Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf after a 10-month absence at the Hero World Challenge over the weekend. He was the primary reason fans were drawn to this 18-player exhibition, and he gave viewers everything they realistically could have hoped for. Woods was never going to win, but we got four healthy rounds and his swing looked as good as it has in years. We didn’t see a grimace after a drive or him using a club and cane to walk down the fairway, which had become the norm the past few seasons. Bettors jumped early at the first sign of life from Tiger, driving his odds for the Masters from 50-1 on Wednesday to 18-1 by Friday. That number has stabilized and the 18-1 price is still available.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) December 4, 2017
The question is where will we see Tiger next. Hopefully, he’ll avoid the international travel that caused problems with his back last year at this point, and we’ll get another glimpse of him during the California swing at Riviera or Torrey Pines in January/February.
As for the rest of the field, it was going to take something special to track down Charley Hoffman on Sunday, and Rickie Fowler provided just that.
Fowler set the course record at 11-under 61 to claim the Hero World Challenge and reward bettors who backed him. (Our pre-tournament column advocated for this approach, as Fowler could be found as high as 11-1 at one point.)
Fowler entered the final round seven strokes behind Hoffman, but used a string of eight birdies in his first nine holes to jump past the 54-hole leader and claim the win.
11 holes. 9 birdies.
**NBA JAM VOICE** He's on fire! pic.twitter.com/H3o9gLLB6e
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) December 3, 2017
Fowler has been close to a lot of wins over the past year, including a second-place finish in his last start at the OHL Classic a few weeks ago. NBC highlighted his stats from the 2017 season, showing that he was 16th in strokes gained tee to green and second on tour in strokes gained putting. Those numbers are in line with someone we’d expect to be a regular in the winner’s circle, but it had been 10 months since Fowler’s last win. While this isn’t an official victory for his tour resume, I think it was important for Fowler to notch a win against the best players.
Fowler has seen young guys like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth hit the tour and then vault past him, and I think that may give him a little spark for the upcoming season. He’s a guy to really monitor come major season and the FedEx Cup playoffs, because he’s long overdue for a season where he strings together three or four wins. Fowler is currently between 16-1 and 18-1 in the four majors. Those aren’t numbers I’ll bet months in advance, but they’re worth keeping a close eye on.
It is important to remember that this is an exhibition and not look much into the results, good or bad. It’s vacation season for many of the these pros, and most of them show up to support Tiger’s event and have a nice trip to the Bahamas. We’ll really be able to start tracking their progress toward Augusta starting in January once the tour gets back into full swing.
Recapping the week, Fowler cashed at 11-1 on a 3.2 unit play. We also won the Alex Noren over Henrik Stenson matchup for two units on a +185 play. Overall, it’s our third consecutive tournament win and brings back a net profit of 34.7 units after the losses on Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood.
I’ll be back throughout December to take an early look at the majors, and we’ll get the plays going again in January with the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
2017-18 season review
Safeway: +3.6 units (Hadley Top 5)
CIMB: -2.0 units (Schauffele Top 5)
CJ Cup: -3.3 units (Harman Top 5)
HSBC Champions: +1.8 units (Stanley Top 10)
Sanderson Farms: -2.6 units (Silverman Top 10)
Shriners Hospitals: -9.75 units (Zilch)
OHL Classic: +46.625 units (Kizzire win/Top 5, Howell III/Knox Top 10s)
RSM Classic: +30.5 units (Cook win/Top 5)
Hero World Challenge: +34.7 units (Fowler win/Noren matchup)
Joshua has spent the last five years writing about sports and the last 10 years betting them, mostly on golf. He’s one of approximately five people who will watch the PGA over the NFL in November. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaPerry22
Photo: © Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports