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Draws and Fades: Avoid Tempting Roller Coasters at Albany

The opening round of the Hero World Challenge was a rollercoaster ride for most – including tournament host Tiger Woods – warning us of what to expect over the final three rounds.

With just 20 players in a shootout for the title at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas, coupled with variable winds, pars become somewhat of a premium as some of the best in the world went all out on attack.

The mentality is different in these holiday-time, unofficial events. If there is a small percentage play, like say trying to hack through a bush or perhaps clear a tough bunker lip, these players are throwing caution to the wind and having a crack at it more often than not. During the FedExCup season you’d surely see a little more restraint.

In the final wash up of the opening round not a single player was bogey-free, but it was a pair of players who carded just one bogey apiece who led the way.

Open champion Brian Harman and Tony Finau share top spot after each posted a 5-under 67, one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth at four under.

Spieth’s round was wilder than the nearby waterpark at the Atlantis Resort that sees its riders zoom through a shark tank. The Texan had just five pars but added two eagles, six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.

Sitting well poised just two off the pace are Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa and Cameron Young.

Woods – in his first appearance since April’s Masters – was understandably rusty but still performing admirably at one under through 14 holes. But the 82-time PGA TOUR winner dropped four shots in his last four holes to settle for a 3-over 75, eight shots off the pace.

As we look for a winner 54 holes from now, I can’t help but focus on the chaos… and try to avoid it. Yes, it is true aggressive play could bring us a blistering low round, but I believe slow and steady might win this race. A focus on not only notching up the Par Breakers, but also consideration of Bogey Avoidance, is the key.

Here are the adjusted odds after the opening round with BetMGM Sportsbook.

+400: Scottie Scheffler (-3, T4)

+650: Collin Morikawa (-3, T4)

+700: Max Homa (-3, T4); Tony Finau (-5, T1)

+750: Brian Harman (-5, T1)

+1000: Jordan Spieth (-4, 3rd)

+1200: Cameron Young (-3, T4)

+1400: Viktor Hovland (+1, 16th); Justin Thomas (-2, T8)

+1800: Matt Fitzpatrick (-2, T8)

+4000: Sam Burns (-1, T10)

+5500: Jason Day (-1, T10)

+6600: Keegan Bradley (E, T13), Lucas Glover (-1, T10)

+10000: Justin Rose (E, T13); Sepp Straka (E, T13)

+12500: Rickie Fowler (+2, 17th)

+40000: Wyndham Clark (+4, 19th)

+50000: Tiger Woods (+3, 18th)

+500000: Will Zalatoris (+9, 20th)



While Scheffler looked rusty in his first hit out since the FedExCup concluded, carding four bogeys to his seven birdies, we cannot forget how consistently excellent he was this past season. Scheffler ranked sixth on TOUR for Par Breakers and importantly was first on TOUR in Bogey Avoidance. As his swing grooves up a little over the next few days he should become a serious concern for the other players. I can’t see him ranking 17th in a 20-man field in SG: Approach again. He’s also finished runner up at Albany the last two starts here.

TONY FINAU (+700, -5, T1)

While I was tempted to throw another chalk play with Morikawa in the mix here, the unknown scenario with his back complaints has me holding one more round on the Californian and instead looking to the man from Utah. Finau had just one bogey on Thursday and ranked 26th on the season on TOUR for Par Breakers so he knows how to rack up the birdies. Interestingly, his prior appearances at Albany were all thwarted by a slow start before a strong finish saw him inside the top 10 each time, including runner up in late 2018. This time he has started hot. Don’t be scared off fellow leader Harman if you have an inkling there. He wasn’t on my pre-tournament radar but he was second on TOUR last season in Bogey Avoidance.

SAM BURNS (+4000, -1, T10)

If you want to look for a lottery play then Burns could fit the mold. He’s finished T3 here prior and had seven birdies on Thursday but also had two doubles amongst his faults. If he can tidy up the errors the odds here are at least attractive.


JORDAN SPIETH (+1000, -4, 3rd)

While it was certainly an epic ride with Spieth on Thursday, trying to believe he won’t make more errors over the final three rounds is hard to do. His eagles were sublime but his errors ranged in type also, making the Texan too much risk for the reward in my view.

“It was an electric factory out there, for sure,” Spieth said. “Some rusty putting, a couple toe balls and then a lot of really, really good stuff. So all in all I would have probably signed for four under when I was warming up today, I just didn’t think I’d get there this way.”

Source : PGA Tour