Tiger Woods is in attendance along with 17 top 25 golfers in the world for the last event of 2021
One week has elapsed since the PGA Tour’s official calendar year ended, and there’s already another event. It happens to be a good one as the 2021 Hero World Challenge takes place in the Bahamas with Tiger Woods as host and many of the best golfers in the world — including Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, and Collin Morikawa — in attendance.
This is the last event of 2021 for pretty much everyone in this field and our last chance to see the best in the world until Kapalua and the Tournament of Champions in a month. Morikawa in particular has an opportunity to close the year strong as the world’s top golfer, while there’s a solid purse on the line for a limited field. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.
Event: Hero World Challenge | Dates: Dec. 2-5
Location: Albany Golf Course — Albany, New Providence, Bahamas
Par: 72 | Purse: $3.5 million
Three things to know
- No. 1 watch: Morikawa has a chance to end what has been a dream two years by becoming the No. 1-ranked golfer on the planet this weekend. He has to win to dethrone Jon Rahm and become the 25th golfer to reach world No. 1, but that’s basically all he’s done since he turned pro. He’s done it three times so far this year, including an Open Championship victory (his second major win) and the DP World Tour Championship in his last start on the European Tour two weeks ago. Of the golfers in this field, only Viktor Hovland has been a better ball-striker over the last 12 months. Morikawa has a wider performance variance than almost everyone in this field, which can lead to some poor performances, but it’s also the very thing that allows him to win so often against the rest of the best in the world.
- Bryson’s year ends: I was recently going back through everything significant that happened in 2021, and it’s amazing to see how much of it DeChambeau has been involved in despite only winning one time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. Other than the World Long Drive Championship and that nine-hole match against Brooks Koepka the day after Thanksgiving, we haven’t seen him in an official capacity since the Ryder Cup. However, we have a ton of evidence from the last few years that when he shows up stuff just … happens. I’m not sure he’s owned this year like he maybe thought he would, but it would be pretty fascinating to see the hype machine start whirring a bit for 2022 if he went out and won this thing by five strokes.
- Tiger week: In a lot of ways, this week is as much about Woods’ first public appearance since his car wreck back in February as it is the golf itself. That will certainly garner more intrigue and interest early in the week than whoever is in the mix come Sunday afternoon. This has, unfortunately, become a bit of a tradition. This is not the first time we’ve seen Woods address the media in Albany in the middle of a recovery from some type of completely debilitating injury. This time, though, more time has elapsed since the last time we heard him officially speak in the public arena — on the CBS broadcast with Jim Nantz during the final round of the Genesis Invitational — than any other time before it. His comments from a Tuesday press conference will be the focus for most of the rest of the week.
Grading the field
Other than Sam Burns, everyone in this field has been on either a Ryder Cup team or a Presidents Cup team, and 14 of the 20 played at Whistling Straits just two months ago. Only Henrik Stenson is ranked outside the top 50 in the world, and only Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, and Stenson are even outside the top 25. Six of the top 10 in the world and 19 major championships combined by the 20 golfers in the field. That’s pretty impressive. Grade: A
2021 Hero World Challenge picks
Winner (11-1): It would be a fitting end to 2021 if Thomas, who Tiger recently described as the little brother he never had, was the one embracing Woods on Sunday afternoon at the end of the last meaningful tournament of the year. His game has been good over the last few months, and for him, it will come down to whether he can find what has, to this point in the year, been an incredibly elusive putter. In the last tournament he played that we have data on (the CJ Cup at Summit), he hit it well enough to beat everyone on the planet but put it like he was using the wrong hand. If he can figure that out, he’ll contend to win.
Top 10 (-187): Over the last three months, only DeChambeau has been a more prolific ball-striker. In a blind statistical test, Hovland looks like a top-five player in the world, but he comes with odds that are more like those of a top 20 player. I wanted to pick him to win, but I worry a little bit about his short game on a course like this with small greens and a lot of potential positions that make getting up and down extraordinarily difficult.
Sleeper (18-1): Berger has been low-key tremendous all year, especially from tee to green. Over the last 12 months, only Morikawa and Thomas have been better from tee to green. And in a field with no true sleepers, his 18-1 number — in a year in which he finished in the top 10 in nine of the 19 tournaments he played — feels more like 50-1.