WGC-HSBC Champions Preview

10.24.18

Third week in a row for the Tour on the other side of the world.

Hideki Matsuyama is back to defend his title and look to make it two in a row on the WGC circuit.

I’m not sure what’s going on here but I’ve also never been to China:

WGC-HSBC Champions

Sheshan International Golf Club

Shanghai, China

 

Yards: 7,266 per the official scorecard;

Par: 72 (36-36);

Course Architect(s): Neil Haworth, 2004;

Greens: Creeping Bentgrass running at 11.5′;

Rough: Seashore Paspalum and Ryegrass approaching three inches.

Bunkers: 82

Water Hazards: Water is on play on 11 of 18 holes.

Purse: $9.75 million; $1.665 million (winner); 550 FEC points.

Defending Champion: Hideki Matsuyama won by a whopping seven shots on 23-under-par 265. Henrik Stenson and Daniel Berger finished joint second.

Notes: 78 players; 72 holes (no cut).

Notes I: The 2012 event was held in Shenzhen at Mission Hills and should be ignored in any research.

Notes II: In 2013 this became an official PGA Tour event with official prize money, FedExCup points and a regular spot on the Tour’s schedule.

Notes III: Of the 78 players in the field, 28 of them are making their maiden voyage on this track. Of those 28, 16 are playing their first WGC event.  

 

2017-18 PGA Tour Winners

Safeway: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Pat Perez

CJ CUP: Justin Thomas

 

Previous champions at Sheshan

OWGR rank at the time of victory listed along with the winning score in relation to par.

 

2005: David Howell; No. 19 (-20)

2006: Y.E. Yang; No. 77 (-14)

2007: Phil Mickelson; No. 2 (-10)*

2008: Sergio Garcia; No. 3 (-14)*

2009: Phil Mickelson; No. 2 (-17)

2010: Francesco Molinari; No. 30 (-19)

2011: Martin Kaymer; No. 6 (-20)

2013: Dustin Johnson; No. 23 (-24)

2014: Bubba Watson; No. 7 (-11)*

2015: Russell Knox; No. 85 (-20)

2016: Hideki Matsuyama; No. 10 (-23)

 

* – playoff

italics – not playing this week

 

Weather: Seasonable temperatures in the upper 60’s; wind will blow all week and increase daily. #BallStrikers.

 

This will win you a bar bet I:

Only eight players have claimed their first Tour win in a WGC event. The last two were Knox and Shane Lowry, both in 2015.

This will win you a bar bet II:

The last five WGC events have been won by Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama. Both are in the field this week. #Ballers. #Class.

This will win you a bar bet III:

The only winner of a WGC event NOT to make the Tour Championship was non-member Shane Lowry in 2015.

 

Facts and Figures

  • Since becoming an official event, Knox is the only winner to make this his first Tour victory.
  • Knox is the only player to win in his WGC debut.
  • Matsuyama, 24 last year, is the youngest winner of this event.
  • Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are the only players to win back-to-back WGC events.
  • No player besides Woods has defended a WGC event.
  • Five of the last eight WGC winners are major champions.
  • Dustin Johnson owns the tournament record of 264 in 2013.
  • Johnson, Matsuyama, Jason Day and Adam Scott are the only multiple WGC champions in the field this week.
  • Mickelson is the only multiple winner on this track.
  • Martin Kaymer owns the course record, 62, set in 2014. The lowest score last year was 64 by Rikard Karlberg and Scott. Scott shot 80 the day before. Bizarre.
  • Matsuyama racked up 29 birdies to lead the field last year.
  • Matsuyama played his final 45 holes bogey-free and squared only six bogeys on the week. Those 45 holes he was 14-under-par while T-2 FOR THE WEEK was 16-under. #Sizzle.
  • T-43 fairways, T-10 GIR and first in putts per GIR plus 11-under on par fives. Bombs away.
  • Top 13 players were double-digits under par last year.

 

Sheshan International

I don’t believe in over-thinking it in fantasy land so I’m not going to change this week. The winning score here has been 19-under or lower in five of the last six years so it’s time to make plenty of birdies again this week. Also, that group of winners are annually up the list of the guys who hit the most GIR. The formula isn’t hard to decipher as the guys who hit the most GIR have the most chances for birdies or better. With four meaty par fives the power players that can take advantage of those holes will also cause separation. Matsuyama was “just” 11-under on those holes last year but was even on the par threes. I guess par four scoring doesn’t hurt either!

