The Starter - Hero World Challenge

Nov 29th 2022

Nick DeMott

Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.

In Case You Missed It

  • Cameron Smith won the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland for the third time. This was Smith's 5th win of 2022, which means he's now doubled his career win total this year.

  • Despite the victory, Cameron Smith remains the No.3 ranked golfer in the world.

  • Dan Bradbury won the Joburg Open in Johannesburg, South Africa on the DP World Tour.

  • Bradbury won the event wire-to-wire and as a sponsor exemption. It was also Bradbury's 3rd career start on the DP World Tour. The young Englishman went from the 1,397th to the 551st ranked golfer in the world with the victory.

  • The Joburg Open awarded three spots into the 2023 Open Championship. Along with Bradbury, Sami Valimaki and Christiaan Bezuidenhout earned spots into next year's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

  • Sergio Garcia fell out of the OWGR Top-100 for the first time in over 23 years. Garcia was ranked 55th before departing for LIV Golf this past Summer.

  • Phil Mickelson is no longer to be affiliated with "The Match" due to joining LIV Golf. Mickelson had partial ownership of and was a competing part of the first four iterations of the televised exhibition match play golf event.

  • Bryan Zuriff, creator and producer of The Match, essentially confirmed that the show/event remains a loyal business partner of the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will take on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the seventh edition of The Match on December 10th.

  • Tiger Woods announced that he and his son will play in the PNC Championship (12/17-12/18) for the third consecutive year.

  • Steve Williams--who famously caddied for Tiger Woods from 1999-2011--came out of retirement to caddie for Adam Scott, who he previously caddied for from 2011-2017. Williams expects to be on the bag for Scott off-and-on in 2023.

  • El Camaleon Golf Club is expected to play host to the first LIV Golf Tournament of 2023 in late February. El Camaleon--a course designed by LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman--has hosted the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba on the PGA Tour since 2007.

  • Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas were announced as part of TGL, the high-tech golf league started by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. TGL is expected to start January 2024.

2022 Players Impact Program (PIP) Bonus Money

The PGA Tour released the much-anticipated results of its 2022 Player Impact Program last week. The PIP Bonus is meant to reward the biggest needle movers on TOUR. Which golfers are bringing the most viewers to professional golf and the PGA Tour? The PIP is intended to answer that question.

The 2022 version of the PIP doubled in both the amount of money awarded ($50 million to $100 million) and number of golfers included (10 to 20).

Unsurprisingly, Tiger Woods won the PIP for the second consecutive year despite playing just 9 competitive rounds. Full list below:

As noted in the rankings above, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Young, and Sam Burns finished outside of the top-20 but the PGA Tour still rewarded them with $2 million as they would have finished inside the top-20 under new, but not yet official, criteria for the PIP Bonus.

Every player on this list is expected to compete in elevated events for 2023 (for which they are eligible). Elevated events will have the biggest prize purses, another reward for the PGA Tour's top players. This is an unprecedented collaboration between TOUR players to get the biggest names competing at the same tournaments.

Hero World Challenge (December 1st-4th, 2022)

  • Albany Golf Club - New Providence, Bahamas

  • Unofficial Money Event (No FedExCup points awarded)

  • World Ranking Points are awarded

  • Limited-field (20 golfers) with no cut

The Hero World Challenge has existed in different iterations and at different venues since 2000. It relocated to Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas in 2015, making this the seventh time Albany GC has hosted the event. (The Hero was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID.)

The Hero has pretty much always been an end-of-year event that brings together--and in many ways celebrates--the top ranked golfers in the world.

There's not a ton on the line as it's an unofficial PGA Tour event, meaning there are no FedExCup points. There is still a prize purse but only a limited number of world ranking points up for grabs given the small field size.

Albany GC was designed by Ernie Els and offers a linksy-style layout. Somewhat similar to Congaree Golf Club (host of The CJ Cup in South Carolina), Albany's fairways are often surrounded by sandy waste areas--I believe they're referred to as dunes in the Bahamas.

There aren't a ton of water hazards, but the ones that do come into play on five different holes are strategically placed.

Albany GC is notably long, playing over 7,400 yards, which is due to there being five Par-5's on the course. Several of the Par-5's played around or even longer than 600 yards last year.

