Crowded at the top in the Hero World Challenge

With the Albany course protected by rain, scoring was tough. Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Sepp Straka and Tom Kim tied for the lead at 69

Sepp Straka - Getty Images

02 December 2022: Sepp Straka made the most of his last minute invitation to the Albany resort. Into the field after Tiger Woods decided to pull out with Plantar Fasciitis. The Alabama golfer shot an opening 69 to join a four-way tie for the lead with Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim and Collin Morikawa.

Straka shot six birdies on a wet day in the Bahamas. The replacement for Woods managed six birdies at rain-soaked Albany for a 3-under 69 that gave him a share of the lead at the Hero World Challenge with defending champion Viktor Hovland, Tom Kim and Collin Morikawa.

Scoring remained tight through the opening round. Hovland enjoyed the lead very briefly, when he moved to four-under. But that did not last long enough, as a bogey at sixteen drew him even with the other leaders.

Morikawa, seeking to erase the memories of a miserable 76 in the final round, squandering a five shot lead, got off to a solid start. The Korean Kim joined them in the lead with another impressive round of golf.

Interestingly, no 18-hole leader or one who owned a share of it has won the tournament since the event moved into the Albany resorts in 2015.

The only golfer to have successfully defended the HWC was Tiger Woods in 2007 at the Sherwood Country Club. Hovland is looking to emulate him and also successfully defend a title for only the second time in his career. He has the 2021 World Wide Technology Championship to his credit.

Kim, the young Korean with two PGA TOUR wins to his resume, was the only golfer with a spotless card on muddy rain soaked day at the Albany course. Seven of the twenty players in the field this week are making their maiden appearance at the tournament.

The 2022 Honda Classic winner, Straka, will hope to heal some of the wounds from the playoff losses he suffered at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and Sanderson Farms Championship.