After a load of turkey was consumed last week, an invite-only field of 20 golfers will look to walk off the pounds this week in The Bahamas, for the Hero World Challenge.
The annual exhibition is hosted by the TGR Foundation, and we may even see a Tiger appearance before the week is over.
While the event doesn't earn any FedExCup or Race to Dubai points, it does count in the Official World Golf Rankings. There is also a hefty chunk of change up for grabs, to go along with the free OWGR points.
This week's host venue is Albany in The Bahamas.
This Ernie Els design looks like a creation you might find in a video game. Extremely well-manicured with unique desert, links terrain.
Jumping right into the scorecard, we see a par 72 that stretches to 7,414 yards from the tips. It's a unique setup with five par 3s and five par 5s.
On a hole-by-hole view, there are three of the par 5s play over 590 yards while the other two play under 575 yards.
In addition to feasting on the par 5s, you also need to take advantage of the 366-yard, par-4 7th and the 307-yard, par-4 14th. Those seven holes account for seven of the eight "scoring holes" at Albany with the other being the par-4 first hole which plays about a quarter of a stroke under-par, as well.
Off the tee, big hitters can have a field day here because the fairways are relatively generous although water does come into play on three to five holes. However, when you are talking about a course with five par 5s and two drivable par 4s, you have to give the big hitters a long look.
On approach, golfers will see small targets, putting an emphasis on iron play. You don't want to be missing a lot of greens here because the tight, grainy lies are tough to chip off.
While I described the terrain as desert, links, the grass is far from true links. Golfers will see bermudagrass at Albany with relatively speedy greens, by coastal course standards.
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Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jon Rahm: "Like I said every day after the round, if you can capitalize on the five par 5s and the two drivable par 4s, which I did all of them today, you have a chance. "
Justin Thomas: "It’s not like it’s a course where you have to be perfect, it’s pretty generous off the tees. Obviously it can get windy and some crosswinds, but I expected him to play well in terms of a number. "
Jordan Spieth: "it’s because we’re used to perfectly manicured and this is, it’s just real sparse around the greens. It becomes like some spots it’s almost like chipping off mud. This type of Bermuda and where we’re located, it just doesn’t grow as full as other spots....But yeah, I think it’s as difficult because us high-maintenance golfers get a course that’s not quite perfectly manicured and you get some kind of weird lies around the greens. "
Bubba Watson: "The first time I saw the course and I looked at Teddy and I said, I can’t play here. I mean, it’s too windy, the greens are really small, and then the wind died down a little bit."
Bill Haas: "I do like the fairways, they’re generous off the tee, and I do like the greens being small which puts an emphasis on hitting a good iron shot and the greens surfaces are excellent."
Overview: The golfers talk about the generous fairways and difficulty that can be found inside of 100 yards if you find the waste areas or other tricky lies.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 78 degrees. Winds at 11 to 16 MPH
Friday: Overcast with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 11 to 15 MPH.
As you would expect from a coastal course, there is never a "calm day" this week with winds forecasted around 10 to 15 MPH for the entire week.
Golfers to Watch
If you are looking for a course horse, you might want Jon Rahm or Rickie Fowler. Neither are in the field, so perhaps Reed will catch your eye. He's finished 5th or better in three of his five trips to Albany while it's also of course the infamous spot where he was accused of moving sand.
Sticking with course history for a minute, Stenson has finished 4th or better in three of his four appearances here and he arrives as the defending champ from the 2019-20 edition. The problem with Stenson is that he's posted just two top 10s worldwide since the start of the 2020 calendar year.
The youngster is getting his first look at Albany but should be able to really feast on the par 5s here (13th on TOUR in par-5 scoring last year). On the flip side, his par-3 scoring is very mediocre (82nd on TOUR last year). For fantasy purposes, his hole-by-hole scoring on the par 5s should drivable par 4s should make up for whatever he gives back on the par 3s. The tricky, bermuda lies around the greens may also cause him issues, as someone who can be very boom or bust around the greens. So, there are a few concerns but he does have some of the highest upside potential in the entire field.
The big hitter looks like his old self again lately. He won THE CJ CUP and then looked like he was going to win the DP World Tour Championship as well before fading on Sunday and hulking out to ruin his shirt out of frustration along the way. If we get that same McIlroy that we've seen over the last two events then it could be a huge bounceback year for the Ulsterman who had a down year by his lofty standards.
As a Bahamas resident, Stenson has feasted here over the years and Rose has started to cash in on that same local knowledge in recent years. After a 13th and WD to open his career at Albany, he's rebounded with three straight top 5s at this event. The Englishman has dropped to 47th in the OWGR so he could really use a big week to make sure he stays inside that top 50 for as long as possible.
Ranking the Field
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Justin Thomas
3. Collin Morikawa
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Viktor Hovland
6. Xander Schauffele
7. Bryson DeChambeau
8. Sam Burns
9. Scottie Scheffler
10. Daniel Berger
11. Webb Simpson
12. Tyrrell Hatton
13. Tony Finau
14. Abraham Ancer
15. Matthew Fitzpatrick
16. Brooks Koepka
17. Harris English
18. Patrick Reed
19. Justin Rose
20. Henrik Stenson