This is another one of these non-Shotlink courses that gives us little-to-no data to parse through. That said, the scoring has remained fairly consistent year-to-year:

  • 2021 scoring average: 69.48 (-2.52); winning score: -18

  • 2019 scoring average: 69.79 (-2.21); winning score: -18

  • 2018 scoring average: 69.47 (-2.53); winning score: -20

Past champions of the Hero World Challenge at Albany GC:

  • 2021: Viktor Hovland

  • 2019: Henrik Stenson

  • 2018: Jon Rahm

  • 2017: Rickie Fowler

  • 2016: Hideki Matsuyama

  • 2015: Bubba Watson

The Field

  • Will Zalatoris and Hideki Matsuyama were both in the originally announced field in early October. Zalatoris pulled out of the field in early November as he continues to rehab a serious back injury. Matsuyama pulled out of the field last week as he's dealing with some sort of neck injury.

  • Shane Lowry replaced Zalatoris in the field; Corey Conners replaced Matsuyama.

  • Tiger Woods withdrew Monday afternoon due a foot injury.

  • Sepp Straka replaced Tiger in the field.

  • Straka (No.29), Kevin Kisner (No.31), and Corey Conners (No.33) are the only golfers in the field ranked outside of the OWGR Top-25.

Who has played the most golf this Fall?

  • Tommy Fleetwood (7 events worldwide)

  • Viktor Hovland (6 events worldwide)

  • Matt Fitzpatrick (6 events worldwide)

  • Billy Horschel (5 events worldwide + Presidents Cup)

Who has played the least golf this Fall?

  • Xander Schauffle (1 event + Presidents Cup)

  • Justin Thomas (1 event + Presidents Cup)

  • Jordan Spieth (1 event + Presidents Cup)

INJURY REPORT (as of 10AM ET, 11/29)


Collin Morikawa (OWGR 10th)

Collin Morikawa somewhat cryptically announced his decision not to defend his title at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai a couple of weeks ago, citing "personal commitments." We know now that Morikawa was preparing to get married and wanted to keep that news fairly private.

Morikawa is NOT dealing with any sort of injury or personal setback.


Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods withdrew from the Hero World Challenge on Monday afternoon due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Woods announced his decision to WD on his person Twitter account, noting that it's too difficult for him to walk. Woods will remain a part of the Hero World Challenge as the host of the event.

According to his post on Twitter, Woods is still planning to compete in "The Match" next week and the PNC Championship the week after that.

Will Zalatoris (OWGR 7th)

Will Zalatoris herniated two discs in his back during the third round of the BMW Championship back in August and hasn't competed since. Zalatoris was originally in the field for the Hero World Challenge but decided to pull out of the field earlier this month as he continues to rehab the injury.

Zalatoris had targeted early December as a potential return date, but he'll take a cautious approach and wait until 2023 to tee it up on the PGA Tour again.

Hideki Matsuyama (OWGR 19th)

Hideki Matsuyama withdrew from the Hero World Challenge last week, citing a neck injury. Matsuyama WD'd during the third round of the Houston Open a couple of weeks ago with the same injury.

Given that the Hero is not the most serious event, it makes sense for Matsuyama to take some more time off so that he can get back to 100% health for 2023.

Form Report

Course history is probably not the most useful thing to look into this week. Nearly half of the field has never played the Hero World Challenge:

  • Corey Conners

  • Max Homa

  • Sungjae Im

  • Tom Kim

  • Shane Lowry

  • Sepp Straka

  • Cameron Young

Another seven golfers have played the Hero at Albany GC just once:

  • Viktor Hovland

  • Scottie Scheffler

  • Matt Fitzpatrick

  • Sam Burns

  • Collin Morikawa

  • Tommy Fleetwood

  • Billy Horschel

So, in lieu of course history we'll briefly glance at how golfers in the field have been playing coming into this week. Here are the golfers with the highest total true strokes gained (avg. adjusted strokes gained):

Last 30 days (small sample size):

  • Jon Rahm +4.14 (one event)

  • Tony Finau +3.07 (two events)

  • Tommy Fleetwood +2.44 (two events)

  • Matt Fitzpatrick +2.39 (one event)

  • Scottie Scheffler +2.38 (two events)

*Sungjae Im, Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Young, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth haven't played in an event over the last month.

Last 3 months:

  • Jon Rahm +3.20

  • Tony Finau +2.69

  • Max Homa +2.33

  • Xander Schauffele +2.12

  • Tom Kim +2.07

  • Sungjae Im +1.90

Last 6 months:

  • Tony Finau +2.66

  • Jon Rahm +2.52

  • Xander Schauffele +2.39

  • Scottie Scheffler +2.06

  • Matt Fitzpatrick +1.80

  • Tom Kim +1.80

Tee Times & Pairings for Round 1

Weather Report (as of 10AM ET, 11/29)