Why this two-time major winner isn't just on a working vacation at the Hero World Challenge
That the Hero World Challenge offers Official World Golf Ranking points for those in the field has been a point of consternation among some golf cognoscenti since the event was first granted them in 2009. Twenty players competing in the Bahamas in a no-cut event that isn’t an official tournament on a sanctioned pro tour understandably seems a little harder to justify considering the OWGR’s requirements for other tours/tournaments. Call it a perk for those who managed to earn invitations.
Among those who’ll be taking advantage of said perk is the tournament host himself, Tiger Woods. Consider this from OWGR guru Nosferatu:
Mind you, Tiger taking advantage of the situation to go from ranked 1,328 to no worse than inside the top 1,000 seems relatively harmless. But there’s another player in the field who could benefit from the circumstances in a much more financially critical way.
Justin Thomas enters the week 27th in the OWGR after starting 2023 ranked eighth. Thomas’ frustrating season has been well-chronicled, the two-time major winner failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs by one spot when he finished in 71st in the points race after the final regular season event.
This then has a ripple effect on Thomas’ 2024 season, specifically his status in the PGA Tour’s signature events, the dozen or so tournaments offering $20 million purses. Because Thomas was not in the top 50 on the FedEx Cup points list, he must qualify for these events through another criteria. And here’s where the OWGR comes into effect. Any player in the top 30 of the OWGR the week prior to a signature event is eligible to play in that event.
So it is that Thomas maintaining his spot inside the top 30 in the OWGR takes on a different importance. And a big week in the Bahamas could help Thomas do just that, setting things up for 2024.
It’s important to note that Thomas can qualify for signature events through other means. The PGA Tour has left places open for players to qualify based on their performances regular tournaments between the signature events. He also is eligible for sponsor’s exemptions, which would seem like a likely fall back option if needed.
Long story short, there’s at least one player who is likely considering the Hero World Challenge more than a mere working vacation this week.