WGC – HSBC Champions
It was a mixed bag of a week for us at the CJ Cup with only a small return to show from our main team with Cam Smith tying for 7th place.
It was a different story though from our trader Scott Piercy who performed excellently for us trading as low as 4.5 v the recommended back price of 360.
So with two thirds of the Asian Swing completed we now move on to the third and final event in Asia, the WGC HSBC – Champions played at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai.
The event was first played in 2005 and has been played every year at its current home in Shanghai apart from in 2012 when it was played at Mission Hills.
The event became a WGC in 2009.
For the third week running the event is a no cut event with 78 players lining up.
The field in principal is made up of the top 50 from the OWGR, the top 30 from the previous seasons Fedex Cup and Race to Dubai.
In addition there are qualifiers from the Asian Tour, The Japan Tour, The Sunshine Tour and the PGA Tour of Australia.
Finally there are wildcards offered to home players from China.
As is often the case in this event due to the time of year it falls in the calendar, coupled with the travel involved, several leading American names have chosen not to compete.
These include Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and former winner Bubba Watson.
The field and betting market is therefore headed up by CJ Cup winner and newly crowned world No 1 Brooks Koepka, the man he has deposed Dustin Johnson, defending champion Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama.
Sheshan International GC is a par 72 measuring just over 7250yds.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was designed by Neil Haworth in 2004
The fairways are treelined but are fairly forgiving off the tee.
Over the years we have seen all types of player flourish here, bombers such as Bubba Watson and DJ have both won here, however ball strikers such as Knox, Rose, Stenson and Berger have also had good success here and it is this type of player of anything that has featured more prominently on the leaderboard over the years.
So lets take a look at the last nine winners since the event officially became a WGC;
2017 J Rose
2016 H Matsuyama
2015 R Knox
2014 B Watson
2013 D Johnson
2012 I Poulter**
2011 M Kaymer
2010 F Molinari
2009 P Mickelson
**Denotes played at different venue, Mission Hills.
As noted earlier, and as we can see from the above list, the roll of honour here encompasses different types of players with bombers such as Bubba and DJ winning along with ball strikers such as Molinari, Knox and Rose.
When you then add in the fact that elite players like Rose, Hideki, DJ and Bubba alongside the likes of Knox, Poulter and Molinari, [before he was seen as the player he is now], then you would be forgiven for thinking that the list of past winners doesn’t really help us much, however on closer inspection there is to me one striking link.
The link in question, which jumps out to me, and was rubber stamped again by Rose’s win last year, is the form of the winner over the course of that calendar year.
To explain further, of these nine winners five of them had won earlier in that calendar year.
However since Phil won here in 09 straight on the back of winning the Tour Championship, the other four players who won here having already won earlier in the season, had not won for at least six months if not much longer.
Bubba won here in 2014 having last won at the Masters, Hideki won here in 2016 having last won at Phoenix at the beginning of February and DJ and Kaymer were both winless since their respective wins at the Hyundai T of C and Abu Dhabi in January.
In essence what appears to be the pattern is whilst the PGA Championship has historically been known as Glory’s Last Shot, this event seems to be the real Glory’s Last Shot of the calendar year.
Once last opportunity for a leading player who has been winless for several months/the whole calendar year to grab a trophy.
This is then countered with the flip side of the coin with several leading players in the field who have had hugely successful summers perhaps having run out of gas/gone off the boil for the year.
To flesh this out further it is not to say that the winner has come here in poor form, in fact nine out of the last ten winners had finished in the top 10 in one of their previous two starts [Knox is the exception who had finished 38th & 21st in his previous two starts].
In fact seven of these top 10 finishes were in actually top 5s.
Finally with regards to previous course form, whilst naturally it is useful to have some and the likes of Rose, Bubba and Molinari had previous top 10s here to their names, both Knox and DJ won here on their course debut and Hideki had had a dreadful time here prior to his win, so I would not see this as hugely important.
So to sum up if history is anything to go by we are looking for an elite player who has not won over the past 6 months but is coming in to form nicely over his past couple of starts.
