This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
HERO WORLD CHALLENGE
Winner's Share: $1M
FedEx Cup Points: 0 (but OWGR points)
Location: New Providence, the Bahamas
Course: Albany Golf Course
2018 champion: Jon Rahm
The Hero World Challenge is a quirky event. We wonder how hard each golfer actually tries to win. Oh, maybe once the tournament gets going a little bit, but it's not like preparing for a major or even a regular PGA Tour event. Often, golfers return from weeks, or even months, of inactivity. It's always been a bit of a money-driven event that hearkens to the old "silly season" cash grabs. But more than cash, it's an easy way to tack on points in the OWGR. The 18 guys entered get a lot of love in the rankings, and it's a bit unfair because so few can gain so much. But it speaks to the power of tournament host Tiger Woods, who gets a tournament that includes OWGR points because he's Tiger Woods, and therefore can attract an elite field. But it is not a PGA Tour event, and it doesn't count among official career stats.
This year, there's a wrinkle. And a pretty big one. The Presidents Cup is next week, and all of a sudden this becomes an important week of prep work for 11 of the 18 golfers in the field. Eleven of the 12 members of the U.S. squad are here, all except Dustin Johnson, who withdrew as he recovers of arthroscopic knee surgery but vows to be ready for the matches in Australia. This is the first time the Presidents Cup has been played in December since 1998, so this "Hero-Prez double" has never existed. This event has been around since 2000, but has played in the Bahamas only since 2015.
Of course, the headliner is Woods, who also has his Presidents Cup playing/captain responsibilities on his mind. Just like last year, Woods is coming off a victory in his prior start. Then it was the Tour Championship and now it's the ZOZO Championship in Japan. Woods is a five-time winner of this tournament, with the last instance coming in 2011. A year ago, he finished 17th, a whopping 19 shots behind winner Jon Rahm. And you have to wonder how much attention he can give to his game this time around, with next week's event taking precedence. No one affiliated with this U.S. team wants to be the first to lose the Presidents Cup to the International team, and Woods has the most to lose.
As for the field, it's a little less elite than years past, with the Nos. 1-, 2- and 4-ranked golfers absent. That would be Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Johnson. Six other members of the Top-10 are here, though, led by No. 3 Rahm, along with No. 5 Justin Thomas, No. 6. Patrick Cantlay, No. 7 Woods, No. 8 Justin Rose and No. 9 Xander Schauffele. The lowest-ranked golfer in the field is, um, Jordan Spieth, now ranked 44th. Since the field is so small, here are the rest: No. 11 Webb Simpson, No. 12 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 16 Tony Finau, No. 17 Patrick Reed, No. 18 Gary Woodland, No. 22 and 2017 winner Rickie Fowler, No. 23 Matt Kuchar, No. 36 Chez Reavie (who was the last-minute replacement for Johnson). No. 37 Kevin Kisner, No. 40 Henrik Stenson and No. 41 and 2015 winner Bubba Watson.
The Albany course features wide fairways and smallish greens. It is a rare layout with five par-5s and five par-3s on a par-72 track. Birdies will be mandatory, and there have been bundles of them through the years. Rahm won at 20-under-par, Fowler and 2016 champ Hideki Matsuyama claimed victory at 18-under and Watson hit a whopping 25-under. Interestingly, since the tournament moved to Albany in 2015, there has never been a one-stroke win. The margin of victory has always been two or more. We'll detail how important birdies are in the Champion's Profile below.
Focusing on lineup construction, there are a few things to consider. First, the tournament starts on Wednesday this year. Second, with only 18 golfers, every one of them will have at least moderate ownership. So don't go crazy trying to find a hidden guy – no one is hidden this week. Some guys have been inactive for much of the fall, others have been busy. Rahm is coming off winning the DP World Tour Championship two weeks ago, a victory that gave him the European Tour's season-long Race to Dubai title. On the other end of the spectrum, Fowler has been idle since the Tour Championship in August and Cantlay hasn't played in two months. But for the most part, the days of guys arriving at the Hero World Challenge without having played since East Lake are in the past. Lastly, as hinted above: Some of the golfers will take this tournament seriously, but others will view it as a means of piling up cash and points with a week at the beach. Some of these guys might be a bit nervous in such an elite field.
Weather-wise, temperatures are forecast to be in the mid- to upper 70s all four days (Wednesday-Saturday), with almost no chance of rain and moderate wind. But beware if the wind blows.
