WGC-HSBC Champions – Sheshan International live on Sky Sports 4
Last weeks golf
Another week of small profit courtesy of a David Lipsky EW dead heat payout. This was more down to the fact all three selections were three-figures (Jaidee’s WD meant I replaced him with the five times bigger priced Eddie Pepperell) so stakes were kept very low as I simply didn’t fancy lumping any of the leaders.
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Nacho Elvira finished a shot just outside the dead heat EW places too, so we are certainly looking in the right places and at the right prices.
The years ROI of +13.1% is healthy enough, so as we head into the final four events of the season, and last seven of the year, lets see if we can find another winner or two!
Tournament History & Field
This event has been a World Golf Championship event since 2009 with all but one staging held at this weeks venue, Sheshan International. With 42 of the worlds top 50 golfers here this week, including 8 of the top 10, this promises to be a mouth-watering affair.
Heading the field with course form in brackets are –
Rory McIlroy (11, 4, 6, 5)
Dustin Johnson (5, 1)
Henrik Stenson (11, 24, 31, 13, 9, 5, 9, 18, 32)
Patrick Reed (7, 22)
Adam Scott (70, 12, 11, 25, 6)
Rickie Fowler (17, 3, 55, 25)
Bubba Watson (35, 1, 8)
Other big names include Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Branden Garce, Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.
Sheshan International is located an hours metro ride outside bustling Shanghai and measuring in at 7,261 yards is of average length. With four par 5’s and four par 3’s, it plays to a traditional par of 72. This is a course I know pretty well having attended all four days of this event in 2014.
With undulating fairways and several greens elevated from the fairways, it is the ability to hit the right part of the greens here that is crucial to setting up the birdie chances needed to win here.
Low scoring has been the theme here apart from that 2014 edition which I attended. That year the rough was well up and the course was playing pretty long due to a lot of rain in Shanghai. It will be interesting to see how penal missing fairways will be this year as it makes a big difference to a players ability to score low when the rough is longer than average.
The par 5’s are not all total gimme holes, with the 603 yard 8th hole playing just the sixth easiest hole last year. The 2nd, 14th and 18th are all pretty gettable though, all playing comfortably under par in 2015.
The easiest hole on the course though (and one of the best viewing holes) is the 288 yard drivable 16th. With trouble lurking all the way right off the tee, many players still lay up rather than go for the green in one. Before this though, the 487 yard par 4 15th often plays the hardest hole.
Around the turn is the tricky section of Sheshan – with par a good score at 9, 11 and 13 – all short, but fiddly par 4’s. The par 3’s all measure over 200 yards and are all pretty non de-script.
Its been damp in Shanghai for the past week or so so expect a wet golf course to be playing long. There are further heavy showers forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday to further dampen the course whilst rain is expected on day one.
Things will get drier as we head into Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a fair wind due on all four afternoons, gusting up around the 14-16mph mark on Friday and Saturday in particular.
Recent WGC HSBC Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Russell Knox (-20) – DA 5 DD 54 GIR 9 PPGIR 6 Scrambles 7/11
2014 – Bubba Watson (-11) – DA 18 DD 1 GIR 26 PPGIR 6 Scrambles 5/13 (Excludes R1, R2)
2013 – Dustin Johnson (-24) – DA 38 DD 6 GIR 2 PPGIR 1 Scrambles 7/11
2012 – Ian Poulter (-21) – DA 20 DD 23 GIR 1 PPGIR 14 Scrambles 9/12
2011 – Martin Kaymer (-20) – DA 29 DD 18 GIR 11 PPGIR 4 Scrambles 14/17
This is a course that doesn’t seem to suit a certain type of player.
Take 2014 for example – the event was finished courtesy of a playoff – in which eventual winner Bubba Watson beat Tim Clark. You couldn’t get two more different golfers off the tee in regards length than Bubba and Clark – the original chalk and cheese. Likewise plotters such as Francesco Molinari have won here whilst bomber Dustin Johnson has also tasted victory at Sheshan.
My gut feeling though is if the rough is down, I’d much rather favour a long, slightly wayward hitter than someone that is constantly going into the greens with long irons due to their lack of power off the tee.
The two time major champion and 2011 HSBC winner looks to be returning to somewhere near his best form. A poor Ryder Cup was put to one side with a 6th place finish at the Dunhill last time out, continuing a fine string of stroke play finishes that now reads 6, 6,T20, T6, T15, T7. It’s been a couple of years since his last trophy and some say the German is still scarred from throwing away a huge lead in Abu Dhabi 22 months ago. His course form at Sheshan is remarkable with 5 top 10’s in his last 7 appearances here –this could be the place where he gets that long, overdue win monkey off his back.
The huge price on this years Masters winner can only be down to one thing; his withdrawal minutes before the start of the British Masters two weeks ago. His twitter feed seems positive enough though, and Danny has a history of back problems that come and go faster than some say he takes to decide on what club to use. His win at Augusta moved him into a new level and although he’s had a quiet period, he nearly chalked up a win for this column last month during the Italian Open when he had to settle for 2nd place.
A T3 in this event last year shows the course suits his eye and if his back holds, this price could look crazy come Sunday.
I backed the South African in last years HSBC at half this price. Since then he’s won in Qatar, won his first PGA tour event and gone off as short as 22/1 for this years US Open. Again, this is almost a play on price as well as the fact I’m sure this course suits Branden.
Last year he got off to a flier – opening with a 63 and closing with a 68 – on his way for a T5 finish. A T34 and T33 in Macao and last weeks CIMB classic suggest only a slightly warmer putter is needed for Grace to start winning again.
On a course that might just suit the longer hitters this week given the forecast, JB Holmes seemed an obvious investment to me at a stand out price. Since a T3 at the Open in the summer, Holmes has had a quiet time – returning to form with a T4 at the BMW Championship two events ago. He has played Sheshan once, finishing a T28 two years ago when the course was playing tougher than usual. Holmes won’t mind the forecast wind either, specialising on layouts in which the breeze impacts on scoring. Now a four-time winner on the PGA tour, including two wins in the past two years, JB could be ready to take his career to a new level with a WGC win this week in China.
Finally why not throw a few quid at the Chinese wonder-kid at what is a pretty disrespectful price? This years Volvo China Open winner finished T7 here last year, shooting rounds of 66, 69, 66, 72 in the process. Li has made 4 of his last 5 cuts on his first full season on the European tour, including a T18 at Crans and a T20 in the Italian Open. 15 top ten finishes in 97 career events, including five wins, shows he won’t be afraid to get the job done if he finds himself in the mix come Sunday.
Prices correct at time of writing.