Punter’s pointers: Strong field assembles in the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods hosts his annual end-of-season tournament and this year’s field is a strong one.

It's time to wrap up 2021 for the world's elite players.

A handful of them - Jon Rahm, Dustin JohnsonHideki Matsuyama - have already done so.

They're in holiday mood, resting from this year's activities and getting themselves set for the rigours of 2022.

But this year's Hero World Challenge has assembled a fine field two years on from its last edition at Albany in the Bahamas.

Henrik Stenson defends the trophy before everyone joins Rahm, DJ and Matsuyama in hibernation.

Let's take a look at two key factors ahead of Thursday's first round.

Course form

This Ernie Els design has a few distinct features.

Bill Haas noted: "It's generous off the tee and I do like the greens being small which puts an emphasis on hitting a good iron shot and the greens surfaces are excellent."

The greens might be small, but the course does have holes which can be attacked, as Jon Rahm has pointed out.

"If you can capitalize on the five par 5s and the two drivable par 4s," he said. "You have a chance of a good score."

Patrick Reed certainly has form on the course.

As he'll be reminded on multiple occasions this week, in the first instance he has form for courting controversy (he was docked a two shot penalty in 2019), but he also knows exactly how to plot a route around the track.

He was second when the course was first used in 2015, 10th a year later, third in 2017, 11th in 2018, and third despite his infraction two years ago.

Defending champion Stenson has the second best record on the course (he's also been second and fourth), but his form up against high quality opposition has been poor for a long time now.

The two most intriguing records beyond Reed's are his compatriots Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth.

The former was second on his course debut in 2018 and then 10th two years ago.

But he carded a 79 in round one that year and charged back with laps of 68, 69 and 65.

Then there is Spieth, who was in poor form when 16th two years ago.

But when he was at his best he liked this test, finishing fourth, sixth and third.

With so much room from the tee and an emphasis on approach play and short game skills it plays into his hands. The worry would be that he has tended to fret about the conditioning of the course.

Read these words of his, for example: "We're used to perfectly manicured and this is ... it's just real sparse around the greens.

"It becomes like in some spots it's almost like chipping off mud. This type of Bermuda and where we're located, it just doesn't grow as full as other spots.

"I think it's difficult because for us high-maintenance golfers to get a course that's not quite perfectly manicured. You get some kind of weird lies around the greens."

Perhaps recall those words of Rahm's about the attackable holes and take Finau to repeat his excellent form and hopefully avoid that one bad score.

The TPC Scottsdale link

The notion that this is a course which favours a golfer who can attack vulnerable holes maybe points towards TPC Scottsdale, the regular host of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

That track also features par-5s and short-ish par-4s.

It's also a fact that winners at Albany have a good record at Scottsdale.

Bubba Watson won here in 2015 and has two second placed finishes at Scottsdale.

Two-time Scottsdale winner Hideki Matsuyama won at Albany in 2016.

A year later Rickie Fowler triumphed in this event and he has both a win and two seconds at Scottsdale.

2018 Albany winner Jon Rahm has teed it up six times at Scottsdale and is yet to leave without a top 20 finish.

Brooks Koepka won at Scottsale this year (and also did so in 2015), but he's struggled in the Bahamas and is in poor form.

Webb Simpson won at Scottsdale last year but might lack the length to fully take on the course this week.

Perhaps Xander Schauffele might be the play?

He's played the WM Phoenix Open four times, always finished top four, has three times been top five with 18 holes to play, and was second this year.

He's also a past winner at Plantation in the Tournament of Champions - another course that demands an attacking long game.

And he also adores playing in elite fields with no cut and has two top 10s from his previous visits to the course.

READ MORE: The Villain at the Hero World Challenge: Patrick Reed returns to the scene of his penalty incident

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