We look set for four dry days with the possible exception of showers on Friday.
Temperatures look to be in the high teens or creeping in to the low 20s.
Wind could well be a factor this week with the first three days in particular showing the possibility of gusts above 20mph.
As I always say though…this could all change!
There are several players who caught my eye this week who fit the winners profile I have outlined above and I was sorely tempted to go with Rory to get back in the winners enclosure. However the top of the market is so strong that I felt compelled to go with players who I strongly fancy to contend for the title but who’s price has a little more e/w juice about it.
On that basis I have gone with five players this week as follows;
TOMMY FLEETWOOD –18-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED T7th
First up this week for us is Englishman and Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood.
It’s been an excellent first full season on the PGA Tour for Tommy, however it could also be considered a slightly frustrating one as he is yet to add to his only win on the calendar year, which he notched when defending his title in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour back in January.
Since then Tommy has missed only one cut through the year, which was at the Wells Fargo back in May and during this time he has notched a further eight top ten finishes across the two tours.
So the only thing lacking from Tommy’s CV through the bulk of this year, and particularly on the PGA Tour, is a win.
This week though I feel offers Tommy an excellent opportunity to put this right.
He arrives in China in great form having finished 2nd & 9th in his last two starts so his form is right where he’d want it to be coming in to the week and, despite the fact that he is yet to set this course alight, you have to believe that based on the type of player we have seen be successful here in recent years that the venue should really suit his game.
I say this because you only need to look at the players who have won and made the frame here of late to see that whilst bombers perform well here it is also a ball strikers paradise.
These players include Justin Rose, Russell Knox, Daniel Berger, Henrik Stenson, Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari and Kyle Stanley.
Tommy as we know is one of the best ball strikers on tour and his name sits very comfortably alongside these players.
Primed and ready to win again the next step on the ladder is for Tommy to grab a WGC title and I believe he has a great chance to do that this week.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA –18-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 30th
Next up for us this week is a player who is undoubtedly very close to a return to the winners circle and will be desperately keen to salvage something from their year, Hideki Matsuyama.
As we know Hideki was side lined for a large chunk of the early part of this year through injury and there is no doubt that it was a struggle for him through the summer after returning to the tour.
After finding his game at the Wyndham though Hideki notched four consecutive top 15 finishes through the Fedex Cup Play off events to show that he had rediscovered his mojo.
Based on this I was all set to include Hideki in my team for the CIMB Classic, an event that he has performed very strongly at over the recent years, however he withdrew from the event with an undisclosed injury.
This obviously was a concern at the time however Hideki returned to action at last weeks CJ Cup, finishing in 18th place.
Most encouragingly for me after opening rounds of 71 and 74 Hideki closed the CJ Cup with rounds of 66 and 69 over the weekend, showing that he was getting back in the groove after the four week break he had.
After that outing to dust of the cobwebs Hideki now returns to a venue which despite struggling at most years he had great success at in 2016 when lifting the trophy.
When lifting the trophy in 2016 Hideki came here on the back of having finished 2nd the week before at the CIMB and this was on the back of a very similar solid run of form at the previous end of season playoffs, to that which he has recently had.
For what it’s worth this actually makes me wonder if Hideki’s ‘injury’ which lead him to withdraw from this years CIMB was more a case of him wanting to manage his schedule and come to China on the back of just one warm up event the week before.
Either way the Japanese star looks to have his game right where it needs to be and I can see him going very close to adding to the two WGC titles he already has to his name.
TYRRELL HATTON –28-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 22nd
Next up this week is another chance for a member of last week’s team, Englishman Tyrrell Hatton.
I plumped for Tyrrell last week as I believe that he is ready to take the next step on the ladder and add a PGA Tour title or WGC Title to his name.
Unfortunately Tyrrell started slowly last week with rounds of 72 & 73 before closing strongly with rounds of 68 & 66.
With the wonderful degree of hindsight this slow start was perhaps not at all surprising as Hatton had gone straight from what I am sure was a hugely emotionally draining week at the Ryder Cup, to another long week at the Dunhill Links where he finished 2nd in his quest for a ‘threepeat’, before taking a week off.
