On the Caribbean island renowned for its pristine beaches, sand and water, in the coming one week, will be twin hazards to avoid as golf’s who’s who – as well as the game’s one and only – will descend upon the picturesque Albany Golf Course in Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge beginning Thursday (December 1). Who’s who first. World No.2 Dustin Johnson and No.4 Jordan Speith lead the elite 18-man field which includes eight of the top 12 golfers in the official rankings. There are three reigning major winners, the Olympic gold medallist and two exemption players.
And yet, all eyes will be on the tournament’s host and golf’s biggest draw, Tiger Woods, who will be mounting a comeback after sixteen months following a surgery on his back.
A five-time champion of the Challenge, the 14-time major champions Woods last won the tournament in 2011. His last victory on the PGA tour came in 2013.
All of which adds to the question: Does Woods, who turns 41 end of the year, still have what it takes to win?
“I am excited to make my return at the Hero World Challenge at Albany and play in this terrific tournament,” Woods said.
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“This is our 18th year, and every year we put together a top field that showcases the best golfers from the previous season.”
Joining Woods in the Hero World Challenge field is defending champion Bubba Watson. After nearly not playing in last year’s tournament, Watson earned his spot via an exemption that opened up just weeks before the tournament and strolled to a three-stroke victory.
He is likely to face strong competition from Johnson, who comes to Albany on the back of his first major win, the US Open. The other two major winners in the field are Henrik Stenson (British Open) and Jimmy Walker (PGA Champpionship).
To the silvery sand and turquoise waters, Justin Rose will add the glitter of gold having become the sport’s first Olympic champion in 100 years in Rio this August.
The Hero World Challenge is a four-round, 72-hole stroke-play event with a $3.5 million purse, a $1 million winner’s prize and world ranking points on the line.