This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Hero World Challenge
Course: Albany Golf Course (7,414 yards, par 72)
The Hero World Challenge is typically the last time each year that we see a lot of the stars of the game tee it up in a 72-hole competition. There is really no reason why you would turn down an invitation to this 20-man field. You can't find a better spot to be than the Bahamas in early December, there are no FedExCup points to worry about, and you are guaranteed 72 holes of competition. OWGR points will be available, but with the new changes that went into affect a few months ago, this week shouldn't have a big impact on the rankings.
This will be the 23rd edition of the Hero World Challenge and the seventh time that Albany will play host. Tiger Woods (5 times), Davis Love III (twice), and Graeme McDowell (twice) are the only players to win the Hero World Challenge multiple times. Jordan Spieth (2014), Jon Rahm (2018) and Viktor Hovland (2021) can join that list with a victory this week. Last year Hovland came from six shots back in the final round to win by one over Scottie Scheffler. Collin Morikawa, who held a commanding 54-hole lead and had a chance to move to World No. 1 with a victory, ended up shooting a terrible round of 76 to fade to T5.
Tiger Woods was scheduled to make his first competitive start since the Open Championship at St Andrews, but a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot will keep Woods from teeing it up in his event. Woods will still remain on site to carry out his host duties. With the 15-time major champion and now World No. 1,277 out of the field, that means that all 20 players at Albany will come from the top-33 positions in the OWGR.
Bubba Watson holds the 72-hole scoring record at Albany back in 2015 when he shot 25-under to win by three strokes. In the five editions since, the winning score has fallen between -18 and -20. Even with the strongest field in tournament history, there's a chance we could see the most difficult test since moving to the Bahamas. Winds will fall in the 20-30 mph range throughout the majority of the tournament. Albany is an extremely exposed course so the players will feel and have to manage every bit of that resistance this week.
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)
2013 - Zach Johnson (-13)
2012 - Graeme McDowell (-17)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Around-the-Green
- Par-5 Scoring Average
- SG: Off-the-Tee
Albany is a course that provides a lot of scoring opportunities. There are five par-5s that can all be reachable depending on the wind conditions and two of the par-4s can potentially be driven as well. This is a course where distance can definitely be an advantage. The fairways are pretty generous, but if you get a ball going way off line there is plenty of trouble out there. With seven holes that provide potential for an under GIR, distance and short game play have a chance to really stand out. Players will face a ton of tight lies on Bermudagrass around these greens, which will certainly require some adept touch to succeed on. Iron play still can't be overlooked at Albany because there are also five par-3s. Given the forecast for high winds, striking the ball solidly is going to be a must. Overall we should be looking for players who are able to combine good ball-striking with strong short game play.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($11,500)
Rahm is on another one of his heaters and there's no reason it should stop at Albany. The Spaniard notched a T2 at the BMW PGA, six-shot win at the Spanish Open, T4 at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina and victory at the DP World Tour Championship in his last four starts. In his two trips to Albany he finished first and second. Rahm has the power, iron control, and short game to run away and hide this week.
Tony Finau ($11,000)
Remember when Finau couldn't win? Well now he's finding it difficult not to win with three victories in his last seven starts. Finau has one of the most underrated short games on Tour. That combination of power and touch around the greens will work wonders at Albany and help Finau pile up the birdies. The Utah native has never finished outside the top-10 in this event and scored a runner-up to Rahm in 2018.
Matt Fitzpatrick ($10,000)
FItzpatrick may very well have the best short game in the field this week. Last season on the PGA Tour he ranked seventh in SG: Around-the-Green and first in scrambling. Combine that with the fact that he was also 10th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 15th in total driving and we have a player whose skillset fits Albany perfectly. Fitzpatrick also was top-10 last season in par-5 scoring average and is coming off a top-five showing at the DP World Tour Championship.
Tommy Fleetwood ($9,800)
Fleetwood has been one of the busiest players in the fall with seven total starts across two tours. He is playing some of his best golf in years going T4 at THE CJ CUP, winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and finishing T5 at the DP World Tour Championship. The Englishman is coming off a season in which he gained in every category and was fifth in SG: Around-the-Green. Fleetwood was T3 in his only start at Albany in 2017.
Longer Shots with Value
Tom Kim ($9,400)
While Kim doesn't have the ideal length, he has proven that his accuracy is more than enough to make up for it at a variety of different courses. The 20-year-old has seven top-15 finishes over his last 12 starts worldwide, including a pair of wins in Greensboro and Vegas. Kim ranks sixth this season in SG: Tee-to-Green, ninth in scrambling, and 15th in birdie average. He'll have no issues getting up for this offseason event.
Cameron Young ($9,100)
Young seems like a good player to take a flyer on this week. He has the massive power you covet for a place like Albany, where he will be able to add additional scoring opportunities. Young's last start was a top-25 at THE CJ CUP, where he ranked fifth in SG: Approach. The 25-year-old has a knack at making birdies and is quietly one of the best putters in this field.
Max Homa ($8,700)
Homa will have some extra vibes this week in his first start since becoming a father. He finished top-25 in his last five starts, including that successful title defense at the Fortinet Championship. Homa ranks 12th in SG: Around-the-Green, 16th in SG: Tee-to-Green, and seventh in birdie average this season. The California native will be making his debut at Albany, but this is a course that sets up for him very nicely.
Billy Horschel ($8,500)
Horschel has made just two starts on the PGA Tour this season, but one of them was part of a stacked field at THE CJ CUP, where he ranked third in SG: Approach and second in scrambling. Horschel did also scored a pair of top-10 finishes at the BMW PGA and Dunhill Links on the DP World Tour. The Florida native loves Bermudagrass and will have a chance to show off his elite short game this week.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With every entrant rostering 30 percent of the field this week, you'll be better off trying to mix things up. This is a week where it may pay off to leave some salary on the table in order to pivot to players who may have a lower ownership total. One of the trickiest things about this tournament is that sometimes it's hard to tell where everyone's mental state and swing is at. Most of these top players have only played a couple times this fall and we are basically in the offseason. Fortunately, everyone will be guaranteed four rounds and players have a chance to work their way back into competitive mode by Sunday. These small, no-cut events often lead to a lot more volatility in the final round.