31st Oct to 3rd November
The WGC HSBC Champions is the final WGC Event of 2019. But this limited field event has failed to attract either Brooks Koepka, who won the last WGC, or the 2013 winner Dustin Johnson.
But plenty of former champions are in attendance including the last five winners, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson, and Ian Poulter. However, it’s worth noting Poulter won this tournament at Mission Hills Golf Club, whereas the other 13 editions have all been played at this year’s venue, Sheshan Golf Club, Shanghai, China.
The course is a par 72 measuring 7,261 yards and its main defence is the four par 3s which are all 200 yards+. But there are also four par 5s, three of which are in reach for most players, as is the Par 4 16th hole which measures just 288 yards.
Other past winners of the event include Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson (twice) and Sergio Garcia, but it is Rory McIlroy who is the favourite with the bookmakers.
It’s no surprise to see the world number two as the favourite this week, as he’s the only player in the top eight in the world rankings who has turned up. He also finished strongly to finish third in Japan last week, after a slow start, and he has some solid course form. He’s finished in the top-6 on five of his seven previous apearances and it will be a surprise if he’s not in contention this week. Some bookmakers are even offering seven places, so McIlroy will be an each-way bet for many at 7.00 (6/1), but there looks to be better value elsewhere.
Hideki Matsuyama is the second favourite at a general 13.00 (12/1) and the Japanese player has looked back to something like his best when finishing third and second on his last two starts, shooting totals of -15 and –16.
Players often struggle to maintain their form for long periods, but Matsuyama was on fire when winning here in 2016 and it looks worth striking whilst the iron is hot. He’s the first of this week’s free golf tips for the WGC HSBC Champions.
Third favourite Justin Rose has played well in the last two renewals of the WGC HSBC Champions but, as he doesn’t come into the event in as good a form as the last two years, he’s passed over on this occasion. Last year’s winner Xander Schauffele is respected after finishing tenth in Japan last week, but back-to-back victories are tough, and nobody has defended this title before.
Tony Finau missed out in a play-off to Schauffele last season, but the pair were four shots clear of the chasing pack. The Fijian makes the shortlist as that was his second solid performance here after finishing 11th here on debut. This big hitter can destroy the par 5s, whilst two top 10s in his last three tournaments suggest his turn may not be far away. Finau is the second of our WGC HSBC Champions free tips.
Another PGA Tour regular that looks seriously over-priced this week is Andrew Putnam. He hasn’t got as high aprofile as those at the head of the market but is a consistent performer who has finished in the top-21 in three of his last four events. He also finished fourth here on debut last year. He did finish six shots behind Schauffele and Finau but he could go even closer this year with that experience under his belt. At 66/1 he looks the best value free tip for the WGC HSBC Champions.
If one of the European Tour regulars are going to make a big impression this week, it could be Danny Willett. The former US Masters winner has raised his game on a couple of big occasions in the last 12 months to win the 2018 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and again to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this year. He’s only played here well once when third in 2015 but he looks overpriced at 51.00 (50/1) or higher.
The last of this week’s free WGC HSBC Champions tips goes to Bubba Watson, mainly because you can back the 2015 champion at triple-figure odds. His current form doesn’t suggest a win is imminent but a chance to make plenty of eagles could get his juices flowing if he can get off to a quick start.