Rory McIlroy cuts a frustrated figure en route to sixth place in Dubai
Rory McIlroy cuts a frustrated figure en route to sixth place in Dubai

Golf betting tips: Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods preview and best bets

Rory McIlroy can put his Dubai frustrations behind him in the Hero World Challenge, where Tony Finau also features in our staking plan.

Golf betting tips: Hero Challenge

6pts win Rory McIlroy at 8/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet)

3pts e.w. Tony Finau at 20/1 (bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4)

1.5pts e.w. Patrick Reed at 33/1 (Sky Bet, Betfred, Betway 1/4 1,2,3,4)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

ANCER, Abraham

  • Course form: Debut

Flying high at 12 in the world after a breakout year, winning his first PGA Tour title as many felt he would: from off the pace, with some help, as both Harris English and Bryson DeChambeau faltered at Southwind. Still, deserves real credit for the birdie which secured victory there and had previously been unlucky to come up short of a hot-putting Rory McIlroy at Quail Hollow. More wins surely likely and arrives here with his reliable long-game in check, short-game woes keeping him away from the spotlight in Dubai. That's been a good way to prepare for this and some encouragement taken from his performances in the Bahamas on the Korn Ferry Tour. That said, course is probably bigger and wider than he'd like and really will need his iron play to be on if he's to win on his debut at Albany.

Abraham Ancer poses with the trophy after winning the FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Abraham Ancer with his first PGA Tour title

BERGER, Daniel

  • Course form: 14

Known to be one who enjoys life as well he should, the main question around Berger might be what he's been up to since playing his part in that landslide US Ryder Cup win — exactly how much 'vibin' can a person do in two months? Says he spent one of them doing anything but golf so while undoubtedly preparing for this since, there's a chance he's caught short of a run: every winner here had played during the previous three weeks. Otherwise a fair bit to like as he'd been playing well despite uncharacteristically poor putting in run-up to Ryder Cup and isn't the sort you'd expect to turn up and trot around the back. That is kind of what he did when 14th in 2017, mind, and enough reasons to look elsewhere on balance.


  • Course form: Debut

Course and event debutant who is one of the hottest players in the sport, with finishes of 2-21-8-17-1-14-5-7 since August. The first of those was a painful play-off defeat when sent off 80/1 for the WGC, and those sort of prices are unlikely to be available during the week of tournaments while he continues to cement his place among the world's top 20. Big-hitter whose iron play has improved almost beyond measure, and who typically putts well, so the climb is unlikely to stop and, now a two-time PGA Tour winner, he's entitled to have bigger ambitions for 2022. This would be a nice way to underline how far he's come and it looks a good test for him, though he does concede an experience edge to many.


  • Course form: 12-15

Remember last November, when Bryson started the Masters as the clear betting favourite ahead of Dustin Johnson, the world number one whose form figures dating back to the PGA read 2-1-2-3-6-2? Good times, my friends. Good times. Since sending everyone into a frenzy with an opening birdie at Augusta, hasn't necessarily hit the heights expected though did win the Arnold Palmer and could've defended his title in the US Open. Ryder Cup was a success, too, but said last week during The Match 5: Are You Really Still Watching that he hadn't touched a club since. Played this twice, finishing 12th and 15th, and was badly off the pace from an early stage in both. Worth remembering he's since transformed and with five par-fives to go at plus at least one par-four he could theoretically ace, would've been quite interesting granted better preparation. Maybe defeat to Brooks Koepka will see him turn green and angrily brutalise the course.


  • Course form: Debut

Won the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the beginning of the year, ending an eight-year trophy drought in the event which is usually reserved for those who've won within the last 12 months. Details, details: it was a thoroughly deserved return to the winners' circle for a player who has rebuilt his career impressively since the autumn of 2019. Kapalua is a pretty similar test to Albany in some ways and English has gone in again since, but there would have to be issues around form figures of MC-WD-MC since the Ryder Cup, in which he was not one of the real stars and lost his singles to Lee Westwood. Another course debutant who is hard to fancy.


