Niall Lyons shares his betting tips and preview for the Hero World Challenge.
Hero World Challenge - Winner
This week's trip to Albany in the Bahamas sees the last of the competitive action in 2022 for the top players in the world and they - as well as me - will surely be glad of the upcoming month break. 20-men fields with a handful of the world's best are never easy to work out, especially when it's not a regular tour event and motivation is on the decline ahead of the festive break.
Nevertheless the market leaders here never turn up an opportunity of a victory in this quality of field and everyone's interest will be perked ahead of Tiger's comeback this week, his first outing since the Open at St Andrews. It'll be interesting to see how much he has recovered and a few videos surfacing on social media certainly look to suggest his swing looks to be more fluid than what it was in the summer.
Albany is as easy as they come with 18 under par being the winning score four of the seven renewals here, and the three others 20 under and above. Bubba Watson, Rahm and Hovland have all won here hitting the ball a long way off the tee, but Stenson and Fowler's wins suggest length is not a pre requisite to contend.
At just over 7400 yards the par 72 is there for the taking for all golfers those who can manage to hole a fair amount of putts over the four days. Although Matsuyama has improved his short game when he won back in 2016 he certainly wasn't renowned for it, neither was Bubba Watson.
Hovland is another who has plenty of question marks surrounding his short game. This suggests it is a simpler task, and it is as it's pretty flat and straightforward. Watson is twice a runner up at Scottsdale, same as Fowler who has also managed a win at Scottsdale, whilst Matsuyama is a double winner around that venue. Finau is a runner up on both Albany and Scottsdale and the 2022 Waste Management winner Scottie Scheffler finished runner up here at Albany last year.
There are certainly similarities between the tests, with Albany having the desert feel as well as it being a flat resort type test that rewards bold, risky golf. Form in Arizona is certainly worth a second glance when narrowing down the field to a potential winner here in the Bahamas.
Tony Finau at 11/1
Tony Finau is probably next to Rory McIlroy as the best player in the world right now and I'm prepared to take the gamble of him continuing his run of red hot form here in Albany this week. With three wins in his last five starts Finau has well and truly shaken off the tag of being unable to close out events.
The run started in late July winning the 3M Open by three shots then following it up the week after in spectacular fashion running away with the Rocket Mortgage by five shots. Last time out in Houston the result seemed inevitable after 36 holes and he ran out a four stroke victor that week.
Rahm has winning form also heading into this week and is worthy favourite but I can't help but feel Finau should be strong second jolly here given his run of form. Rahm is clearly out in front following his tremendous victory in Dubai to back up the win in his home country. It's an ominous run of form and with Torrey Pines on the horizon in late January Rahm could rack up more wins between now and then and go firm favourite at the head of the major markets.
It's hard to criticise Scheffler but he is winless since the Masters and the runner up finishes are racking up. Finau on the other hand is racking up the wins and will be full of confidence heading to the Bahamas, a venue where he finished runner up in 2018.
As I mentioned before he has a runner up at Scottsdale also back in 2020 when he was edged out by Webb Simpson in a playoff. Finau tops the rankings in ball striking, tee to green and putting in the last few months and is worthy of major respect here. He withdrew from the RSM following his win in Houston but according to his management that was for a minor issue and it didn't sound like anything to worry about.
3pts T.Finau 11/1 (Enhanced Win Only)
Collin Morikawa at 20/1 (Five Places)
The other I'm inclined to get on side here is Collin Morikawa. It's safe to say Morikawa hasn't had the year we'd all have expected him to following his Open win back in 2021. He still managed five top-five finishes throughout the calendar year though and it is evident that although he has had his struggles this year the ability remains intact and it's only a matter of time before he is back in the winner's circle.
Albany could be just the venue he is looking for having finished 5th on debut last year. That 5th place doesn't tell the full story however as he remarkably relinquished a five shot lead heading into the final day. A four-over par round of 76 saw him tumble to 5th having seemingly had the tournament in the bag after 54 holes.
He had managed 18 under through the opening three rounds and I'm prepared to take that as a sign that this venue can play to his strengths. 29tt at the CJ Cup in October was down to a poor effort on the greens with his long game in solid nick.
Last time out in Mexico an opening round of 71 put him behind the 8 ball, but a great comeback with a second round of 63 put him right back in the mix and 68-67 over the weekend was a good effort from Morikawa who was just too far behind on day one. I'm hoping that form carries over as he matched Henley (winner by four shots) over the final three days at Mayakoba.