Hero World Challenge: Player-by-player guide and recommended bet

Tiger Woods plays host in the Hero World Challenge
Tiger Woods plays host in the Hero World Challenge

Ben Coley provides a player-by-player guide to the Hero World Challenge, as 18 of the world's best players battle it out in the Bahamas.

BRADLEY, Keegan

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 49-1-26-19-6-17

2018 highlight: Winning BMW Championship

This would be a fitting end to a year of renaissance from one of the more intense players on the circuit. Bradley added a sour taste to Justin Rose's world number one celebrations by winning a play-off for the BMW Championship, ending a six-year run without a title. Having now won a major, a World Golf Championship and a FedEx Cup event, there's a case to be made that he's at his most dangerous in elite company, but in truth it's more about predicting when the putter will heat up. That's a very difficult thing to do but at least he'll like the golf course and its five par-fives, having ranked 11th on tour last season. Plus, while he hits the ball extremely high don't forget his first win came in strong Texas winds - being by the coast is no hindrance.

CANTLAY, Patrick

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 24-55-21-17-7-2

2018 highlights: Sixth at Firestone and stout Vegas defence

One of the most complete players on the PGA Tour, Cantlay has missed just two cuts in 2018 and none since May. That consistency comes courtesy of excellent driving, solid iron play and a generally neat short-game, plus a big-time mindset built on patience. Granted, it requires patience to watch him play sometimes but that shouldn't detract from his outstanding quality which seems sure to yield more titles in the very near future. He finished mid-pack in the Tournament of Champions to start the year, the nearest thing to this, but has improved throughout each of his last four starts and should be fresh enough on his 25th start of the year.

DAY, Jason

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 20-MC-24-18-5-11

2018 highlights: Wins, both hard-fought, at Farmers and Wells Fargo

Back close to his best this year, Day will have been a little frustrated not to have gone closer in the majors but all things considered should be pleased to get back to winning ways at he Farmers Insurance Open and back that up at Quail Hollow. The tough scoring conditions of both events probably suit more than a shootout in the Bahamas and the only way this gets really tough involves wind, which isn't always friend of one of the highest hitters on the circuit. Those are the negatives, but there are positives too, certainly in his play since the new season began. Day is a close friend of tournament host Tiger Woods and had to withdraw from this event last year when he and wife Ellie were expecting their third child. Having publicly announced that they'd suffered a miscarriage, Day is entitled to be somewhat emotional here after the couple welcomed a new addition to their family at the start of this month.

Jason Day
Jason Day

DECHAMBEAU, Bryson

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: MC-1-1-19-19-1

2018 highlights: Four wins in his last 13 events including last time out

Winner of three of his final 12 starts last season, DeChambeau started this one with yet another to confirm that he's a winning machine - he has five in little more than 18 months. Not seen since Vegas, but whatever happens here he'll go down as one of the success stories of the year, one he started at 99 in the world but will end inside the top five. Clearly, he's come a heck of a long way since finishing down the field in the Tournament of Champions in January and the only real niggle would be that his best form so far has been inland on distinctly parkland courses, bar last time when he won in the desert. That's not to say he's done nothing by the coast - third and fourth in the Heritage, second in Puerto Rico - and this Californian has to be respected wherever he tees up, especially as he's gobbling up the par-fives.

FINAU, Tony

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 8-15-10-2-36-16

2018 highlights: Contending in three of the four majors and making Ryder Cup debut

Another improved player this year, the only thing missing from Finau's list of achievements is a victory - he's without one since taking the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, where low expectations (he was in dire form) and low-grade opposition helped enormously. Given that he's playing well everywhere he goes at the moment, expectations have to be set high now and it must be said that he was extremely unfortunate not to win the WGC-HSBC Champions, where Xander Schauffele finished the tournament like a man possessed. This tournament went to a player with a vaguely similar reputation last year and having had a couple of weeks off since 16th place in Mexico, Finau is expected to be right back to his best. That Puerto Rico win confirms that island golf shouldn't be a problem and he has greater incentive than most, so don't be surprised if, having won his first top-tier event in an 'opposite' event, he earns his second in an 'unofficial' one.

FOWLER, Rickie

Course form: 3-3-1

Last six starts: 17-12-8-7-4-16

2018 highlights: Top 30 every start since the PLAYERS; Masters runner-up

One of the most consistent players in the world over the last six months, Fowler will sense an opportunity as he returns to the scene of his remarkable victory 12 months ago. Trailing by seven after a disappointing Saturday, he fired a final-round 61 to win by four, a stunning performance which many felt would provide the platform for an outstanding 2018. It hasn't quite transpired, despite a braver-than-before second in the Masters, and again he's playing the sort of golf which lures followers in without necessarily rewarding them. If all of this sounds harsh, perhaps it is, and I've always been in the camp believing that Fowler will probably win a major - it's just hard to support him now that he's chalked up among much more prolific players. That's the case again here, despite his obvious love for the course, and while his last eight rounds have been sub-70 he's not looked like winning either tournament. In fact he hasn't looked like winning anywhere for a little while now.