Course form: 2-10

As with a few members of the US Ryder Cup side, Finau has gone quiet since pouring everything into that record victory. It's probably not that big a surprise: he'd finally shaken the monkey from his back with a play-off win in The Northern Trust, then went on to perform modestly in comparison to his teammates at Whistling Straits, and might just have struggled to get himself up for some late-year tournaments which won't change much. That said, it's only been the putter that has kept him down the leaderboard, and he now returns to a course he absolutely adores, having been runner-up to Jon Rahm on debut and then 10th in 2019, defying an opening 79 and playing basically as well as anyone thereafter. Said here previously that he'd taken the opportunity to tinker with his putter and if he does so again, and it works, he'd be a huge player. Close to the top of the shortlist.


  • Course form: Debut

Versatile Englishman won at Valderrama in October and threatened to win on one of the longest courses used on the European Tour when last we saw him, one at which he's a two-time champion already. No doubt disappointed with the events which led to him being passed by Collin Morikawa in Dubai but it was an excellent run at the title and he should at some stage be able to become a PGA Tour champion and confirm himself a properly global star. Here at Albany, lack of power would be a worry despite the fact he's overcome it elsewhere, and probably wants the wind to play a significant role if he's to be competitive.

HATTON, Tyrrell

  • Course form: Debut

Loveable rogue whose form has been really patchy, his last dozen starts showing two runner-up finishes, four further top-20s, 40th place in Mexico, and five missed cuts. Hard to argue his game is in good shape even after a respectable 16th place in Dubai last time, where he relied heavily on the putter and again struggled badly with his irons. Started the year with a bang but ending it with a bit of a whimper and it's only really the fact he does tend to stick around when in the mix which can be counted as a major positive on course debut.


  • Course form: Debut

Smiling assassin who defended his title in Mexico last time, where despite the absence of strokes-gained data it's fair to assume he a) had the ball on a string and b) putted better than he did for most of summer and autumn. There was more to that win at El Camaleon as he'd had to borrow someone else's driver, which had a shorter shaft and saw him improve what were already strong accuracy stats. Needs to back it up following a short break and if anything has proven most dangerous on more technical courses than this one. That said, plainly in great heart, has already won three times by the sea, and Oklahoma base means wind is not an issue (although neither is it forecast). Victory here would set him up for a big 2022 in which he'll be expected to step up in majors, including one in his adopted home state.

KOEPKA, Brooks

  • Course form: 7-13-18

As ever provides one of the biggest conundrums for punters having been in demonstrably poor form until winning The Match to strengthen the narrative that he's good when he wants to be good. While clearly overplayed, there's no doubt motivation has been some kind of factor for the four-time major champion and you'd like to think the strength of this field would ensure it remains strong as he seeks to build a platform for next year. Stats-wise the case is far less compelling as his approach work has been shoddy for a while, but new Srixon clubs seemed to have bedded in very quickly in Vegas and does have a round of 65 to his name here.


  • Course form: Debut

Furious to submit so tamely in the DP World Tour Championship where victory went from seemingly inevitable to all but impossible in a dizzying 20 or so minutes. Misfortune played its part, both in terms of hitting the flag on 15 and it being Morikawa on the charge, but no doubt he's lacked the killer instinct we were once used to. Still managed two wins this year, both when putting the lights out, so right now is actually quite difficult to get a handle on in some respects (that sounds like I'm making excuses for me rather than him, granted). Positives are that this course will definitely suit, and having committed to working on what he knows works with long-time coach Michael Bannon, his ball-striking was better in Dubai. As likely as anyone to play well and will not lack motivation, having won and nearly won in his two starts since those Ryder Cup tears.


  • Course form: Debut

Possibly went early in calling Hovland the smiling assassin, as that leaves nowhere to go with this stone-cold killer who everyone would love to hate and yet can't bring themselves to. Victory in Dubai was classic Morikawa, if such a phrase can be used for a player who turned pro less than two and a half years ago, in that he stayed patient, got a sniff, and suddenly looked like Faxon on the greens. Combine that with his long-game and you begin to see why he's made winning look very easy, when of course it isn't. Could argue that motivation may be lacking but said in Dubai his mindset is to immediately look to the next opportunity, and this is one as he could reach the top of the world rankings with a win. Wouldn't have the course down as ideal but can plainly succeed anywhere and, significantly, showed in Tokyo that he can back up a high-profile win. Obvious chance if you're willing to accept risk he suffers one of those off-weeks.

