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Sport: In-depth preview of this week's Hero World Challenge including key stats, strokes gained data and picks

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It’s time for a trip to the Bahamas.

Zozo Championship 2021 © File photo Zozo Championship 2021

The biggest stars in the game are headed to Albany for a little getaway, where they’ll also play some golf.

Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge took a year off last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but returns with an enormous amount of juice. Why you may ask?

Because Woods himself will be on-site all week. Oh, and we heard from him for the first time since his accident at his press conference Tuesday (first time for all media, his interview with Golf Digest earlier in the week was fantastic).

Another storyline to keep an eye on: Jordan Spieth is teeing it up for the first time since becoming a father. Say it with me, folks: Perspective.

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Golf course

Albany Golf Course

Par 72

7,309 yards

The Ernie Els design features a links-style layout, where the winning score will be somewhere around 18 under.

Weather

Day Conditions Percent chance of rain Wind & Direction
Tuesday Partly Cloudy 7 percent 8 MPH (NE)
Wednesday Mostly Sunny 11 percent 10 MPH (E)
Thursday Mostly Sunny 9 percent 9 PMH (NNE)
Friday Partly Cloudy 6 percent 12 MPH (ENE)
Saturday Partly Cloudy 14 percent 10 MPH (E)
Sunday Partly Cloudy 23 percent 9 MPH (E)

Key Stats

Data Golf has Strokes Gained: Approach as their far-and-away most important stat for the week, and it makes sense. If you look back at the players who have won at this golf course over the years (Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama), they’re all fantastic iron players.

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At a course with relatively large fairways, I always like to keep an eye out for the bombers. I’m not saying you have to be a long-ball hitter to compete here, but distance doesn’t hurt when you need to go low to win.

Data Golf information

Course Fit (compares golf courses based on the degree to which different golfer attributes — such as driving distance — to predict who performs well at each course – DataGolf): 1. PGA West (Palmer), 2. Warwick Golf and Country Club, 3. Detroit Golf Club

Trending (among the players in the field): 1. Justin Thomas (last three starts: 4, T-18, 3), 2. Bryson DeChambeau (T-31, 2, 7), 3. Rory McIlroy (T-14, 1, T-6)

Percent chance to win (based on course history, fit, trending, etc.): 1. Justin Thomas (8.7 percent), 2. Viktor Hovland (8.3 percent), 3. Bryson DeChambeau (7.9 percent)

Twilight 9

Download this week’s episode to listen to Andy and my preview of the Hero World Challenge: Apple | Spotify

Betting odds

Odds provided by Tipico Sportsbook; access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds a full list.

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Rory McIlroy (+700)
Collin Morikawa (+750)
Justin Thomas (+1000)
Viktor Hovland (+1000)
Jordan Spieth (+1200)
Bryson DeChambeau (+1300)
Xander Schauffele (+1300)
Tony Finau (+1500)
Scottie Scheffler (+1500)
Abraham Ancer (+1500)

We got killed at the RSM Classic with Russell Henley missing a top 20 finish by a shot. Good news: We’re still in the green over the last five events. We’re going to have to hit a winner pick this week with only 20 players in the field.

Betting card for the Hero World Challenge

Rory McIlroy – Top 5 (+125)

CJ Cup 2021 © Provided by Golfweek CJ Cup 2021

Rory McIlroy celebrates after winning the CJ Cup golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The last time we saw Mr. McIlroy on the PGA Tour, he was lifting a trophy on the 18th green at the CJ Cup in Vegas. However, the last time we saw McIlroy on the golf course, he went full Hulk-mode on his shirt after finishing T-6 failing to convert on yet another 54-hole lead.

This will be McIlroy’s first appearance at Albany, but I think his game fits the course pretty well. Plus, when he’s in the field, I will bet on him. Every time.

2021 Hero World Challenge odds, picks, field: PGA insider says back Collin Morikawa, fade Bryson DeChambeau

  2021 Hero World Challenge odds, picks, field: PGA insider says back Collin Morikawa, fade Bryson DeChambeau Red-hot expert Sal Johnson just made his PGA picks and golf predictions for the Hero World ChallengeCaesars Sportsbook lists Rory McIlroy as the 15-2 favorite in its latest Hero World Challenge golf odds. Many golfers are tightly grouped not far behind, led by Collin Morikawa (8-1) and Justin Thomas (10-1). Others in the 2021 Hero World Challenge field who are expected to contend include Viktor Hovland (11-1), Jordan Spieth (11-1), Xander Schauffele (12-1) and Bryson DeChambeau (12-1). Before you make any 2021 Hero World Challenge bets or PGA Tour predictions, be sure to check out what proven golf insider Sal Johnson has to say.

Collin Morikawa – Top 5 (+130)

DP World Tour Championship 2021 © Provided by Golfweek DP World Tour Championship 2021

Collin Morikawa of the United States celebrates with the Race To Dubai trophy following and the DP World Tour Championship trophy after winning the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 21, 2021, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Here’s my thinking: One of these two guys will finish in the top 5. If both hit, great. If not, we’ll still pocket some cash.

Morikawa will become the No. 1 player in the world if he wins in the Bahamas this week. He’d become the second-fastest player in history to reach the top – you could probably guess who was the fastest.

His last start ended with new hardware for his trophy case.

Matthew Fitzpatrick – To win (+2000)

Matt Fitzpatrick of England tees off on the 10th hole during the first round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on October 28, 2021 in Southampton, . (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

I wanted to select a guy who comes into the week under the radar. Great in the wind, fantastic ball-striker, and can absolutely roll it.

Fitzy won in Spain a month and a half ago, and finished runner-up to Morikawa in Dubai in his last start.

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Hero World Challenge Saturday tee times and TV info .
Bryson DeChambeau cruised up the leaderboard Friday at the Hero World Challenge, bouncing back after a double bogey on the 18th Thursday. His second-round 64 has him leading Collin Morikawa, T ony Finau, and Brooks Koepka by a shot. © File photo Hero World Challenge 2021 The 2020 event was canceled because of the COVID pandemic. Woods was on-site and held a news conference on Tuesday, his first since his single-car accident in February in Los Angeles. This will be the sixth time the tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods, is being held in the Bahamas.

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