Tour. It would be a huge show of disrespect to Woods, and it's hard to believe any golfer would be so bold to publicly embarrass him. McIlroy of course would never go, and Zalatoris and Matsuyama have said they won't. The one weak link among the top 25 in the world therefore might be Cantlay, whose name has been bandied about in the LIV universe. Cantlay's best bud Xander Schauffele is entered in this week's event and, while it's possible for them to go their separate ways, that seems unlikely.
Okay, that's it for the Woods/LIV preamble.
The Hero is a quirky event, which never makes lineup construction easy. We wonder how hard everyone actually tries to win in this island paradise, especially just a week after Thanksgiving. Oh, maybe once the tournament gets going the competitive spirit kicks in, but it's not like preparing for a major or even a regular PGA Tour event. Often, golfers return from weeks or even months off to play. It has always been a bit of a cash grab. But more than cash, it has been an OWGR points grab. Yes, this is an OWGR-sanctioned event, something that no doubt rankles the LIV bots on Twitter. We're not a fan of very valuable OWGR points being handed out to the top golfers just for showing up -- the rich getting richer -- but at least with the OWGR system recently being overhauled, this small-field tournament will not generate anywhere near the number of points it used to.
Since there are only 20 guys, let's run down the field: No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, No. 5 Jon Rahm, No. 6 Schauffele, No. 8 Thomas, No. 9 Matt Fitzpatrick, No. 10 Collin Morikawa, No. 11 Tony Finau, No. 12 and defending champion Viktor Hovland, No. 13 Sam Burns, No. 14 Spieth, No. 15 Tom Kim, No. 16 Max Homa, No. 17 Billy Horschel, No. 18 Cameron Young -- who was seriously rumored over the summer to be LIV-bound -- No. 20 Shane Lowry, No. 21 Sungjae Im. No. 23 Tommy Fleetwood, No. 29 Sepp Straka (who replaced Woods in the field), No. 31 Kevin Kisner and No. 33 Corey Conners (who replaced Matsuyama).
Seven guys have never played this event before: Kim, Homa, Young, Lowry, Im, Straka and Conners, but that shouldn't hurt them at all. Hovland won in his debut last year, as did Rahm in 2018.
The Ernie Els design is a rare layout with five par-5s and five par-3s. There are only three par-4s on the front-nine. Weird, huh? Albany features wide fairways and Bermudagrass greens averaging only 4,500 square feet. The golfers have talked about the tight lies around the greens, so getting on the putting surface from the fairway is especially important. But it's no easy task with the small greens. There are three water hazards and, often, plenty of wind. Three of the par-5s are over 590 yards and four of the par-3s are over 190. Yet the scores are always high, with 18-under winning it four of the past five times. The tournament record at Albany is 25-under, set by Bubba Watson in 2015. The golfers have talked about having to do the bulk of the scoring on seven holes -- the five par-5s and two of the par-4s, the semi-drivable 366-yard 7th and the definitely drivable 307-yard 14th (Hovland eagled the 14th three times last year).
Focusing on lineup construction, there are a few things to consider. First, there are only 19 golfers, not 20, since Straka replaced Woods after DraftKings released its prices. So every guy will have at least moderate ownership. Don't go crazy 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. Thirteen of the 20 guys have played at least once over the past month. The other seven are Schauffele, Thomas, Spieth, Homa, Young, Im and Woods. But even that shouldn't be too much of a consideration. Really, at least 15 guys have at least a shot at winning this tournament.
Weather-wise, high temperatures will be around 80 all week and, while showers are forecast for the practice days, it should be dry Thursday to Sunday. The key factor will be the wind. After moderate wind for Round 1, it could be pretty gusty at 20-plus mph the finals three days.
