The Hero Challenge and Australian PGA see two big tournaments on the schedule this week – but there are only three words on everyone’s lips in the golfing world – “Tiger Woods Return”.
Yes the GOAT is back, after nearly 12-months since he played a competitive round of golf, he is now back on the course following a number of back operations – with the last major surgery being in April.
— Hero World Challenge|TGR Live (@TGRLiveEvents) November 26, 2017
“The surgery was about quality of life. I didn’t really have much because I had been in bed for two years,” he said.
“I feel fantastic. I miss playing golf for fun, I haven’t done that in two years.”
The 14-time major winner has played just 19 official events since 2014, but he is making his return in the competition that he hosts and takes place in the Bahamas.
The Hero Challenge features just 18 players in what is a stellar field, with only two players missing from the world’s top-ten in the shape of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy.
The defending champion this week is Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama as he is hoping to become the fourth player to defend this title – following on from Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell and Woods – who is a five-time winner.
Away from the Hero Challenge, and in Australia they have their PGA Championship – which has attracted some very big names for the tournament at the Royal Pines course in Queensland.
American Harold Varner III defends the title he won last year, but most eyes will be on the host of home favourites taking part with star turns Marc Leishman and Adam Scott looking for the title.
And Scott will be bringing back his broom handle putter which he used for his Masters success in 2013 before binning it in 2016 because of the anchoring ban – but others have since used the longer putters without the need for anchoring to great effect, such as veteran Bernhard Langer.
Scott has struggled without his long putter and is dusting it down this week to give it a go, using the modified technique.
The pair were given the all-clear by golf authorities and Scott is hoping to replicate their success as he turns to a modified version of the putting stroke he used to win the 2013 US Masters.
“Yeah, I think I might give it a run this week,” Scott said.
“I haven’t done that much work with it but it feels pretty good out there.
— Golf Australia (@GolfAust) November 29, 2017
“I’ve just noticed like everybody else that Bernhard Langer and Scott McCarron make everything they look at and have done since the anchoring ban and moving it away from the body.
“So it was actually pointed out to me that this year they both recorded the best ever putting stats since stats have been kept. Both of them beat the old best. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if they had just a really good year but maybe they’ve found the best way to putt.”
The pro’s point of view…
Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.
The Australian PGA looks a very good field and I think Sergio Garca will go well, but I think Adam Scott going back to the broom stick could just give him a huge boost.
The Hero Challenge, what a remarkable field – love having Tiger Woods back available again – but I think Justin Thomas could be the one to watch.
The Bookie says…
We caught up with Betfair’s Joe Dyer to get their views on this week’s action
It’s not often that the golfer third from bottom of the betting occupies the lion’s share of the attention but there’s no question that all eyes are on Tiger Woods this week.
The Hero World Challenge marks Tiger’s latest comeback from crippling back injuries and the 14-time major winner is sounding a very positive note on his return to tournament golf. Despite that, only 33/1 shots Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell can be backed at a bigger price than Tiger’s 30/1 quotes on the Betfair Sportsbook (which pays five places this week).
Favourites for the end-of-season mega-money invitational are Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, both 11/2 to win the event, played at the Ernie Els-designed Albany course in the Bahamas. The list of favourites is rounded out by Dustin Johnson at 6/1, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler at 8/1 and Justin Rose at 9/1.
The European Tour is also in an exotic location this week with a tri-sanctioned tournament in Mauritius. Louis Oosthuizen represents Major-winning quality in the field and is clear favourite at 6/1, ahead of compatriots 16/1 Dylan Fritelli and 18/1 George Coetzee.
It’s a tough punting week with a strong field in the Bahamas and a poor one in Mauritius. Motivation looks the key factor in the Bahamas and that makes it tricky to make a confident pick. But with the Betfair Sportsbook paying six places at a fifth of the odds in Mauritius you could say that Oosthuizen represents a fair each-way bet to nothing given you’ll profit should he make the top-six.