The third week of the Asian leg of the PGA Tour takes us to Shanghai for the first WGC event of the year, the WGC HSBC Champions. It will be played at the Sheshan International Golf Club which was originally designed by Nelson and Haworth. The HSBC Champions is held annually and this will the 12th edition of the tournament so there is a fair bit of course history to go on. The tournament was upgraded to a WGC event in 2009.
This is a slightly tougher course than what the tour witnessed in the previous two weeks but is still a high scoring venue. Players will be facing a 7200+ yard Par-72 course which features plenty of water throughout.
There are some pretty difficult Par-5’s to go with some easy ones and it is these that players will try and use to make big moves. The course is expected to be in immaculate shape and the weather should be excellent for golf as well. Wind may be a bit of a factor going into the weekend though as per current forecasts.
This tournament is another one with a reduced field and no cut which makes things much more open than usual. 78 players will take the field on Thursday and include some pretty big names like Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey and Jason Day. The spectacularly in-form Marc Leishman who lost out last week in a playoff to Justin Thomas will also be playing this tournament.
To win this tournament the players will need to concentrate on hitting the fairways regularly, get on the greens in regulation and look to be aggressive. This is going to be all about scoring as the previous two weeks have been so getting off to a good start and maintaining that momentum through the four rounds is crucial.
Hideki Matsuyama is the defending champion here while Russel Knox won in 2015, Bubba Watson in 2014, Dustin Johnson in 2013 and Ian Poulter in 2012. Matsuyama scored a 23 under Par to win in 2016 while Knox ended up with a 20 under par during his victory.
The Wolf expects the winning score to be around 20 under par this year as well.
Stats That Matter
The stats to look at this week according to the Wolf are:
– Strokes Gained: Tee to Green – Putting Average – Birdie Average
Scrambling was also a factor that could have been considered but the Wolf is banking on the fact that the best players will not put themselves in too many poor positions on a relatively easy course. Hideki Matsuyama was T1 for birdies and putts per Green in Regulation when he won last year. He was also T10 for greens in regulation and T43 for driving accuracy.
The Wolf cannot look past the defending champion Hideki Matsuyama at $11.00. He is a golfer that can absolutely crush this course and go on a scoring spree that is difficult to match. His putting is often his downfall but the greens should play relatively easy this week as there are few undulations to speak of. Matsuyama is 5th in strokes gained: tee to green, 10th in putting average and 3rd in birdie average. He finished 5th at the CIMB Classic and is in excellent form. As mentioned earlier, he is the defending champion and is well versed with the course. The Wolf has him defending his title.
The Wolf has marked Paul Casey at $21.00 as his value pick this week. Casey had a good outing at the CIMB Classic with a T7 and an average one at the CJ Cup with a T19 but his ability make birdies consistently makes him a threat. He has been one of the most consistent players on tour and finished off last season with 5 top 5’s in his last 8 starts.
Now for the long shot… The Wolf is going with the big hitting Tony Finau at $34.00. Granted that Finau only finished T26 at the CJ Cup and looked in scratchy form but he also recorded a T2 at the end of September in the Safeway Open. He ranks in the top echelon for strokes gained: tee to green (10th) and birdie average (11th). A good start to his tournament could see him regain some of the confidence he was missing last week and at the price he is worth a bet at odds.
Best: Hideki Matsuyama ($11.00) Value: Paul Casey ($21.00) Roughie: Tony Finau ($34.00)
Tournament By Country
Top Aussie: Marc Leishman ($2.50) Top USA: Dustin Johnson ($3.75) Top Europe: Justin Rose ($7.50) Top Rest of World: Hideki Matsuyama ($3.75)
72 Hole Match Bets
Johnson vs Matsuyama: Hideki Matsuyama ($1.98) Leishman vs Day: Marc Leishman ($1.92) Rahm vs Rose: Justin Rose ($1.92) Schauffele v Kuchar: Xander Schauffele ($1.90)