Hero World Challenge: Wind specialists to prosper in the Bahamas

Brandt Snedeker - one of two picks for The Punter in the Bahamas
Brandt Snedeker - one of two picks for The Punter in the Bahamas

Our man takes a look at this week's PGA Tour action, where Tiger Woods starts for the first time in 16 months. Read his comprehensive preview here...


"My only other pick is outsider, Brandt Snedeker, who’s playing the course for the first time. Sneds did me a favour last month when he easily won the inaugural Fuji International on an exposed, breezy course that isn’t too dissimilar to this one and he looks a very fair price."

Tournament History


The Hero World Challenge was first staged at Greyhawk Golf Club in 1999. It moved to the Sherwood Country Club in California in 2000 and remained there for the next 14 years before it switched from west to east and to the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Florida in 2014. Last year it moved further south to the Bahamas and we return to the Ernie Els-designed Albany course again this time around.

It's a limited invitation only event with a high class field consisting of just 18 players and the big news this year is that one of the 18 is a certain Tiger Woods. Assuming he does make the line-up on Thursday, this will be Tiger's first start since he finished 10th at the Wyndham Championship in August last year and it will be interesting to see how the 898th ranked player in the world fares.


Venue

Albany, New Province, Bahamas.


Course Details

Par 72, 7,400 yards

The Ernie Els-designed Albany course only opened in 2010 and it was used for a professional tournament for the first time when hosting this event last year.

It's a par 72 but with five par fives, five par threes and eight par fours so it's a little different from most par 72s as they usually have four long and short holes and 10 par fours.

It's an exposed flat links-style course with dunes up to 30 feet tall. Here's what the designer had to say about his creation prior to the off last year.

"It's a very special golf course. If I were trying to paint an outline mental picture for anyone, I'd say think of a mix between maybe Royal Birkdale and the Els Club Dubai. The bunkering is another particularly strong feature and is partly inspired by one of my favourite types of golf course, the Australian sand-belt classics such as Royal Melbourne."

Scoring was low 12 months ago but the weather may have a bit more of a say this time around.

If you want a bit more on the course, here's the hole-by-hole guide.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days - starting at 18:30 UK and Ireland time on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2015 - Bubba Watson -25
2014 - Jordan Spieth -26
2013 - Zach Johnson -13 (playoff)
2012 - Graeme McDowell -17
2011 - Tiger Woods -10


What Will it Take to Win the Hero World Challenge?


Given there are five par fives and a couple of drivable par fours, it's easy to think power is the be all and end all here - especially given that big-hitting Bubba Watson won the event 12 months ago - but his success was down to a great short game more than anything else and three of the first four home - Watson, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth - all ranked inside the top-four for Scrambling.

Limiting mistakes and putting well were more important than whacking it miles off the tee and those that contended did so with craft and guile from just off the putting surfaces all week long. Reed and Spieth certainly didn't place because of their long games. Getting up-and-down successfully from around the greens will be key again this year so look to the best scramblers.


Is There an Angle In?


We look set for some windy weather over the weekend, so on such an exposed course, it may make sense to bear that in mind.

This is a field consisting of the very best players in the world and they can obviously all handle breezy conditions but some are more adept at it than others. The Texans, Spieth, Reed and Jimmy Walker grew up playing in the wind so they might be happier to see the forecast than one or two others in the line-up.


In-Play Tactics


We've only had one edition here but for what it's worth, the second and third 12 months ago, Reed and Rickie Fowler, sat 10th and 13th after round one. Although they were positioned in the bottom half of the field, they were only actually three and four strokes adrift.

Bubba trailed by a stroke in a tie for fourth after round one and he trailed by two strokes at halfway before he moved a couple clear with a nine-under-par course record 63 in round three. That record didn't last long. Justin Rose, who has a property on the course, shot 62 in round four.

If the wind gets up over the weekend, we might see more change on the leaderboard than we did last year and I suspect the scoring won't be quite as good.


Market Leaders


Dustin Johnson heads the market but others are definitely preferred. We haven't seen him since he finished down the field in China at the WGC-HSBC event on a course he likes and he finished a never-competitive 15th in this event last year.

Having won his first major in the summer, he could be forgiven for taking his foot off the pedal as 2016 winds down and I suspect we might get another lacklustre effort this time around.

Jordan Spieth, who finished fourth last year, was a winner last time out. He won the Australian Open for a second time two weeks ago and the last time he took that title he won this event by 10 strokes next time out. I'm not sure he's playing well enough to romp to a victory of that magnitude but he's a brilliant scrambler who took to the course when defending 12 months ago and I think he should be at the head of the market.

Hideki Matsuyama is arguably the most in-form player on the planet right now and he too deserves plenty of respect - despite his poor showing here last year. He and partner, Ryo Ishikawa, could only finish tied for sixth at the World Cup of Golf last week but Hideki is perhaps best judged on his individual form figures and they read a spectacular 5-1-2-1-1.

As well as he's playing, his performance in this tournament last year has to be a bit of a concern as he finished next to last with rounds of 75, 73, 70 and 66.


Selections


I was sorely tempted to back Spieth and I might yet have a small stakes saver but for now I'm going to kick off the event with just two.

Ryder Cup hero, Patrick Reed, won't mind any windy conditions and his brilliant short game is well-suited to the venue, as he demonstrated last year when finishing second. He hasn't been playing brilliantly since the Ryder Cup, finishing down the field in the CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC, so I'm staking cautiously but he could very easily improve dramatically after a bit of a break.

My only other pick is outsider, Brandt Snedeker, who's playing the course for the first time. Sneds did me a favour last month when he easily won the inaugural Fuji International on an exposed, breezy course that isn't too dissimilar to this one.

His incredible 69 in round four of the Farmers Insurance Open in January, that saw him win from six adrift in the foulest of conditions, is testament to how well-versed he is to playing in the wind so if the forecast is correct, conditions could be ideal.


Selections:

Patrick Reed @ 15.5
Brandt Snedeker @ 36.035/1


I'll be back tomorrow with my Alfred Dunhill Championship preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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