Inevitably therefore I am sure Tyrrell put the clubs away in an attempt to recharge the batteries before heading out to Korea, meaning his week at the CJ Cup would have very much fallen in to the category of [in cricketing terms] a ‘loosener’.
So, now that he is back in the groove Tyrrell heads to China and a venue where he has steadily improved his performances in each of his three starts.
First time out at Sheshen Tyrrell finished 54th. He then finished 23rd on his second visit, before then finishing 11th third time out last year.
If Tyrrell can add another similar level of improvement this year the trophy should be his!
Tyrrell is undoubtedly now one of the most consistent performers on the world golf stage and I am expecting another really strong showing from him this week.
RAFA CABRERA BELLO – 1pt e/w – 33-1 - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 14th
Next up for us this week is another player who is long overdue a big breakthrough, the Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Rafa spent much of the latter part of the 2017/18 PGA Tour season battling to qualify for the Ryder Cup team, or at the very least trying to catch Captain Bjorn’s eye for a Wild Card pick.
Unfortunately for Rafa despite three top 11 finishes in his last five events of the season he was unable to manage either and of course in hindsight you certainly couldn’t argue with Bjorn’s Wild Card picks.
After a few weeks off Rafa performed fairly poorly at the CIMB Classic, however last week he produced a great weekend of back to back 65s to finish third at the CJ Cup.
After this fine weekend Rafa should now be licking his chops at the thought of returning to a venue he finished 19th at in his first visit two years ago before finishing 5th last year.
We have seen over the years that this WGC can be won by players who are not necessarily yet at the top level of the game and the one that springs to mind is when Molinari was victorious here back in 2010.
Cabrera Bello is yet to win on the PGA Tour and is winless on the European Tour since his victory at the Scottish Open in 2017, this week however on a course that obviously suits his game, I believe he has an excellent chance to notch that elusive first PGA Tour victory.
EMILIANO GRILLO – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 14th
For my final pick in this event I am going to take my chances on another strong ball striker who is long overdue another victory, Emiliano Grillo.
Grillo has started his 2018/19 season with fairly lack lustre top 50 finishes at the Safeway Open and the CJ Cup, however sandwiched in between these was a 2nd place finish at the CIMB Classic to give him the recent top 5 finish I am looking for in my team this week.
As well as his strong overall play over the past year my main reason for siding with the Argentine this week is that I can’t help feeling that Sheshen International is a course that is suited to his ball striking skills.
This thought is backed up by the fact that Grillo finished 35th and then 11th on his most recent visit here 2yrs ago ,and he is undoubtedly a far more accomplished all round player now.
Grillo finished the 2017/18 season 8th on tour for DA, 41st for GIR and 12th for SGP, basically all areas of his game have worked well over the past year.
I’m sure Grillo will be highly motivated this week and again as we have seen with the win for Knox amongst others over recent years a win for a player of his current status in the game is quite possible here.
I am expecting a strong week from the Argentine and I am confident he can give us a great run at a nice juicy e/w price.
UPDATED 24th OCTOBER
TRADER - BRIAN HARMAN FINISHED 72nd - BEST PRICE TRADED 160
I included Harman in our main team for the CJ Cup last week and whilst he was unable to produce the goods for us his performance was solid.
Brian ended up finishing the week in Korea in a tie for 36th place, which included the low round of the day on Friday, a 64.
Unfortunately a poor 75 in Saturday's calm conditions then did for Brian's place chances, however a final round 68 on Sunday, to back up the 64 on Friday, showed that Brian is not far away.
Known as a really gritty competitor Harman has shown with three top 10s in four WGC's over the past year, along with a 2nd place finish in the 2017 US Open, that he raises his game for the big events and that he is more than capable of mixing it on the big stage.
With one of these top 10s coming at this venue last year he has proven that Sheshan is a course he can handle and at the price available I am happy to take a chance that the Georgia man can bring his 'big match' game to the table once again this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 250