Collin Morikawa wins it all in Dubai
Collin Morikawa wins it all in Dubai

REED, Patrick

  • Course form: 2-10-5-11-3

Returns to the scene of the crime having so brazenly done what he did in this event two years ago. Won't stop him and you could even argue that being under the spotlight brings out his best, such as when winning at Torrey Pines and indeed when firing a final-round 66 here to finish third. One bad round also cost him in 2018, slow starts more to blame in the two years prior to that, and showed from the moment he came here that the course is a good fit. Problem is he's been in poor form, driving the ball badly, but the combination of the space this place affords (particularly if you make your own rules) and improvement in his approaches last time is quite appealing. Not at all surprised he's been popular.

ROSE, Justin

  • Course form: 13-WD-5-3-5

Long-time Bahamas resident who moved back to London last year but presumably retains a property in this part of the world. Finished inside the top five on his last three starts here, closing with rounds of 65 the last twice, and back in 2015 shot a final-round 62 when way off the pace, so it's clear that he either loves the course or has been able to put his knowledge of it to use. Not the force of old but 10th at the Wyndham, sixth at Wentworth and then 12th place at the RSM Classic suggest he's turning things around and when it comes to motivation, he's on the verge of falling outside the world's top 50 for the first time in over a decade. Clear similarities to Henrik Stenson in 2019 and could be capable of succeeding his friend.


  • Course form: 8-10

Quiet starts have been costly on both visits so far, finishing eighth and 10th and showing enough to suggest the course is a good fit. It should be, as he typically gobbles up par-fives and has an excellent record by the sea at Kapalua, and after a strong Ryder Cup he's played well enough in both subsequent starts. Slightly worrying that the latest of those was five weeks ago but very fact he's played so well in the Tournament of Champions underlines that he can go well fresh. Has gained a reputation as being a no-cut specialist (three of four PGA Tour wins plus Olympics this summer) and whether or not that's deserved, he's spoken about it himself and probably arrives here with a sense of freedom he may not get everywhere. If you can overlook potential rust issues has a big each-way chance, but has been expensive to follow for win purposes lately.

USA's Xander Schauffele celebrates after winning the gold medal
Schauffele celebrates after winning the gold medal


  • Course form: Debut

The only member of the field without a top-level tour win and was undeniably disappointing in Houston, having previously done little wrong when going close elsewhere. It'll happen for a player who downed Rahm in the Ryder Cup singles and the emphasis on aggression, birdies and par-five scoring here should suit. Motivation also a given but while rust could be a worry for a couple of these, Scheffler will be making his 29th start of a busy year (30 if you include the Ryder Cup) and was decidedly poor after a good start last time. Week off may have done the trick and clearly in excellent form before the RSM Classic, but given it's his debut here there are sufficient doubts on balance.


  • Course form: 10

Quiet year has seen him fall from sixth in the world to 25th and never really knock hard enough on Steve Stricker's door ahead of the Ryder Cup, for which he was wisely overlooked in favour of Scheffler and co. Has started the season encouragingly with form figures of 30-MC-14-8 and approach play in the RSM Classic last time was off-the-charts good. Given that he's gone well at Plantation and was 10th here two years ago following similar preparation, there's enough to like. Lack of power an obvious concern but has spent a decade punching above his weight and that includes on the longer holes. Likely to give his running but not bowled over by the odds on offer.

SPIETH, Jordan

  • Course form: 4-6-3-16

The world's best player according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, which is worth remembering next time you want to have a pop at the preferred OWGR system which tells us what we can see: that Jon Rahm is the world's best player, and that Collin Morikawa should be the one who can unseat him here. Nevertheless it's been an important, back-to-where-he-belongs year for Spieth, last seen finishing a decent 18th in the CJ Cup. Absence can be explained by the fact he's become a dad since and oh my god he'll be a fabulous father. Will he land one for the nappy factor here? It's possible, as another who loves Kapalua, showed there and at the Open that he's exceptional by the coast, and has been third, fourth and sixth from four tries here, the other coming when searching for a workable game.


  • Course form: 2-17-4-1

Gets to defend despite ranking 182nd in the world, a fall of more than 150 places since he captured this title in impressive fashion. Like Rose, local knowledge no doubt has helped with a fine course record which reads 2-17-4-1, but is a drifting outsider because his game has been poor lately. There were clear signs of a revival on the European Tour in August and September but he's since gone MC-MC back over on the PGA Tour where any issues are harshly exposed. Just as they will be here.

