The 2018 Hero World Challenge gets underway today at the Albany Golf Course at Albany. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour event will continue Friday and Saturday, ending on Sunday.
The tournament features 18 of the world’s best golfers, and the weekend’s champion will take home a winner’s prize of $1 million. The total prize purse is $3.5 million.
Here to defend his title is American Rickie Fowler. He will be celebrating his 30th birthday in a few weeks and said it is good to be back and to be a part of this year’s field.
“It’s always nice to be back. This is an event that you want to be a part of – that means you’ve done something right or consistently done things right to be inside of, I think, it kind of goes around to the maybe low 20s in the world rankings. Yeah, it’s just a nice group to be a part of – small field, nice way to kind of end the calendar year,” he said.
Fowler has not won a tournament since last year’s edition of the Hero World Challenge. He desires to get back in the winning circle here in The Bahamas.
“Last year was a real nice way to end the calendar year, being seven back and birdieing the first seven holes to put myself back in a position to win. Unfortunately, I haven’t won since then, so I need to win again and get things turned around for the rest of the year,” he said.
The number nine ranked player in the world said it is great to be back in The Bahamas. He came here earlier in the year and frequents The Bahamas as much as three to four times per year. He said it is a great place to end the calendar year in golf.
Heading into his 30s, Fowler said he believes he is entering his prime years.
“I look at the next five to 10 years as the time to take advantage of things and make sure that we’re not sitting back and just relaxing, go out and take care of what we want to take care of and see what can happen. So, I’m looking forward to, like I said, these next five to 10 years of taking advantage of them and making them count,” he said.
Henrik Stenson, who was the 2014 and 2016 runner-up at the tournament, is coming off an elbow injury and feels he is ready to play. The injury forced him to miss the last couple of months in golf.
“I feel like I’m pretty keen on playing golf, which is late in the season and I’m sure one or two of my colleagues might feel a little tired after all the traveling and such. I feel like I’m ready. I played alright here in the pro-am so I’m ready,” Stenson said.
Stenson spoke about the course, stating that it is in good condition.
“It was very windy out there yesterday. I think it’s forecast for a bit less wind the next couple days, which is good. The course is in good condition and looks pretty much the same. There’s nothing really changed compared to the previous times that we played – keep it out of the bushes and hit fairways and greens and putt well and you’re going to be there or thereabouts,” he said.
As for having Tiger Woods in the tournament, Fowler said he is not intimidated by him. He gets to see him play on a regular basis, and said it is not like he is invincible like how he was back in the early 2000s. Fowler just wants to go out there and have fun with Woods.
“I get to see him at home. I don’t look at him as, you know, he was probably looked at in the early 2000s. He’s someone who we want to go beat up on, he wants to beat up on us. I feel like it’s a lot more of a leveled playing field now where prior to a lot of us being out here, you look at kind of the late ‘90s, early 2000s when he was 30 percent win percentage and all that, he stepped on the tee and it was a different presence. He still carries that presence. I mean, he’s 14 majors, 80 wins, it’s got to count for something, but no, we’re not scared to go toe-to-toe and go have some fun out there with him,” Fowler said.
Fowler will tee-off with number three ranked Dustin Johnson at 12:16 p.m. Starting the round off at 11:10 a.m. will be Tony Finau and Gary Woodland.
Woods, who is coming off playing The Match against Phil Mickelson last weekend, will be paired up with number four ranked Justin Thomas. The two will tee off at 12:05 p.m.
Justin Rose, the highest ranked player in the world in the tournament at number two, is teeing off at 11:43 a.m. He will be paired with Stenson.