Event: WGC-HSBC Champions
Date: October 26-29
Venue: Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, China
TV: Sky Sports Golf – Thurs: Live from 3am
On the world stage at least, the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions is the last big event of the calendar year.
Last year, Hideki Matsuyama strolled to a seven-shot win to become the first Asian to win a WGC since the series of mega-money events began in 1999. He finished tied fifth at the CIMB Classic two weeks ago, so is in good form to defend his title.
Played at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, the event has a field of 78 players – with no cut – and a meaty prize fund of $9.75m up for grabs.
The big story of the week is undoubtedly the return of world No.1 Dustin Johnson, who makes his 2017/18 PGA Tour season debut in China. Winner of the event here in 2013, DJ has four wins to his credit this year, including back-to-back WGC wins at the Mexico Championship and Dell Technologies Match Play in March, the latter helping complete a WGC slam for the big-hitting American.
Despite a relatively poor showing at last week’s Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he missed the cut, Jon Rahm, above, makes his tournament debut. Not so long ago, Rahm was outside the world’s top 100. Now, he’s a contender at just about every event he plays. The bookies have him at 18/1 this week.
The in-form Tyrrell Hatton will hope he can carry on where he left off, which has led to two wins in his last two starts on the European Tour. His worst finish in his last four starts is a tie for eighth. Should he win, he’ll become just the third player in European Tour history to win in three successive appearances on the circuit. The other two? Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Henrik Stenson and Jason Day are the other big names in the field, with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and the in-form Justin Thomas opting not to play. That explains the shortened odds for various players, so it’s a tough week to pick an each-way bet.
Interestingly, the 2015 champion, Russell Knox, above, won’t be taking part this year, having not qualified. Unlike the majors, the World Golf Championships don’t offer lengthy exemptions for previous winners.
Last week’s Andalucia Masters champ Sergio Garcia is also choosing to have a rest week.
Here are some other stats and facts to whet your appetite…
• 23 different countries will be represented this week. The single biggest representation is from the USA, who have 22 different players in the field.
• There are four past champions taking part: last year’s winner Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson (2013), Francesco Molinari (2010) and Phil Mickelson (2009).
• Hideki Matsuyama can make history this week by becoming the first player to successfully defend the WGC-HSBC Champions. Tiger Woods is the only other player to have successfully defended a WGC (having done so eight different times).
• The winner this week will pocket a cool €1.4m, with last place picking up a cheques for €36,320.
• A win this week would give Dustin Johnson his sixth career WGC title. Tiger Woods, with 18, has the most wins in these events.
• World ranking implications this week? Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are safe in first and second place respectively. Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama could reach No.3, whilst six players – Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar – could climb as high as No.6