Thanks to Tiger and Captain America, the Hero World Challenge has plenty of intrigue

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NASSAU, Bahamas — Patrick Reed not only wants to impress the boss, he wants to win his tournament — and is on track to do so.

Captain America, who stirred things up pretty good last year in France at the Ryder Cup and needed an at-large pick from captain Tiger Woods to be part of next week’s U.S. team at the Presidents Cup, is doing nothing to disappoint through two rounds of the Hero World Challenge.

Neither is Woods, whose form remains excellent after an undisclosed knee problem was fixed with surgery and thus has had a remarkable impact on his game.

They are among the players to watch heading into the final two rounds at Albany Golf Club.

Tiger’s Form

Since knee surgery, Woods has shot scores of 64, 64, 66, 67, 72 and 66. The first four came at the Zozo Championship, where he finished 19 under par in Japan and won by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama for his 82nd PGA Tour title.

The 72 came on Wednesday when Woods played the final two holes in 3 over par. He bounced back with 66 on Thursday and didn’t make a bogey.

Not bad for the U.S. Presidents Cup playing captain, who is mulling how much he will play next week at Royal Melbourne.

“I’m playing a minimum of two, does that help you?” when asked about often he plans to play. Woods, of course, is required to play that much. How much his play in the Hero impacts that decision seems just one part of the decision.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We have game plans for next week. We’ve got guys who haven’t played. DJ (Dustin Johnson) is coming off an injury, a surgery. We’re going to take it day by day, see how guys feel. We’re going to communicate with one another and work through it. Just get a feel for the golf course.”

Reed’s Workload

This is Reed’s eighth tournament since playing the Tour Championship in August. And he’s been everywhere, including Germany, the Netherlands, England, Japan, China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirate before coming to the Bahamas.

Next week it’s the Presidents Cups, and the only thing Woods might worry about for Reed is fatigue. But so far, so good, as he has posted back-to-back scores of 66 to lead the Hero and put himself forward as perhaps the Americans’ most solid player at the moment.

“It’s one of those days and one of those weeks where you need to give yourself as many opportunities as you can and play from the short grass because when you can attack,” said Reed, who has a three-shot lead over Gary Woodland.

Spieth’s lament

After playing on every U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team going back to 2013, Jordan Spieth will watch next week’s competition from his home in Dallas. It makes things a bit unusual for him this week as 11 of the 12 U.S. team members are here — and he’s not one of them. The only other Americans in the field not going to Melbourne are Bubba Watson, Chez Reavie and Kevin Kisner.

“When it’s being played without me being there, that will be where I’ll probably be like, man, I took it for granted,” Spieth said after shooting a 70 on Thursday that left him in a tie for 14th place.

“I’m probably out of a lot of good texts. It sucks because there was always good banter on those and I always like the lead-in and the playing practice rounds together, preparing to be a team representing your country. Yeah, it’s tough.”

In the meantime, Spieth has more immediate concerns as he’s dropped from 17th in the world at the start of the year to 44th. The 11-time PGA Tour winner has not won since 2017 Open victory at Royal Birkdale.

“I’m actually confident about what 2020 holds for me,” Spieth said. “I feel things starting to get on the right track, it’s just timing and stuff and some visuals. It’s not really relating into necessarily the scores. Yesterday I had two bad drives. I drove the ball really well the hole day, but that kind of stuff I’ll fine tune and it will certainly get better as I hit more shots.”

Rahm’s roll

Two weeks ago, Jon Rahm won the season-ending European Tour event, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. It was his third victory of the year on the European Tour and at third in the Official World Ranking, he will be in a position to challenge No. 1 Brooks Koepka and No. 2 Rory McIlroy in 2020.

Rahm’s 66 on Thursday put him in a tie for third, four shots back of Reed.

“It’s not like last week I spent all week practicing, it was Thanksgiving in the States so I spent more of the week eating more than anything else,” said Rahm, the defending Hero champion. “I think I just come with the confidence that I Know I’ve been playing good. I don’t need to do anything special to be able to play good. And knowing winning last year and how I did it, you don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary, just do what you’re good at and hopefully execute properly.”

The Stragglers

For Woods, the U.S. Presidents Cup captain, it’s nice to see Patrick Reed leading, Gary Woodland contending and Rickie Fowler in the top 5. But it can’t be great to see Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau occupying the last three spots in the 18-player field.

At least Finau rebounded Thurday to shoot 68. Cantlay shot 72 after an opening-round 74. But DeChambeau, who spent the last six weeks in the gym in an effort gain weight (some 25 pounds) and add muscle, shot 71 after an opening 76 and was seen grinding on the practice range afterward at what is supposed to be a casual event.

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