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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Hungry Hoffman could be tough to shift from the front

Fowler should relish weekend assignment

Rickie Fowler is five shots off the pace
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 5pm Saturday

Tiger Woods has dazzled the golfing world this week with a positive return to action in the Hero World Challenge, the 14-times Major champion reaching seven under par through 36 holes at the Albany course, Bahamas.

Woods, a 40-1 outsider on tournament-eve, having spent ten months on the sidelines injured, followed a 69 with a 68 to claim a share of fifth place at the halfway stage. His long-game has been particularly impressive, with chipping and lag putting the main issues.

Charley Hoffman, a 35-1 chance ante-post, leads the way on 12 under par, with Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood sharing second place, three shots behind. Local resident, Justin Rose, is alone in fourth spot.

Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, who were jostling for favouritism with Spieth ante-post, have given themselves a mountain to climb over the weekend. Thomas is five under par, while Johnson bogeyed both par-fives on the back-nine to slump to a level-par second-round 72 which left him eight shots off the pace.

In-running punters looking to get involved at this stage are pointed towards Hoffman and Rickie Fowler. Hoffman, unlike some in the field, is bursting with determination at the end of a season in which he has played extremely well without winning.

Given the way Hoffman was rolling his rock in round two, this superb ball-striker is probably going to be tough to shift from the leaderboard summit. Allied to his strong desire, clearly lacking in many others who have made peculiar caddie choices this week,

Hoffman is well suited to this windswept course. He is long enough to take advantage of the five par-fives and excellent at handling a breeze. With two rounds of course knowledge under his belt, the Presidents Cup star can attack the layout with more confidence over the weekend.

The biggest danger to Hoffman may turn out to be Rickie Fowler, who closed round two with back-to-back birdies to stay close enough to the lead. Fowler has finished third in this event the last two years and the track is perfect for him. Coming from behind over the weekend should suit him and, like Hoffman, there is no doubting his passion for the trophy. Fowler knows he needs more victories to justify his status in the absolute elite of golf.

Spieth has a mate as caddie this week. That is a serious bagman downgrade from last week, where his coach Cameron McCormick, renowned as one of the greatest minds in golf, was on duty. With zero support alongside him, Spieth's exertions Down Under last week may catch up with him in the closing 36 holes. He played in the Australian Open, so had a 20-hour journey home.

Rose may prove a more serious title candidate, but Hoffman and Fowler are the best value. The action resumes at 4.47pm UK and Ireland time, with another cloudy, breezy day in store. Hoffman and Spieth are due out in the final pairing at 6.15pm.

C Hoffman
4pts 7-2 general
R Fowler
1pt each-way 12-1 general

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He is long enough to take advantage of the five par-fives and excellent at handling a breeze
E.W. Terms
Sky bet