Key Stats to Winning at Albany
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-5 Scoring
• Birdie Average
2021 - Viktor Hovland (Albany)
2020 - None
2019 - Henrik Stenson (Albany)
2018 - Jon Rahm (Albany)
2017 - Rickie Fowler (Albany)
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama (Albany)
2015 - Bubba Watson (Albany)
2014 - Jordan Spieth
2013 - Zach Johnson
2012 - Graeme McDowell
Hovland, Stenson, Fowler and Matsuyama all shot 18-under; Rahm shot 20-under. Hovland shot only a combine 7-under-par on the 20 total par-5s, but he eagled the short par-14th three times. Stenson totaled 19 birdies and two eagles and played the par-5s in 8-under. But that's nothing compared to what happened in prior years. Rahm notched 25 birdies -- more than one-third of the holes -- and played the par-5s in 13-under. Fowler registered a whopping 30 birdies. But he shot only 18-under because he had six bogeys and three doubles, one of them on a par-5. He shot 9-under on the par-5s. Neither Rahm nor Fowler had an eagle all week. In 2016, Matsuyama did almost all of his damage on the par-5s, going 15-under on them en route to his 18-under. He totaled 22 birdies and two eagles. To summarize, the 20 total par-5s go a long way in determining who wins. 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. With a field this small, any golfer on form who takes this week seriously has a chance to win. Unfamiliarity with the Albany course should not be a big issue for the six newcomers, seeing as Hovland and Rahm won in their debut.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $10,700 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +600)
Rahm is coming off a win at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, during which he whined about the new OWGR metrics. He didn't move up at all from No. 5 in the world after winning in Dubai. So let's just assume Rahm arrived in the Bahamas with a bit of chip on his shoulder. Of course, he's shown he can win here, as he did in 2018. He then was runner-up in 2019.
Tony Finau - $9,300 (+1100)
Finau got back in action a month ago after a long layoff. He impressively won the Houston Open in his second start back, giving him three wins in his past seven starts. He's the hottest player in the world right now. Finau ranked T14 on the PGA Tour in par-5 scoring last season, and his putting continues to improve. This will be Finau's fourth Hero -- he was seventh last year and second to Rahm in 2018.
Viktor Hovland - $8,700 (+1400)
Hovland is really good at winning outside of the United States. About a year ago, he won three times in short order at Mayakoba, the Hero and then in Dubai last January. We all know about his great ball-striking, and his putting is vastly improved. Hovland succeeded here last year by being able to in large part eliminate scrambling from his repertoire. As mentioned above, he eagled the short par-4 14th three times last year -- drive, putt, in the hole. Curiously, he bogeyed the hole the other time but the 14th is where Hovland won the tournament.
Matt Fitzpatrick - $8,300 (+1400)
Not only did Fitzpatrick continue to play well on the PGA Tour after winning the U.S. Open, he now has kept it going in Europe in the fall. He was runner-up at the Italian Open and most recently tied for fifth at the DP World Tour Championship. There is no weakness in his game, and he ranked 10th on Tour last season in par-5 scoring. Fitzpatrick finished 12th in his Hero debut a year ago; he's a far better golfer now.
Tier 2 Values
Tommy Fleetwood - $7,300 (+1800)
Fleetwood is back for the first time since his Albany debut in 2017, when he was third behind winner Rickie Fowler. After a very lean period during the pandemic, Fleetwood has refound his game. Since the summer, he has five worldwide top-5s, including his first win in three years at a DP World Tour event in South Africa earlier this month. He recently returned to the top-25 in the world rankings for first time in about a year and a half.
Cameron Young - $6,700 (+1200)
This will be Young's Hero debut. Even though he belongs in this eliete field, with a ranking of No. 18 in the world, the 25-year-old might still be a little wide-eyed alongside all these greats of the game and might take this week more seriously than most. Young is a very aggessive player and who hits it a ton, and that dovetails nicely with what works well at Albany. He ranked sixth on Tour last season in birdie average.
Tom Kim - $6,500 (+2500)
Kim's rise has been meteoric. Much like Young, while deserving of a spot in this field, the 20-year-old should come to play this week to further prove himself. Our biggest concern with Kim this week is not his golf game -- it works on any course -- but how star struck he might be. However, he appears to be one more of the levelheaded 20-year-olds you'll ever seen in sports.
Kevin Kisner - $6,000 (+6000)
There are only 20 guys in the field, and any one of them could win. Even the guy dead last on the DK board, which Kisner is. And if there's anyone who will be low owned, it might be Kisner. He clearly is one of the weakest golfers in the field, but with the small field and the cheap price, we think it's a great place to take a gamble and allow yourself to spend more cash on the other five guys. Kisner ranked a not-too-shabby T64 in par-5 scoring last season. This will be his third Hero. He was seventh in 2019 and 12th in 2017, and we'd take both of those finishes this time around.
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