Tiger Woods presents the trophy to Rickie Fowler
Tiger Woods presents the trophy to Rickie Fowler

JOHNSON, Dustin

Course form: 15-3-14

Last six starts: 27-11-7-24-3-30

2018 highlights: Three wins including Tournament of Champions demolition job

Like Fowler, Johnson hasn't quite achieved what had been expected when he started the year winning the Tournament of Champions by eight. Given that he's added two further titles, that indicates how high the bar is set; he isn't going to be judged by winning events like the St Jude Classic, which he's won before and will probably win again, and instead finds himself in the shadow of friend Brooks Koepka who has three-times the majors now. After a fallout with his pal at the Ryder Cup, which had been preceded by personal problems, Johnson returned to solo golf with a disappointing share of 30th in the WGC-HSBC Champions and it's hard to know where his motivation levels will be let alone his form. He could also be without his brother and caddie, Austin, who was married in Florida over the weekend where Koepka's attendance confirms that he and Team Johnson are of course just fine. Back to matters on the course, Johnson led the Tour in par-three performance last year (there are five of them this week) and, clearly, can't be dismissed despite a mixed bag here.

MATSUYAMA, Hideki

Course form: 17-1-5

Last six starts: 15-4-18-30-46-44

2018 highlights: Two top-five finishes in final three starts

This year has been close to a write-off for Matsuyama, who was injured in early February and, after six weeks away, took until September to get back in contention. Fourth place in Boston followed soon by fourth at the TOUR Championship suggested all was well again, but some poor efforts since, including 46th and 44th in his native Japan, sound the alarm. Matsuyama can turn it on from anywhere when the putter behaves but his victory here in 2016 was his fourth in five starts, and it would be surprising were his game in the shape required to repeat it despite fifth when defending champion. He won't lack for motivation, but nevertheless knows this year is one to forget about and his focus will be on finding his game in time for a return to action in January - perhaps at the Sony Open.

NOREN, Alex

Course form: 12

Last six starts: MC-43-24-18-18-9

2018 highlights: Open de France win and Ryder Cup debut

Noren started the year in excellent form, losing a play-off to day at Torrey Pines and taking that form to Florida, before adding to his impressive European Tour haul in the Open de France. His form undoubtedly dipped thereafter but, following a perfect end to his maiden Ryder Cup appearance, he's started to play well again with three top-20 finishes in as many starts since October. Ninth place last time demonstrated that his long-game is back where it needs to be and while 12th place last year was only a so-so debut at the course, it's something to build on. Won't mind if the wind does blow as a regular contender when the breeze picks up and possible he'll be staying with the Stensons this week. Half a chance.

RAHM, Jon

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: MC-43-24-11-22-4

2018 highlights: Two wins including Spanish Open and Ryder Cup debut

With form figures very similar to Noren, Rahm also looks to have rediscovered his game in time for one final title push having struck the ball fabulously for scant reward in Dubai to end the European Tour season. That excellent title defence sets him up nicely for a debut in the Bahamas and with two of his wins having been earned by the coast, plus a fine runner-up finish in the Tournament of Champions, there's plenty of cause for hope. Not as prolific on the par-fives as you might expect for a player of such obvious gifts but loves a shootout, having ranked third in birdie average, and if the putter warms up just a little he should go really well.

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm

REED, Patrick

Course form: 2-10-5

Last six starts: 35-19-28-7-2-45

2018 highlights: Masters win

No doubt it's been a draining year for the Masters champion, so impressive in his front-running success at Augusta, and it'll be some effort if he's to hoist this trophy at the end of it. Reed has been busier than some since the Ryder Cup, certainly in terms of travel, and having gone from Dubai to Hong Kong and now to the Bahamas he might just be running on empty - particularly with a rib injury proving troublesome last week. Reed fought hard to make the cut in Hong Kong, doing so in astonishing style to further underline his toughness and professional pride, but it's possible to argue he'd have been better off with a free weekend when it comes to his chances here. In mitigation, he's played well on all three starts, he's got good form in Hawaii, too, and aside from the injury and potential for fatigue he's been playing really well including when second two starts ago.

ROSE, Justin

Course form: 13-WD-5

Last six starts: 2-2-4-8-3-1

2018 highlights: Climbing to the top of the world rankings

It's been another excellent year for Rose, who has twice been rewarded for his efforts by reaching the summit of the game: first after a play-off defeat in the BMW Championship, then after a play-off win in Turkey. Like most of these, then, there's a chance he's not quite at his best on his final start of the year but it will help that he owns a home nearby. Plus, he skipped the DP World Tour Championship - a disappointing thing for the European Tour, no doubt - so there shouldn't be any excuses. So far his form at the course is fairly modest, though, and while he did sign off with a 62 in 2015 his other eight rounds have been short of the sort of numbers required. Form figures tell you he'll be hard to keep out of the frame regardless but wouldn't be keen on backing him to win this.

