Hero World Challenge 2023 Tips: Morikawa at 8/1 stands out

 | November 27 | 

9 mins read

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The calendar might be looking towards December but the golf action doesn't stop, even if the PGA Tour is officially on hiatus until the New Year.

Our golf tipster Jamie Worsley though is keeping the content coming and he has his full preview of the Hero World Golf Challenge ready for you, along with two selections from the field...

Hero World Challenge 2023 Betting Tips:

  • Collin Morikawa 8/1 – 4 pts (WIN ONLY)
  • Justin Thomas 16/1 – 1/5 4 places – 2 pts ew

The PGA Tour season officially wrapped up at the RSM Classic two weeks ago but we still have a couple of unofficial events to close out the year over the next two weeks.

This week we’re off to The Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course, where among a top-class field is the name of Tiger Woods; making his first appearance since withdrawing from The Masters back in April.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Hero World Challenge debuted in 2000 and showcases a small but elite 20-man field all vying for the trophy, as well as important world ranking points. With the exception of 2020, it has been staged every year since its inception.

Tiger Woods is the official host of the event and has lifted the trophy more than anyone else with five wins (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011). Nineteen of the twenty-one renewals have gone to then or future majors champions.

Davis Love III (2000, 2003) and Graeme McDowell (2010, 2012) were the only other multiple winners of the Hero World Challenge, until Viktor Hovland added his name to the list in 2022, going back-to-back after first winning in 2021.

In each of his wins here, the in-form Norwegian has beaten Scottie Scheffler into 2nd, with last year’s -16 winning score representing the toughest edition of the event at Albany. Both of them return this week with Hovland looking to become the first player to win the event for three years on the spin.

THE COURSE

Albany Golf Course took over hosting duties of the Hero World Challenge in 2015 after the event spent the majority of its previous fifteen years at Sherwood Country Club in California.

Based in the luxury and exclusive Albany Resort, Albany Golf Course is part of the Ernie Els Design portfolio, with “The Big Easy” himself heavily involved in the project. It opened for play in 2010.

Albany GC is a par 72, measuring 7449 yards; containing an unusual mix of just eight par 4s (307-513 yards), five par 5s (552-632 yards) and five par 3s (179-217 yards).

This open and exposed course combines elements of links and desert golf, with all holes framed by manufactured sandy dunes, some of which are up to 30ft high.

The fairways are very generous and easy to find, protected by strategic and large white sand bunkers. This is in contrast to the bermudagrass greens, which are small and can be tricky to hold, again protected by those bunkers and some steep run-offs.

With little in the way of penal rough and water in-play on just five holes, the course really needs the elements (wind in particular) to play its part to turn it into a demanding test.

Bubba Watson fired -25 to win the first staging of the Hero World Challenge at Albany in 2015 and over the next five renewals, the winning score exceeded -17. Though with some stronger winds last year, -16 was enough to see Viktor Hovland claim his second title.

The scoreable and fun nature of the venue is ideal for an event which is generally a lot more relaxed than your average tournament. Not only are there five par 5s but there are also two potentially drivable par 4s, including the 307-yard 14th, which will be bombarded with eagles this week.

THE STATS

Key Stats:

  • § SG: Approach
  • § Greens-in-Regulation
  • § Scrambling
  • § Driving Distance
  • § Par 5 Scoring

With the small size of the greens and severity of some of the run-off areas, I expect precision iron play to be the key factor this week. Indeed it’s an area in which most winners of this event have excelled, especially our current champion, Viktor Hovland and 2016 winner, Hideki Matsuyama.

Conditions should play their part this week, which will see more greens than usual missed, increasing the requirement for a good level of scrambling around the diminutive putting surfaces.

It’s hard not to side with the longer hitters due to the generosity of the fairways and the fact that they are best equipped to attack some of the more obvious scoring holes. This includes those five par 5s, on which it will be important to score well this week.

CORRELATING EVENTS

I wouldn’t want to focus too heavily on comp courses for this event, as the quality and limited nature of the field makes form-ties a little less meaningful, but there are a few courses I felt could give us some clues this week.

One that instantly springs to mind, especially seems it attracts a similar type of field, is the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course in Hawaii. The course is open and of a comparable length, with wide fairways and bermudagrass greens. Similar sentiments apply to the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, for all that is a much shorter, more tree-lined course.