The top 11 was littered with power players last year and I wouldn’t think with breezy conditions this year that angle will change. I’m going to lean on the big names who aren’t afraid to step up when 550 FedExCup and $1.65 million are on the line. With 28 first-timers (Day and Rahm excluded because of class) at this event and 16 playing their first WGC, the field shrinks even more. If the wind blows and the course firms up that rarely helps the fringe guys as well.

Chalk

Marc Leishman: Only Justin Thomas could slow him down last week as his record now shows a first, second and third in his last four events. The Aussie is complete through his bag and no doubt in the form of his life. It doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t mind playing here either as he was ninth in 2014 and T-15 in 2015 before skipping last year. Yes, I’ve noticed the wind picks up on the weekend!

Hideki Matsuyama: Not touching a club for a couple of weeks is just what the doctor ordered as he looked refreshed with T-5 at CIMB. With a week off between events he should be ready to fire up another title defense as he did last February at TPC Scottsdale. He’ll look to match Woods and Johnson as the only players to win back-to-back WGC events. He’ll look to match Woods as the only players to defend a WGC title as well. He obviously feasts in this part of the world so get a seat at the table with him.

Paul Casey: No stranger to top finishes and hitting GIR the Englishman threw out a clunker for him last week as he was T-19 in Korea. He’s backed up every “bad” finish in the last four months with a top 10. I see no reason to see that trend ending this week.

Dustin Johnson: It’s not very often that he’s in the field and not in the top two so I guess I’m fading him. His best finishes in this event (win, T-5) have come when he’s had a warm up event and not four weeks off. There’s no warm up before this week so he’s going to have to hit the ground running. Last year he opened 74-74 and dug a hole too deep. If he gets off to a good start and the wind picks up on the weekend, he’ll be smiling.

Tyrell Hatton: This one is pretty self-explanatory as he’s won his last two events on the European Tour and was T-8 and T-3 his two events prior. He’s stuck his best mate on the bag and results have been almost perfect. He has no problem flushing it and I would say confidence is not an issue.

Ross Fisher: This Englishman has shot 63 and 61 in his last two events on Sunday and lost both times to Hatton. He’s 31-under here the last two years with T-3 and T-6 to his name. If both shoes fit, wear them.

Justin Rose: His excellent finish to 2017 was better late than never for gamers as the Englishman rattled off four top 10 finishes in a row in the FEC Playoffs. Rose has proven he can go low to win and reinforced that with T-2 (-18) at Conway Farms last month. He makes oodles of birdies, par-breakers and is in the top 12 in both par four and par five scoring.

Brooks Koepka: This should be a wonderfully soft landing spot for him after an excellent season. Sure he doesn’t find many fairways or greens but as far as he hits it, his numbers show that hardly matters. He’s fifth in birdie average, 13th in eagles and 14th in scoring average from last season. He also devours par fives. The end.

Phil Mickelson: Ok, I’ll bite. He gave it a run at Silverado (T-3) before just running out of gas on Sunday. He returns this year to a course he torched in his earlier days (see above). I know two things about Phil and one of them is he only plays courses he feels he can contend. This tells me that driving accuracy has absolutely no merit this week and that he’s down to overpower the place. With top fives in two of his last three, this doesn’t sound as much of a reach.

Francesco Molinari: He returned to this event last year for the first time since 2014 and finished T-6. Two weeks ago he posted T-6 defending his Italian Open crown. He finished last season seventh in SG: Total and 20th in birdies mainly because he plays out of the middle of every fairway and hits plenty of GIR. Avanti!

Pat Perez: I hate people who say “imagine if he did practice and work out”. Why do you care? He’s comfortable in HIS LIFE so ride the wave, man. It’s not hard to live and let live. His excellent 2017 ignited for the second time in the FEC Playoffs and then boiled over for his second win in 11 months at CIMB. Obviously satisfied with that result he went out and added T-5 last week in Korea. Judge RESULTS, people!

Jon Rahm: Similarly to Rose, the Spaniard posted four top 10’s in the four FEC events so his T-15 at the Italian Open and MC at the Valderrama Masters stung gamers. A fresh track that will see him open up the driver and attack GIR is just what the doctor ordered. Nothing like a little grip it and rip it to get back on track, especially with no cut to worry about.

Jason Day: He’s usually never healthy enough to play this time of year so I’m intrigued to see if he improves on T-11 from last week in Korea. It looks like his new caddy is also paying dividends but gamers and Day won’t care about top 25’s. He’s another who tends to spray it but makes thousands of par-breakers along the way. He’s already won two WGC so he knows what it takes to close the deal.

