WGC-HSBC Champions Betting Preview

Ian Poulter and Terry Mundy (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

Ian Poulter and Terry Mundy (Courtesy: Zimbio.com)

The last World Golf Championship event of 2013 happens this week in China, as the PGA Tour heads to the fantastic Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai for the WGC-HSBC Champions.

2013 WGC-HSBC Champions Fact Sheet

  • Course: Sheshan Golf Club
  • Location: Shanghai, China
  • Yardage: 7,301 yards, par 72
  • Defending Champion: Ian Poulter
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer

TV Schedule

  • Wednesday – 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Thursday – 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM ET (Golf Channel)

Key Storyline This Week

Even though the top two players in the world, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott have opted to skip this week’s event, this is still a very high quality field, with 15 of the top 25 players in the world rankings making an appearance. This event will count for full FedEx Cup points, and will also go towards the European Tour’s Final Series. This year marks the return of the event to Sheshan after a year away from the course, which saw Ian Poulter come away with the win at Mission Hills. With only 77 players in the field this week, there will be no cut.

Sheshan Golf Club

Tiger once called Sheshan the “crowning jewel of Asian golf”, and it’s very easy to see why. It’s an absolutely gorgeous course that has drawn rave reviews from just about everyone who has played there. From Sheshan’s official site:

The 18-hole, par-72 golf course was designed by internationally renowned golf course designers, Nelson & Haworth. Sheshan International Golf Club features beautiful tree-lined fairways and gentle rolling hills around 1000 year old Gingko trees, calm waterways, and a spectacular natural quarry. Set in the shadow of the Basilica of our Lady of Sheshan Cathedral and surrounded by beautiful Italian Tuscan inspired villas, Sheshan provides a truly unique experience to it’s members and their guests. Although located in the city of Shanghai, the serene surroundings suggest a genuine feeling of seclusion and nature.

Featuring well-placed bunkers throughout the golf course along with, deep collection areas, beautiful water features, and undulating greens, Sheshan provides a beautiful and challenging golf course for all, including the best Tour Professionals in the world.

Phil Mickelson said once that he thought the greens were very true, and almost Augusta like, while Poulter had tons of praise for the greens as well. The stats back it up too, as the players have had a relatively easy time on the greens here over the years. However, the course is difficult if you put yourself in bad positions, and the greens aren’t overly big, so ball striking into greens is going to be very paramount again this week, much like we saw with Ryan Moore winning the CIMB Classic last week.

Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Rory McIlroy: So, it wasn’t a “real” event, but Rory did beat Tiger at Mission Hills on Monday by firing a 67. His swing looked good, as it did last week at the BMW Masters and in Korea the week prior to that, so it seems like he could be coming out of this season long funk. In three previous trips to Sheshan, McIlroy has one round above par, and that was in his first round on the course. Those rounds have led to three top-5 finishes.
  • Henrik Stenson: Stenson has an up-and-down record at Sheshan, which shouldn’t surprise you considering the roller coaster ride his career has taken, but I’m not sure why he’s listed as the second favourite here. Yes, he did have a final round 65 at the BMW Masters, but he’s still not fully healthy with his wrist problem, as evidenced by his first three rounds of 72-74-79.
  • Phil Mickelson: Even though he finished tied for 19th last week at the CIMB, Mickelson said that he had no idea where the ball was going and that he was striking it as terrible as he has in his career. Even though I know he’s exaggerating and even though he’s won on this course twice in the last six years, I can’t trust anyone who says that kind of stuff about his game.
  • Justin Rose: Rose will be well rested, as this is the first time he’s teed it up since the Tour Championship back in late September, but that’s not always a good thing, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds after so much time off. In his only appearance at Sheshan back in 2011, he finished tied for 7th.
  • Martin Kaymer: The last time Kaymer played Sheshan in 2011, he was phenomenal on Sunday with a 63 to win his second event of the 2011 season. Since then, Kaymer has only won once on any tour worldwide, and that came on the South African Sunshine Tour in late 2012. He’s played pretty well in his last few starts though, with nothing worse than a T-13 in each of his last three appearances.

Suggested Plays

Rory McIlroy (Best Odds 14-1 at Stan James)

If you’ve read my previews in the past, I rarely take favourites, especially ones that haven’t won sanctioned events in nearly a year, but I like what I’m seeing out of Rory right now. Everything looks to be slowly coming together, and if you listened to the audio of him and Tiger at Mission Hills, he really believes that to be true as well. It’s rare that you can get a favourite at this kind of price too, and with his track record at Sheshan, I like his chances.

Keegan Bradley (Best Odds 25-1 at Coral)

There are few players that can match Bradley’s ball striking, and he’s coming in playing some quality golf. Four consecutive finishes inside the top-16, including last week where he finished in solo tenth at the CIMB, where he had the 36-hole lead. He blew up a little bit on the weekend with rounds of 76 and 72, but he should be feeling good about his chances. T16 in his last event here back in 2011, which included an opening round 65.

Paul Casey (Best Odds 30-1 at bet365)

Since Casey won the Irish Open in late June, he hasn’t really done much, but he did get into the top-10 last week at the BMW Masters with four under par rounds. That’s enough form for me to like a guy who has finished no worse than a tie for 11th in six visits to Sheshan.

Francesco Molinari (Best Odds 37-1 at BETDAQ)

Finished as the runner-up last week to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at the BMW Masters after a final round 64. He’s always been a good ball striker that seems to struggle a little on the greens, but he was rolling it pretty well last week. Prior form at the course is good too, finishing no worse than a tie for 23rd, including a win back in 2010.

Peter Hanson (Best Odds 50-1 at Sportingbet)

Hanson fought back nicely at the BMW after a dreadful opening round 79, and managed to sneak back into the top-10. His final round 63 was the best score of the week, and as usual, the putter was what got him back in it. Much like Ryan Moore, it surprises me that Hanson hasn’t won more tournaments. Six wins on the European Tour is a lot, but his game says that he should have a lot more, and we could be getting him on the upswing here. Two top ten finishes in six trips to Sheshan bode well.

Brian Gay (Best Odds 398-1 at Betfair)

Gay’s one of the best putters in the world, and you should never see him at this kind of price. That’s all I got.

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