NASSAU, BAHAMAS – DECEMBER 06: Justin Thomas of the United States lines up a putt on the second hole … [+]
If you’ve ever been a little jealous of Mary Hart behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, or Spike Lee when he’s court-side at New York Knicks games, then you’re in luck–so long as you love yourself some pro golf.
The 2019 Hero World Challenge has been going on all week in The Bahamas, and the tournament founded and hosted by Tiger Woods takes place at Albany Golf Club, next to the normally exclusive town of Albany. Despite the fact that Albany is primarily known as a residential area and resort spot for new-money tycoons and the celebrities that live there, such as Woods and Justin Timberlake, the Hero World Challenge still offers something extraordinary when compared to most any other professional sports event. Along with the big names there, fans get an extremely close view of some of the world’s best PGA Tour golfers.
VIDEO: World No. 3 Jon Rahm of Spain warms up chip shots before play Friday.
The proximity to the pros is especially jarring when you compare it to other PGA events. Take Augusta, for example. Any aficionado who ever has made the trip out for the Masters Tournament knows that their best shot to see players like Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson up close requires a very early arrival. But even a 6 A.M. check-in won’t guarantee you a close view. At best, as with most stateside majors, spectators might end up somewhere between 15 to 20 rows back from the action.
In contrast, he Hero World Challenge offers the fans the opportunity to follow next to their favorite golfers all day. As for the course itself, Albany’s holes are reasonably difficult for any professional golfer, and for fans the front-nine is extremely walkable, with white sand paths cut between a loop of scenic fairways.
VIDEO: Up close as Rickie Fowler tees off the 7th hole, at Albany.
Of course, VIP amenities as an option for attendees at a price, as well as the pro-am golf rounds, which let scratch golfers drive and put with the pros. But for those who just want to watch golf in the Caribbean sun and Albany’s breezes, the scenic views and elite play make for a very calm and relaxing afternoon.
Easy, fun vibes at Albany
Just after 1 ’clock in the afternoon, a handful of golf fans pooled up behind the tee box at Albany’s 7th hole. I camped out at my own choice spot there, along with the first dozen people who got there. Within a few minutes Tiger Woods would shoot the 7th.
Before Woods and Justin Thomas arrived, a camera man from the Golf Channel spoke into his personal radio—or was at least pretending to do so—deciding to have some fun with us.
“Wait, what’s that?—over. You say that Tiger …is skipping the 7th hole?”
Of course, we all turned around in momentary dismay, to find the camera man laughing at us, before we realized he was joking. But a minute later Woods and Thomas, paired together for Round 3, took up the 7th hole. Once each golfer laid down his ball to take a swing, anyone there would tell you that being so close to such legendary golfers was something special.
VIDEO: Tiger Woods tees off the 7th hole, at the Hero World Challenge, Friday.
Patrick Reed dominant, Tiger rebounds from Round 1
Throughout the Hero World Challenge Patrick Reed has been exhibiting top-notch play, while sitting atop the leaderboard from the start of the first round, December 4. After starting Wednesday’s Round 1 at the near-bottom of the leaderboard, Tiger Woods rebounded, going bogey-free to shoot 66 and end up six under par by the end of Thursday.
Regarding his great play this week, Reed described his participation the Hero World Challenge like that of any top golf competition, while likening it to a typical day of cut-throat professional golf.
“I think it’s just the biggest thing is just, you know, man versus man,” said Reed, before play, Thursday December 5. “When you go out there, whether you’re in your singles or whether you have a teammate, when it’s two on two, you have to stare that guy down, that’s the one you’re playing.”