Key Stats to winning at Albany
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Par-5 birdie or better percentage
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
2018 - Jon Rahm (Albany)
2017 - Rickie Fowler (Albany)
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama (Albany)
2015 - Bubba Watson (Albany)
2014 - Jordan Spieth
2013 - Zach Johnson
2012 - Graeme McDowell
2011 - Tiger Woods
2010 - Graeme McDowell
2009 - Jim Furyk
Last year, Rahm notched 25 birdies – more than one-third of the holes – and played the par-5s in 13-under-par. Two years ago, Fowler registered a whopping 30 birdies. But he shot only 18-under because he had six bogeys and three doubles, one of them on a par-5. He shot 9-under on the par-5s. Neither Rahm nor Fowler had an eagle all week. The year before, Matsuyama did almost all of his damage on the par-5s, going 15-under on them en route to his 18-under winning score. He totaled 22 birdies and two eagles. You'd think Watson would've had the most birdies by a wide margin, but he had only 27, to go along with two eagles. He was able to score so low because he was nearly bogey-free on the week. Watson was only 13-under on the par-5s. There is no rough at Albany, but wayward drives will land the golfers in the native area. Sometimes that's trouble, but oftentimes it's just fine. Fowler had trouble keeping the ball straight – at least until Sunday, when he ran away from the field by shooting an 11-under 61. With a field this small, any golfer on form who takes this week seriously and isn't too starstruck has a chance to win. Unfamiliarity with the Albany course should not be a big issue for newcomers, considering Rahm won in his debut.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,200 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 5-1)
This is a no-brainer. Not only is Rahm the defending champion, he won his last two starts – in Dubai and at the Spanish Open. His price is not outlandish by any means for an overwhelming favorite. Also, Rahm does not have to worry about next week's Presidents Cup; he can play free and easy.
Patrick Cantlay - $10,200 (8-1)
Cantlay hasn't played since Las Vegas at the beginning of October, but he has played twice during the fall season. He tied for fifth last year in his Hero debut. The big-hitting Cantlay can let fly at Albany with little fear of finding trouble. Of course, that's the case for everyone in the field. Cantlay is just better at it than most.
Xander Schauffele - $9,800 (10-1)
Schauffele won't be as wide-eyed as he was a year ago in his first visit to Albany. But in listening to interviews, it sounds like he still feels he has something to prove, that even though he's an elite, world-class golfer he's not in the class of the very best. And that's probably true. He also wants to get in form for his debut in international team competition next week.
Webb Simpson - $8,800 (12-1)
It's hard to believe Simpson has never played here before. Whether he never received an invitation or turned it down, no matter – he's been playing well in the fall and doesn't have too many bad weeks. Simpson is coming off a runner-up finish a the RSM Classic. With his elite short game, birdies should be no issue for him this week.
Tier 2 Values
Patrick Reed - $6,900 (20-1)
Yes, we're already in the sub-$7,000s. Reed is as active as anyone this time of year – this will be his eighth worldwide start since the Tour Championship – and he's played the Hero World Challenge every year at Albany. Reed finished only 11th a year ago, but he has two top-5s, including a runner-up to Watson in 2015. He is such a bulldog and grinder that he wants to win every time he picks up a club – probably even when playing mini golf with his kids.
Gary Woodland - $6,700 (20-1)
Woodland hits the ball as far as just about anyone in the field. He's had a great fall, with top-5s in both South Korea and Japan. He tied for eighth in his Hero debut a year ago, and we suspect he'll be more comfortable this time around.
Jordan Spieth - $6,600 (25-1)
Yes, we're picking Spieth. Oodles of birdies are needed on this course, and he's still the best putter on the planet. His waywardness off the tee will not be penalized as much at Albany as at many other PGA Tour tracks. Spieth didn't play last year, but he had top-6s the three previous years. Spieth will stand out while being surrounded by fellow Presidents Cup participants, and that has to sting. He'll want to win more than just about anyone else in the field. And those guaranteed OWGR points look mighty tasty to a guy in danger of falling out of – gasp – the top 50 in the world.
Bubba Watson - $6,200 (40-1)
The bottom four guys on the DraftKings board are Henrik Stenson at $6,300, Watson, Kevin Kisner at $6,100 and Chez Reavie at $6,000. We like Watson best, mostly because we like the others less – not exactly a ringing endorsement of Watson. The laid-back and easygoing atmosphere is right up Bubba's alley – after all, he did win here before. Yes, Kisner has something prove, and he's probably angry/disappointed at not being chosen for the Presidents Cup. But there's a reason he wasn't chosen: He didn't play well enough.