Tiger Woods has not won a major championship since 2008 and any type of tournament since 2013. The former world number one is at 1199 in the current rankings and slipping further down the standings each week. Therefore, it would seem strange that he will get most media attention in this week’s Hero World Challenge which he hosts and raises money for the Tiger Woods Foundation. But that is the nature of one of the most famous sportsmen in the world. Sadly in recent years it his non-sporting exploits that have made the news.
Woods has not played any competitive golf since January when he missed the cut in the Farmer’s Insurance Open on the PGA Tour. He pulled out of a European Tour event in Dubai the following month and has not been seen on the course since. Woods has had back surgery for the fourth time and recovery time means he has not fully back to his physical best. It will be fascinating to see how he copes with all the demands of professional golf when he plays in his own event this week.
The Hero World Challenge is not an official event and prize money does not count towards the FedEx Cup and money list. There is a limited field of 18 players and no cut so everyone takes home a cheque. It is an invitational event and the field is made up of the four major champions, 11 available players from the world rankings, the defending champion and two exempt players selected by the Foundation. Three of the current major champions are playing but Sergio Garcia has declined his invitation.
It’s a pity the Masters champion has not shown up because entry into this event is one of the rewards for winning a major championship. However, Woods and Garcia have fallen out in the past and it appears they don’t get on. Garcia won’t go out of his way to please Woods but the upshot is that for whatever reason the current Masters champion is absent this week. Brookes Koepka (US Open), Jordan Spieth (Open Championship) and Justin Thomas (US PGA Championship) are the other major winners competing.
Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose are playing but both need a rest. They had a nail- biting battle to win the Race to Dubai two weeks ago when Fleetwood prevailed. They were probably contractually committed to playing in the Hong Kong Open last week but must be tired and drained golfers and they are not good bets to win Tiger’s tournament. In fact it is an open event and motivation and commitment could be key factors in deciding the outcome. It’s the end of a long year and many players will be demob happy and mentally on holiday but the trick is identifying them.
From 2015 the tournament has been played at the Albany development in the Bahamas. The course is a par 72 and 7,309 yards in length. There is the usual quota of four par 3s and par 5s and 10 medium range holes. One of the main defences of the course is the wind which makes accuracy more important than distance. Temperatures will rise above 80 degrees so it will be a pleasant winter experience for this elite field. Picking the winner is fraught with danger but it won’t be Woods. The winning score over the last two years has been 25 and 18 under so putting is important.
Dustin Johnson has won four times in 2017 and is the world number one. He is the type of player and character to revel in the relaxed atmosphere and he is so good he could win this week while not on full throttle. Johnson has not played since finishing joint second in the WGC-HSBC Champions four weeks ago and he has course form as he finished tied third at Albany last year. It would be fitting if Woods’ baby was won by statistically the best player in the world and that is now Dustin Johnson.