This article is part of our FanDuel PGA DFS Picks series.
Hero World Challenge
Course: Albany Golf Course (7,449 yards, par 72)
Tiger Woods is back. The 15-time major champion will tee it up at his event once again as he looks to best the 20-man field for the sixth time in his career. Woods will be making his first competitive start since withdrawing from the Masters with an ankle injury. After another surgery Woods has been walking better and says his leg is the best it has been since the car accident in February of 2021. Woods said in his press conference this week that he thinks playing once a month in 2024 is a very real possibility. That would certainly provide a huge jolt to the PGA Tour and the interest in golf in general if the soon-to-be 48-year-old could pull that off next season.
For now the focus is on the Hero World Challenge with what is quite honestly the best field since the TOUR Championship at the end of August. Viktor Hovland, who won the final two events of the 2022-23 season, will be looking to win the Hero World Challenge for a third straight year, something not event Tiger has been able to do. The runner-up the last two years to Hovland has been World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler who is looking for his first win anywhere since The Players Championship. The last two major champions are also in the field, those of course being Wyndham Clark at the U.S. Open and Brian Harman at the Open Championship. With the late additions of veterans Lucas Glover and Justin Rose mean that every player in the field apart from Tiger is ranked inside the Top 40 of the OWGR.
Tiger won't be the only player making his return from injury this week. 27-year-old Will Zalatoris was forced to withdraw prior to the Masters with another back injury and this time decided to undergo surgery. Zalatoris picked up his first career PGA Tour win at the playoff event in Memphis in 2022 and then had to withdraw the following week and did not play again until the start of 2023. Zalatoris has so much potential if he can stay healthy in 2024. He has finished inside the top-eight six times in his last seven starts in majors, and three of those were runner-up's.
The only real defense of Albany Golf Course is the wind. It looks like players will have to deal with sustained winds in the 15-20 mph range, which will certainly have an effect on the scoring. Hovland's 16-under-par total was the highest winning score in the seven previous editions of this event since moving to Albany. That seems like a pretty reasonable prediction for the winning score this week. With this not being an official PGA Tour event, there will be no FedExCup points up for grabs, but the winner will bank a cool $1 million along with roughly 30 OWGR points.
2022 - Viktor Hovland (-16)
2021 - Viktor Hovland (-18)
2020 - None
2019 - Henrik Stenson (-18)
2018 - Jon Rahm (-20)
2017 - Rickie Fowler (-18)
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama (-18)
2015 - Bubba Watson (-25)
2014 - Jordan Spieth (-26) *played at Isleworth Country Club
2013 - Zach Johnson (-13) *played at Sherwood Country Club
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- Par 5 Scoring
Albany is a unique setup in multiple ways. For starters it is a par 72, but features five par-3s and five par-5s. That will mean an added emphasis on iron play as well as putting a priority on making up ground on the par 5s. There is quite a bit of room off the tee, so the longer hitters will certainly be able to take advantage of this setup. Even with the width off the tee, the greens average only about 4,500 square feet. We've seen it every year here that precision iron play will be the difference maker, especially if the breezes kick up. That being said, short game play can also be tricky around this venue. The bermudagrass is not all that forgiving and we'll see it make a few of the best players in the world look foolish at some point this week.
FanDuel Value Picks
Viktor Hovland ($11,500)
We aren't messing around this week. Hovland has arguably been the best player in the world over the last four months. He went back-to-back with victories at the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship then added a fifth at the BMW PGA Championship and a T2 at the DP World Tour Championship. Hovland's big improvements in the short game along with already elite ball-striking give him a great combination to go for three in a row at Albany.
Max Homa ($11,100)
Homa is coming off a pretty dominant showing at the Nedbank Golf Challenges where he picked up his first international victory. That was his seventh straight top-12 finish worldwide. Homa didn't have the best showing in his first attempt at Albany, but his game is just too complete right now not to contend this time around. Homa ranks top-35 in driving distance, SG: Approach, scrambling, SG: Putting and birdie average.
The Middle Tier
Rickie Fowler ($9,500)
Fowler returns to the Hero World Challenge for the first time since 2019, when he finished ninth. His four finishes at Albany before that were 3rd-3rd-1st-5th, so he knows how to get around this place. Fowler was one of the best iron players on Tour this past season, ranking seventh in SG: Approach, and he also finished 21st in SG: Around-the-Green. The 34-year-old was also top-25 in both par-3 and par-5 scoring.
Tony Finau ($9,100)
Finau hasn't played his best golf since winning the Mexico Open at Vidanta, but three full months off should have him rejuvenated. Finau loves venues like Albany where he can spray it off the tee and use his sharp iron play and short game to rack up a ton of birdies. The Utah native has gone 2nd-T10-T7-7th in four previous trips here and ranks fifth in SG: Approach, 49th in SG: Around-the-Green and 12th in par \-5 scoring.
Longer Shots with Value
Keegan Bradley ($8,800)
Bradley is the best option in the $8K range this week and someone I would have easily paid up for in the mid-$9K range. He put together a really impressive 2022-23 campaign that featured two wins, including one at a designated event in Hartford. Bradley posted a solid top-20 in his title defense at the ZOZO Championship last month. The 37-year-old can still get it out there and has great control with his irons to go along with a hot putter.
Justin Rose ($8,600)
Rose has as much experience as anyone in this field at this course having been an Albany member for years. He has finished top-10 in his last four attempts at the Hero World Challenge here, with three of those being inside the top-five. Rose notched a pair of top-25's in the FedExCup Playoffs before playing three times on the DP World Tour this fall. He ranks top-26 in SG: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Putting.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
Ownership is going to be pretty high across the board considering there are just 20 players in this field and you have to select six of them. Cameron Young ($10,000) and Spieth ($9,800) are two players I would avoid this week considering the current state of their games and the options just below them. I would also take a pass on Zalatoris ($8,400) and Woods ($8,000) until they put four rounds together without any issues. This would certainly be a good tournament to make a few different entries to try to get a share of a bunch of different players. Most of those teeing it up this week haven't played competitively in while, and given the stakes of this event, it's hard to know who is going to come out with razor sharp focus.
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