The Corales Puntacana Championship at Corales Golf Club in the Dominican Republic is another worth a look; as a lengthy, exposed course with wide fairways and a level of difficulty largely dependent on conditions.

THE WEATHER

Wind should be a factor in the otherwise dry and warm conditions this week. It is set to blow at a constant of around 15mph throughout the tournament, with gusts up to 25mph.

THE FIELD

Every participating player in this field currently sits inside the top 40 in the world, excluding Tiger Woods.

World #1, Scottie Scheffler is the top-ranked player, joined by a further five of the world’s top 10, including our defending champion Viktor Hovland.

He is one of three former winners, along with 2017 winner, Rickie Fowler and of course five-time winner, the returning Tiger Woods.

However Tiger isn’t the only high-profile player making his return following a lengthy absence. Will Zalatoris is also back in action, teeing it up for the first time in eight months having undergone back surgery back in April.

SELECTIONS

The top 2 in the last two renewals of the Hero World Challenge top the betting, with Viktor Hovland the 4/1 favourite and Scottie Scheffler just behind at 5/1.

I’m going to start just behind these at the 8/1 mark and I’m taking Collin Morikawa to turn a couple of positive previous efforts at Albany into a win this week.

Collin Morikawa

Morikawa was facing the prospect of entering 2024 without a victory in over two years after a 2023 that started brightly – with top 3s in the Tournament of Champions and Farmers Insurance Open – but tailed off after a 10th-place finish at The Masters.

He started to find form again towards the end of the regular FedExCup season, losing out in a playoff to Rickie Fowler in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and looked in good shape in the FedExCup Playoffs, where he signed off by finishing 4th on the without-starting-strokes leaderboard in the Tour Championship.

Morikawa built on this positivity in the ZOZO Championship on his latest start at the end of October, returning from a near two-month absence to win for the first time since taking home the DP World Tour Championship at the end of 2021.

He opened and closed with two of the best rounds of the week there in Japan, shooting a 6-under 64 in round one and went even better in the final round, firing a round of 63 to come from two back at the start of the day to being an eventual runaway, six-shot winner.

2023 has been typically Morikawa from a statistical point of view. He’s hit the ball excellently, with his approach play again a standout, ranking 2nd on tour last season; Scottie Scheffler the only man above him in this regard. Though the short game has been expectedly inconsistent, he does score the par 5s well, ranking 10th.

His brand of elite, precision ball-striking has translated to a good record at Albany. He held a five-shot lead heading into the final round of the event on debut in 2021 thanks to rounds of 68, 66 and 64, though an unexpected final-round 76 saw him finishing down in 5th; then finishing 6th in the trickier conditions of last year’s edition.

Morikawa’s record in the Tournament of Champions is another plus, where he’s finished 7th-or-better in each of his four starts in the event, including a runner-up finish earlier this year.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas is another player who possesses an excellent record in Hawaii and with him playing some of his best golf of the year over his last few starts, I’m taking him to be one of the main players in The Bahamas this week.

Thomas’ struggles through the middle part of the season are well documented, particularly his underperformances in the majors, where he missed 3/4 cuts and recorded a solitary 65th-place finish in the PGA Championship. This played a huge part in him missing the Tour Championship at East Lake for the first time since 2015, which was his first full season on tour.

He did show some promising signs when 12th in the Wyndham Championship – his final start of the regular FedExCup season – and he has built on this over his latest two starts; finishing 5th in the Fortinet Championship and three weeks ago he was 4th in the Nedbank Challenge on the DPWT, twice firing the best round of the day with 6-under 66s in rounds two and four.

It has been encouraging to see JT rediscover some form with the irons over those two recent top 5s, indeed he ranked 6th in approach at the Fortinet. With confidence returning it has been no surprise to see the short game starting to sharpen up too.

Thomas has recorded three straight 5th-place finishes in this event and when we take into account that superb record in Hawaii, where he’s a two-time winner of the Tournament of Champions and also recorded a victory in the Sony Open in 2017, we have a golfer very much at home in this type of environment.

You can read all of Jamie Worsley's Golf Betting Tips each week as he previews the action on the PGA, DP World and LPGA tours for us here at Betfred. Keep checking our Golf page for all his thoughts week in, week out from the world of golf...

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