A lot has happened since Tiger Woods teed up at the Albany Golf Club a year to the day.
Last November, most conversations here on the eve of the $3.5 million Hero World Challenge revolved around how well Tiger would fare on his much-anticipated comeback. In fact, there were heavier odds, on offer, on Tiger withdrawing before or during the week than on the most famous golfer finishing in the top-five in the 18-man field.
This time around, the narrative is understandably different. Tiger, ranked 13th after scripting an amazing comeback this year, is among the contenders for title in the event he hosts.
After World No. 2 Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and defending champion Rickie Fowler, it is Tiger who attracts the highest odds to win the million-dollar prize on Sunday.
During the pro-am event on Wednesday, Tiger hit some impressive mid-irons, putted well and overall, looked pleased with his ball-striking.
But given the strength and depth of this elite field, where Gary Woodland ranked 32 is only one outside of the top-29 bracket, it could well be anyone’s week. In fact, four of the top-five players and six from the top-10 are around. After all, even the last finisher also takes home $100,000.
Tiger, himself a five-time champion and five-time runner-up, is joined by two other former champions, Bubba Watson (2015) and Hideki Matsuyama (2016), while Fowler returns as the defending champion.
The most notable absentee is the recently-crowned World No. 1 Brooks Koepka. Winner of the US Open and the PGA Championship this year, Koepka finished last in the previous edition here. Also missing is former World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, a three-time major winner and champion here in 2014.
Tiger Woods: 2018 the 'most rewarding season'
Rose, ranked second after being World No. 1 until last week, is looking to improve upon his tied-fifth place with Patrick Reed and Matsuyama in the last edition. Ironically, despite being a resident here since 2014, Justin’s does not have the best record on this course. But his recent triumph in the Turkish Airlines Open serves as a pointer to his form.
Similarly, Reed can be expected to bring in the form that earned him the DP World Tour Championship.
Going entirely by form, fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau cannot be ignored. Winner of four tournaments in six months, DeChambeau could well script a memorable debut here.
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