December 02, 2021

Albany lives up to expectations

Expectations and reality often don’t match up. But for eight of the world’s best golfers, the reality of playing the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas has not only lived up to, but exceeded all expectations.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Abraham Ancer said following round one. “This is my first time here (at Albany) and I absolutely love it. It’s a great spot to just come hang out, but it’s also a golf course that is very demanding. It gets windy and it’s a tough test, but it’s in great shape. You hit the right shots; you can score. Obviously, I had a good day today, so I’m a little biased, but I like it here.”

With the tournament field expanding to 20 players in 2021, and an influx of young talent ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, several players were making their debuts at Albany, which has hosted the Hero World Challenge since 2015. Among the first timers at Albany this week are major winners, FedEx Cup Champions and Ryder Cup participants.

“It’s a really cool place,” Collin Morikawa said. “The course is all dependent on the wind, but it’s a special place (for me), obviously having gotten engaged a couple days ago. It will always be special in my heart.”

A community special enough for an engagement, Albany’s championship course still challenges the world’s best players.”For a resort golf course, it’s still really challenging,” Viktor Hovland said. “The cool thing about this course is you know there are a bunch of par-5s and drivable par-4s that you can make birdies on, but it’s hard to keep a clean card.”

While the wind will be a challenge to contend with all week, first time players at Albany fared well in Thursday’s first round. Two players making their debuts – Ancer and Rory McIlroy – are tied with Daniel Burger for the lead after the first round.

“It was great,” McIlroy said of Albany after the first round. “I’ve played this course a lot over the years being a member here for a few years and it’s a little different. You don’t quite see the trouble and the water as much in practice as you do when you’ve got a scorecard in your hand. Yeah, it’s a little different. I always used to think this place was very wide open and could sort of just wail on driver everywhere, but once you get a card in your hand and you start to play the way you normally play in a tournament, everything just starts to tighten up a little bit. It was good. The wind got up a little bit, it was tricky coming in there, it was a tough finish and happy with how I played.”