Rafael Cabrera- Bello: His last 18 months has been excellent as he continues to churn out results. It doesn’t hurt that he won the Scottish Open so a bit of breeze won’t bother him. He’s acclimated as well with T-10 in Malaysia and T-11 last week in Korea.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: A dreadful summer turned around finally at the Omega European Masters as he picked up his first win of 2017. He followed that with T-11, T-15 and T-15 so it won’t be hard to lean on him this week. His debut here two years ago was T-7 and he was T-16 last year.

Henrik Stenson: Big layoffs are nothing new to the big-hitting Swede who finished T-2 last year. He hasn’t played since the DTC in September but his strengths match up well on this track. He’s played this event the last four seasons and has posted 65 in three of the four Sundays. His other round was 67. Be patient as the rust will wear off!

 

Just Missed

Tony Finau: He should probably be higher after three top 10’s in his last four worldwide but a new course and blustery conditions last week didn’t inspire. Interesting to see how he’ll bounce back against a top-heavy field such as this.

Patrick Reed: Too many solid checks cashed in the last two months to ignore in this field. He can get wildly hot at the drop of dumpling so I’m down to clown on the perimeter. His opening round 66 last week caught my eye as much as his 72-76 scores in rounds two and three.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat: He’s played five of the last six weeks around the globe and posted four T-20 or better with a pair of top 10’s.

Daniel Berger: All course, no horse! He’s 30-under in two trips the last two years that resulted in T-11 and T-2 last year. I like that he knocked the rust off last week and how this course fits his eye. He’ll be my last man in multiple formats.

Branden Grace: He’s posted 63 here before and is trending the right direction. This will be his third week in a row playing in this part of the world and his fourth consecutive WGC-HSBC Champions.

Adam Scott: He shot 80 in the second round here last year and finished T-14. That’s a condemnation of the field and compliment as his 64 on Saturday showed he didn’t quit. Another top 20 shouldn’t be out of the question but I haven’t seen much of anything else that suggests a big one this week.

Bill Haas: Another who I would be shocked if he doesn’t hit the top 20 in a field such as this. It shows he’s either confident or crazy as this is the only event he’s playing of the three in Asia. His T-4 last year pushes me to the former.

Matt Kuchar: He played the part of good company man and finished T-31 at the Bridgestone Open in Japan last weekend. I should probably move him up a few notches but I’m not sure this layout gives him any advantage.

Chez Reavie: The more “unsexy” picks you can find, usually the better regardless of format. Reavie plugs away hitting all the fairways and greens in front of him and has thrown up T-17 or better in his last four worldwide. I hope nobody is paying attention.

 

Horses Courses/Long Shots/Fades and General MishMash

TBO has teed it up three times in this event over the years and is 33-under…Aussie Scott Hend broke a streak of three in a row inside the top 25 last year…Patrick Cantlay will feast on hitting GIR but will his lack of course knowledge slow down his rapid ascent?…I can’t figure out Alex Noren so I’ll leave him to you guys this week…Haotong Li and Xinjun Zhang will receive the home-country bias…Lucas Glover closed with 66 the last time was here and not many hit more GIR except for Kyle Stanley. Both of them will be encouraged by these putting surfaces I would guess!

 

2016-17 PGA Tour Winners

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley

Masters: Sergio Garcia

RBC Heritage: Wesley Bryan**

Valero Texas Open: Kevin Chappell*

Zurich Classic: Cameron Smith* & Jonas Blixt

Wells Fargo Championship: Brian Harman

THE PLAYERS: Si Woo Kim

AT&T Byron Nelson: Billy Horschel

Colonial: Kevin Kisner

Memorial: Jason Dufner

FESJC: Daniel Berger

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka

Travelers: Jordan Spieth

QLN: Kyle Stanley

Greenbrier: Xander Schauffele**

John Deere Classic: Bryson DeChambeau**

The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth

Barbasol: Grayson Murray

RBC Canadian: Jhonattan Vegas

WGC-BI: Hideki Matsuyama

Barracuda: Chris Stroud*

PGA Championship: Justin Thomas

Wyndham Championship: Henrik Stenson

 

FEC Playoff I: Dustin Johnson

FEC Playoff II: Justin Thomas

FEC Playoff III: Marc Leishman

FEC Playoff IV: Xander Schuaffele

 

*-First-time winner

**-First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

Next:

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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