Two paradoxical figures that represent the status of two sides of the field at the Hero World Challenge.
247: the combined world ranking of 17 of the 18-man field in the Bahamas. 1199: the world ranking of the 18th man, Tiger Woods.
The former-world-number-one makes his first start since withdrawing from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February. Much hype surrounds Woods’ umpteenth return, but, as always, given the stress his body has been under, merely finishing all four rounds should be the goal.
Woods has made just three starts since August 2015. The results read a 15th (of 17 that finished) at this event last year, a missed cut and an injury withdrawal after just one round. It’s fair to say he’s out the loop of competing on tour.
It won’t be an easy return to action, either. Although a not particularly ‘competitive’ event, the 14-time major winner will be joined in the Bahamas by eight of the world’s top 10, only Jon Rahm (fourth) and Rory McIlroy (10th) are absent.
Bar Woods, Kevin Chappell, world-number-32, is the lowest ranked player in the 18-man field. No surprises when it’s made up of the four most recent major winners, the top 11 available ranked players, two invites and the host himself.
It was at this event last year that Woods made his first start in 15 months, and he did manage four full rounds of 73, 65, 70 and 76. Following that, though, Woods committed to four events in just five weeks. Of the potential 16 rounds ahead of him he managed just three (two at the Farmers Insurance Open and one at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic).
In order to fix his back issues, Woods turned to what is commonly seen as a ‘last resort’, a spinal fusion. It would be his fourth back surgery in less than two years.
If the 41-year-old were to need a confidence boost, though, it would be that he has won this event five times. Only Graeme McDowell and Davis Love III are other multiple winners with two apiece.
The most recent of winners is world-number-five Hideki Matsuyama who faltered to a two-shot victory over Henrik Stenson last year with a final round of 73.Embed from Getty Images
Jordan Spieth (2014) is the only other man in this year’s field with a previous win at this event.
Albany, in the Bahamas, won rights to host this event beginning in 2015 to last for three years, meaning this could be the last year of the event at this venue. It’s a par 72 with five par fives making low scoring a formality. Bubba Watson won on this track two years ago at 25-under-par. The top 12 of the field that year broke 15-under and all of the top four broke 20-under.
There are no FedExCup points on offer, despite being a recognised PGA Tour event, but there are world ranking points to be won. By simply finishing four rounds Woods would rise at least 250 places and closer towards that full field total of 247.