THOMAS, Justin

  • Course form: 11-12-5

Iron play has sharpened up again of late and it's helped him to finishes of 18th and third since a slightly underwhelming Ryder Cup, from a personal perspective that is. Record here reads 11-12-5, never really looking like he might win it, and it's telling that his best round is 67 as there's been plenty of solid but little in the way of spectacular. Can struggle versus his fellow elite players on par-fives, fickle though those stats are, and putter has gone from slight concern to potentially big issue, or else at least a club which can badly let him down. Fix that and improve only slightly on past exploits here and of course he'd be a big player, having won both Hawaii events. However, there are more doubts than you'd like at the odds and it's ultimately been a year of one big highlight and lots of small frustrations.


A sunny and calm week should make for low-scoring conditions in the Hero World Challenge and that appears set to play into the hands of the market leaders, who have the fewest questions to answer.

To some, Collin Morikawa ably demonstrated in Dubai why he merits shorter prices than RORY MCILROY and that is not at all unreasonable, but with end-of-year motivation so important I think McIlroy can turn the tables.

He really ought to have won the DP World Tour Championship, paying the price for not making birdie at the par-five seventh and 14th holes from what were ideal positions. That said he was undeniably unfortunate at the 15th hole after an excellent drive and he knew the game was up when three-putting the following hole.

Remember, these two also fought out the finish of the CJ Cup, McIlroy this time coming off best, and this course is somewhat similar. Certainly five par-fives are a plus and I like the way he hit his irons for the most part two weeks ago, in a tournament which has produced the last two winners of this.

McIlroy seems back on the right path with his long-game and, already twice a winner in 2021, after his Dubai debacle there's plenty of incentive to put things right. He looks the man to beat.

It's easy to pick holes in the other principals, with Xander Schauffele off for longer than is ideal, Jordan Spieth likewise and only recently having become a father, Bryson DeChambeau by all accounts dreadful and underprepared at The Match, and Viktor Hovland not yet having done enough to merit quotes of 10/1.

Justin Thomas might be the exception but he's not been especially effective here and the same goes for Brooks Koepka, although he's undeniably tempting at twice the price.

However, TONY FINAU has done far more here, first featuring in the final group when runner-up to Jon Rahm in 2018, then shooting 79-68-69-65 for 10th place a year later.

Finau was beaten only by Rahm and champion Henrik Stenson over those final 54 holes of his return visit, only by Rahm the first time, and is plainly at ease here at Albany. It is a big-hitter's paradise and while wind is not in the forecast, should it arrive then we know he's equipped.

Tony Finau took his second PGA Tour title with a playoff win at The Northern Trust
Tony Finau with an overdue piece of silverware

Significantly, Finau's long-game remains close to the standard which earned him an overdue second PGA Tour win in August, and we're likely betting on whether he can get the putter warmed up. He did that here having experimented with his equipment in 2018, and he's emerged from putting slumps several times in the past.

I quite like the prospect of him experimenting again and am happy to side with a player whose scoring average (4th) and adjusted scoring average (3rd) mark him down as a real course specialist.

It's tempting to side with Justin Rose, who knows this place really well, has finished inside the top five in each of the last three renewals, and comes in with a profile similar to Henrik Stenson prior to his 2019 victory.

However, PATRICK REED simply has to be better value at similar if not bigger prices, and he's preferred.

Reed has been second, third and fifth here in five appearances, undone by a second-round 77 in 2018 and then, infamously, by his own unique take on the rules of the sport a year later.

Any additional focus in light of that cheating scandal probably goes down as a positive for this us-versus-the-world rascal, and though not in the best of form, it's worth noting that this was also the case in 2014 (third at Isleworth), 2016 (10th) and 2017 (fifth), and his performance in Dubai prior to the 2019 renewal was similar to that which he produced a fortnight ago.

Encouragingly, Reed's iron play did take a step forward there and while his wayward driver kept him away from the action, there's more room at Albany. If he can remain competitive off the tee at a course where nobody in this field has a better, deeper bank of form, he could well make headlines here once more.

Posted at 1800 GMT on 29/11/21

Click here for Ben Coley's tipping record

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