A stellar field has assembled in Shanghai, China this week for the WGC-HSBC Champions. Francesco Molinari defends and all four of the year’s Major champions are on the starter’s sheet.
The HSBC Champions began life in 2005 as a regular European Tour event but in 2009 it was elevated to World Golf Championship status. As a result the event now attracts an exceptionally strong field. This year there are 78 players including winners from the PGA, European, Japan, Asian, Australasian and Sunshine golf tours.
Last year’s tournament was a thriller as Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari became locked in a scintillating two-horse race. It was the Italian who prevailed, defeating the, then, World Number 1 by a single stroke. Current World Number 1 Luke Donald finished a distant tied third, nine full shots behind Westwood.
Donald won’t be teeing it up this week. The Englishman is aiming to become the first player to top the money lists of both the PGA and European Tours. But he’s been forced to cancel his planned trip to Shanghai as his wife is expecting a baby, due any day now.
That gives Rory McIlroy, currently second on the European Tour’s “Race to Dubai,” a great chance to narrow the gap on Donald. The Northern Irishman is currently some €1.3 million behind but, with €800,000 going to the winner this week, McIlroy could make things very interesting with victory here.
So far this season all the Major championships and the WGC events held to this point have been picked up by first time winners. If this tournament also goes to a first time winner, it will be the first time that all Majors and World Championship events have been picked up by first timers.
Designed by Neil Haworth of Nelson & Haworth, the course at Sheshan International makes use of the natural terrain as it winds through valleys and across a deep, water-filled, rock quarry that comes into play on the 16th and 17th holes.
Venue: Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
Date: Nov 3-6
Course stats: par 72, 7,143 yards
Purse: €5,102,000 Winner: €860,000
Defending Champion: Francesco Molinari (-19)
Thursday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3am
Friday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3am
Saturday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3am
Sunday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 3am
Rory McIlroy – He won last week in Shanghai and has extra motivation to push for this title – victory here would narrow the gap on Luke Donald at the top of the Race to Dubai.
Thomas Bjorn – The European Tour’s renaissance man, Bjorn has won three times on the circuit this year. Every part of his game seems to be working well and he’s another man looking to climb the Race to Dubai standings.
Keegan Bradley – The USPGA champion was in Shanghai last week so has had time to acclimatise. He produced some superb golf to win the PGA Grand Slam of golf and, if he can recreate that form here, he’ll surely contend.
Key hole: 16th. At just 288 yards, you’d think this was a great birdie chance, but going from the green from the tee is extremely risky with a ravine waiting to the right hand side of the challenging green. The best play is to lay-up and leave a sand wedge in, but the pros always find it hard to turn down the chance of an eagle putt.
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