Season May be Over, But There is Still Much Gold to be Won
OFFICIALLY the PGA Tour season has gone into hibernation for the winter and there is also a brief hiatus on the European Tour, with the Hong Kong Open being postponed for safety reasons. But don’t for one moment imagine that means that the world’s elite players are putting their golf clubs away. Far from it. And there is still much money to be played for.
Eighteen of the world’s best golfers are currently preparing for what is probably one of the best junkets of the year, otherwise known as the Hero Challenge. It is an invitational event and it is hosted by Tiger Woods at Albany in the Bahamas. It’s a hard life, right enough. It was at this event three years ago that we first began to believe that Woods just might be able to return to the top of the game after all his injury woes. He finished down the field but scored more birdies than other player and was clearly suffering from ring rust. In the end, it turned out to be a false dawn as Woods ended up with further back problems.
So 2017 was largely written off and towards the end of that year he announced that he didn’t know whether he would ever be fit enough to play competitive golf again. But he quickly made a mockery of that and within 12 months was winning the Tour Championship. He followed that with his heart-stopping victory at The Masters in 2019 and although he had to go back under the surgeon’s knife yet again - this time to attend to a troublesome knee - he came back again and won the inaugural ZoZo Championship from a world-class field. And then gave himself one of four captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup.
He currently looks like a man reborn and will be keen to stamp his authority on events in the Bahamas and to star in The Presidents Cup, where he will become only the second playing captain in the history of the event.
We will be giving you a full preview of the Hero World Challenge in due course, but Woods is using the event to bond with his Presidents Cup team and has also invited Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, as well as Kevin Kisner, who gave Woods a hard time for overlooking him for the Presidents Cup. The field includes Woods, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and former winner Bubba Watson. Is it just a coincidence that Woods has failed to invite a single member of Ernie Els’ International team? Probably not.
This year’s tournament will be held Wednesday, December 4 – Saturday, December 7, 2019 at Albany, marking the fifth consecutive year the event has been held in the Bahamas. The Saturday finish will help accommodate the players’ travel schedule to the 2019 Presidents Cup, to be played in Australia the following week.
This may well be a seen as a junket, but it is a worthwhile one. Proceeds will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation and ONE Bahamas Fund, NEXUS Luxury Collection and members of the Albany community after Hurricane Dorian, ONE Bahamas Fund has pledged $6m towards the rebuilding of The Bahamas with a dollar for dollar match in hopes of raising $12 million to help those impacted by the hurricane.
And while the so-called serious business is going on at the Presidents Cup in Australia, 12 two-man teams will be pointing their wheelbarrows in the direction of the QBE Shootout, hosted by Greg Norman, with Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff among the new partnerships.
“We are pleased to round out the field with such a quality group of players and equally thrilled with the compelling teams we’ve been able to put together. These dynamic duos comprised of young guns, recent TOUR winners and established veterans are sure to create an exciting three days of competition,” Norman said.
The 24-person QBE Shootout, held at Tiburón Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, field features nine players who won during this past season and a total of 80 career PGA Tour and LPGA victories, as well as eight of the top 50 players in the world. There are also eight first-time participants. There are nine new teams competing for the $3.5m purse. You read that right - $3.5m!
The three returning teams are defending champs Brian Harman and Patton Kizzire; Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker, who played in 2018; and the return of the team of Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, who were paired together in 2008. LPGA star Lexi Thompson will be playing for the fourth straight year. This year she will be paired with Sean O’Hair, who won the QBE Shootout with two different partners, Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry.
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