The First Tee – Hero World Challenge

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly December 3, 2019 00:57

The First Tee – Hero World Challenge

This Week

The last “tournament” of the year is this week at the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas, and it’s an 18-man no-cut event so dialing back exposure this week is always a good idea. There’s no ShotLink data (including GIR/BoB%/etc.) so it’s very tough to handicap, and this is an unofficial invitation-only event.

The Course

A par-72 at 7302 yards, Albany isn’t a typical par-72 as it has only eight par-4s, five par-3s and five par-5s; this leads to some pretty high birdie-or-better percentages and winning scores in the high teens or better – last year’s event saw Jon Rahm take home the victory at -20 while Hideki was worst in the field at E.

There isn’t much in the way of hazards to deal with this week outside of water on a handful of holes and the large sandy dunes/bunkers that sit outside the fairways. There are some trees loosely scattered around the course, but not enough to impact anything. Because the course is so open and unprotected, it can easily be impacted by the weather so make sure to check on Wednesday if that’s anything that needs special consideration.

Length is a big plus here given the course setup, because the par-5s play between 548 and 603 yards so getting to the green in two (obviously) goes a long way. Golfers can uncork driver here because the fairways are wide, so targeting the bigger hitters is a useful strategy; scoring well on the par-5s is crucial to success, but especially since this is a no-cut where scoring matters more than placement points (for the purposes of DFS at least).

Approach shots here will usually be in the 125 yard range, although being good with the mid-irons will obviously come in handy given the number of par-3s here. They’ll be hitting into turtle-back greens which slope away from the pin on all sides, so accuracy with the irons is paramount (more than most weeks) as greens are tough to hold with all the sloping.

The greens themselves are very fast Bermuda greens (TifEagle to be precise) and are very straight-forward when balls are on the right level, but obviously much tougher when putting uphill thanks to the shape. Bunkers surround the greens, and given how many missed greens there are, proximity out of the sand can be very helpful.

Comparable courses/events:

Pinehurst (US Open) – A long par-72 (although the normal setup in terms of par-3/5), Pinehurst is a comparable course due to the greens – the turtle-back greens featured here in the Els design are most famously known for Pinehurst #2.

Plantation Course at Kapalua (Tournament of Champions) – Very easy Bermuda grass course used for small-field events, wide-open fairways that reward distance are a common thread.

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off the Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better %
  • Par-5 Scoring
  • All Drive Distance
  • Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots: 175-200 Yards
  • Proximity to the Hole from the Sand

Top-Tier Golfers

Justin Thomas ($10600): After last year’s wrist injury, JT’s numbers looked pretty bad for a stretch – and yet he finished no worse than T35 after suffering the injury. He did miss the cut at Memorial (his first tournament back after recovery) and later missed the cut at the US Open, but those were the only two missed cuts on the season that saw him pick up 17 top-25 finishes in 22 events which includes two wins, a second and two thirds. JT has never really found “success” here – a 12th and 11th in his two times out – but has the exact characteristics to win this week.

His rankings in the relevant stat categories:

Birdie or Better %: 1st (26.54%)

Par-5 Scoring: 1st (4.42)

All Drive Distance: 22nd (295)

Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots: 175-200 Yards: 2nd (18’10”), T26 (31’0”)

Proximity to the Hole from the Sand: T47 (8’9”)

Xander Schauffele ($9800): Xander started the year off last year with a win at the Tournament of Champions and finished it with a solo second at the WGC HSBC last month; between those tournaments, he picked up 14 top-25s in 21 events while missing the cut only three times, and his finishes in the majors were T2, T16, T3 and T41. Xander has only played this tournament once but finished T8, last year.

His rankings in the relevant stat categories:

Birdie or Better %: T17 (23.57%)

Par-5 Scoring: T6 (4.50)

All Drive Distance: 19th (295.5)

Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots: 175-200 Yards: 140th (24’5”), T23 (30’11”)

Proximity to the Hole from the Sand: T27 (8’5”)

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Gary Woodland ($6700): After finishing T20 in something called the Dunlop Phoenix (on the Japan Golf Tour) last week, Woodland’s year has officially been a great one: he opened with a solo second at the Tournament of Champions, won a major at the US Open, and only missed three cuts in                24 events. Seven of those were top-10 finishes, including a fifth at the Zozo championship and a T3 at the CJ Cup this fall. In his only shot here (last year), he finished T8 along with X.

His rankings in the relevant stat categories:

Birdie or Better %: 3rd (25.00%)

Par-5 Scoring: T4 (4.49)

All Drive Distance: 17th (296.8)

Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots: 175-200 Yards: T74 (22’9”), T18 (30’6”)

Proximity to the Hole from the Sand: T42 (8’8”)

Tony Finau ($6500): Of everybody on this list, Finau had the worst season last year, but that’s very relative given he had seven top-10s and only six missed cuts in 28 events played. Recently he finished T9 at the Shriners (although he’s fresh off a MC at Mayakoba), and he finished 7th and 4th in the last two FedEx Cup events this past summer. Finau finished the 2018 calendar year with a second-place finish here in his only shot at the course, but doesn’t have history at the comp. courses.

His rankings in the relevant stat categories:

Birdie or Better %: 54th (22.42%)

Par-5 Scoring: T17 (4.53)

All Drive Distance: 7th (298.6)

Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots: 175-200 Yards: T66 (22’7”), 10th (29’8”)

Proximity to the Hole from the Sand: T103 (9’7”)

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly December 3, 2019 00:57

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