SCHAUFFELE, Xander

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 3-7-25-48-1-16

2018 highlights: Winning WGC-HSBC Champions after missing out on Ryder Cup spot

Born winner who demonstrated as much to pick the pocket of Finau in China, before a solid enough 16th place in Dubai. That's all come since the Ryder Cup, which he was unfortunate to miss out on having contended for the BMW Championship before the final selection was made. Second in the Open and sixth in the US Open demonstrate his penchant for a big-time performance and he's beaten all of these before, either in China or the TOUR Championship last year. Carnoustie effort bodes well going forward when it comes to playing in the wind while he's putting the lights out right now, so this venue could prove ideal.

Xander Schauffele celebrates with the trophy
Xander Schauffele celebrates with the WGC-HSBC trophy

STENSON, Henrik

Course form: 2-17

Last six starts: 39-MC-20-69-29-12

2018 highlights: Ryder Cup performance and best-ever Masters finish

It's been a frustrating year for the 2016 Open champion, who has battled various niggles and more recently struggled with his elbow. It didn't stop him producing some excellent golf on an ideal course in the Ryder Cup, but when it comes to his individual performances they've been well short of what we'd expect - even if he has bagged a couple of major top-sixes. If the elbow has improved since an encouraging enough 12th in Dubai, he could benefit from having had a relatively light campaign and, like Rose, he owns a house in the Bahamas. Second place here in 2016 tells you that the course is a good fit and he was very pleased with the putter when last interviewed. Not sure price quite accounts for fitness concerns, though.

THOMAS, Justin

Course form: 11

Last six starts: 8-24-12-7-5-36

2018 highlights: Two wins and a brief spell at world number one

Arrived here at the top of his game a year ago and finished 11th, a six-week break having perhaps taken the edge off, and the primary concern would be that he again returns from a break. Didn't stop him winning in Hawaii last January, though, and with seven titles since then he's become one of the most prolific players on the planet and one whose game looks increasingly devoid of real weakness. Paired with Tiger Woods for the first round but that shouldn't bother him - the two play a lot of golf together - so having been the standout American in the Ryder Cup, there's enough to like about his prospects. As with most it's a case of working out motivation and hoping for a start which is good enough to keep him interested.

WATSON, Bubba

Course form: 1-6

Last six starts: 31-MC-34-7-16-29

2018 highlights: Three wins including WGC-Match Play

Flopped in the Ryder Cup, not that it was hard to predict given his play since mid-summer and the nature of Le Golf National. That's the last time we saw him and prior to it he finished 29th of 30 players in the TOUR Championship, so there have to be concerns over the state of his game and the lengthy absence. However, we know he likes the course and its combination of wide fairways and five par-fives, and it's one he'll be looking forward to tackling again having missed last year's renewal. Prior to it he'd produced an average of 67.5 from eight rounds here - fully two shots better than Rose - and having regained the winning thread this year there's a case to be made for the left-hander at 30/1 in places.

WOODLAND, Gary

Course form: n/a

Last six starts: 12-11-5-2-10-41

2018 highlights: Win in Phoenix Open and sixth in US PGA

No doubt Woodland has improved again this year and there may yet be more to come from this relatively slow burner, particularly if he finds consistency with the putter. Since finishing down the field at the Open, he's been inside the top 25 in nine of his 11 starts and there were positives in the other two, including when opening and closing with rounds of 65 in Mexico. Freshened up since, he looks a nice type here at Albany although reports of a test set of prototype Wilson irons in the bag would be an issue. He won't be alone in experimenting with one or two things, mind you, and is another relative outsider whose chance is interesting.

WOODS, Tiger

Course form: 15-9

Last six starts: 31-2-40-24-6-1

2018 highlights: TOUR Championship win

Ignore last week's nonsense in Las Vegas, where he lost 'The Match' to Phil Mickelson, and it's been an exceptional year for Tiger Woods. From showing signs of promise on his return to action here last December, he's rebuilt a winning game and his performance to win the TOUR Championship at East Lake was a joy to behold. No doubt it'd been coming as he spurned various opportunities earlier in the year and at last there's a genuine belief that he can compete for majors again, unthinkable for much of the last five or so seasons. Three sub-70 rounds in four at this course last year bode well - it was there that the first signs of life emerged - and perhaps The Match will have helped shake off the post-Ryder Cup rust. It'll have to have done so as by all accounts his golf there was poor, as it had been at the Ryder Cup, and perhaps his legendary focus has already shifted to next spring.

Arms aloft: Tiger Woods celebrates his first PGA Tour win since 2013
Tiger Woods celebrates his first PGA Tour win since 2013

Recommended bets & verdict

1pt e.w. Bubba Watson at 30/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4)

This is by no means an event to go overboard with, given concerns over fitness, form, motivation, equipment and everything else besides. However, BUBBA WATSON is clearly a horses-for-courses golfer and he's perfectly suited to Albany, where his power is an asset and his creativity can flourish. Watson hasn't been at his best but that's accounted for in the price given how frequently he picks up titles and I'm more than happy to take a chance on him at prices upwards of 25/1.

Of the remainder, Jason Day might be more engaged than most here and there's potential for the lauded nappy factor to reveal itself once more, so he'd be next on the list. Only Gary Woodland really makes appeal of the remainder but enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by his expected club testing and it's just one bet for me.

Posted at 1600 GMT on 27/11/18.

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