It’s nearly time for the finale of the golfing season on the European Tour. Before the Race to Dubai comes to its conclusion though, many stars of the European Tour are being joined by stars of other tours around the globe to compete in the WGC HSBC Champions.
This may be fourth amongst equals when it comes to the World Golf Championships but it’s played on a brilliant course, comes with a huge prize fund and always produces some stunning golf. Tony Finau was part of a thrilling finish to last year’s tournament. He left disappointed to miss out in a playoff against Xander Schauffele but can right that wrong with a big win at very nice odds 12 months on.
Sheshan International is the long term host of the HSBC Champions. Indeed, it was used as the venue before the tournament became one of the four World Golf Championship events. The par 72 layout isn’t overly long at 7,261 yards but there is enough scope in that yardage for some very tough holes. The par fives are particularly strong so scoring on them has long been an important marker for success here.
Big hitters tend to have an advantage over the less powerful players here but only if they can take advantage of their length by hitting a high percentage of greens in regulation. It’s also a course that rewards the best green readers as the putting surfaces are significantly slower than the PGA Tour norm.
|Sheshan International||Shanghai, China||7,261 Yards||$10,250,000|
Xander Schauffele was already used to battling it out with the best golfers in the world in seriously big tournaments before his win at last year’s HSBC Champions. It still goes down as a very big stepping stone in his career though, as it was for 2015 winner, Russell Knox. The two men utilised very different styles of golf to get their wins. Bubba Watson plays a different style of golf to everybody else on the planet and he did things his own way when seeing off Tim Clark in a playoff.
Justin Rose and Hideki Matsuyama both fit the profile of an ideal winner at Sheshan International. They’re both longer than the average professional off the tee, are wonderful ball strikers and can hole out from everywhere when they get going on the greens.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Xander Schauffele||Sheshan International||-14||Playoff|
|2017||Justin Rose||Sheshan International||-14||2 Strokes|
|2016||Hideki Matsuyama||Sheshan International||-23||7 Strokes|
|2015||Russell Knox||Sheshan International||-20||2 Strokes|
|2014||Bubba Watson||Sheshan International||-11||Playoff|
Analysis: Expect Another Low One
There are a few ways of scoring well at Sheshan International. Rory McIlroy – the clear favourite with the bookies – will seek to maximise his brilliance off the tee by cutting the course down to size. Former winner Francesco Molinari, in contrast, should go well by hitting the high number of fairways and greens that he inevitably does.
The one important factor for all players regardless of their style is the weather. When the winds blow in the Shanghai area scoring is much tougher at Sheshan. However, when the wind sits down as it is forecast to do this week, the birdies really do flow. Expect a winning score around the -20 mark.
Finau Has the Right Stuff
Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele are the only players inside the top 10 of the official world golf rankings teeing it up in Shanghai this week. That is the norm for the WGC HSBC Champions and is one reason why it has proven to be such a great opportunity for players just outside of the very top echelons of golf.
Tony Finau is one of those who has been knocking on the door of the biggest tournaments but he’s just found winning a little too tough given his talent. His previous form suggests Finau has a very good chance to pick up the biggest win of his career to date.
He placed 11th on tournament debut in 2017 before losing to Schauffele in a playoff 12 months ago. He used his power to full effect to score well on the par fours and was able to keep pace right at the top of the leaderboard, making the most of the better conditions when he found them. His performance in Japan last week wasn’t his best but he’ll arrive in Shanghai warmed up and ready to go one better than last year at odds of 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
Hatton Represents Solid Each Way Value
As with many of the best European golfers, Tyrrell Hatton can call himself a genuinely global golfer. He has cards on both the European and PGA Tours which have taken him all around the world just in the last couple of months. The Englishman clearly travels well as he earned top 20 finishes in Scotland and Italy before a tie for sixth in the CJ Cup a fortnight ago. Whilst he was happy with the way he played, he left South Korea disappointed that some poor putting cost him a great chance to claim his maiden win on the PGA Tour.
The improvement in Hatton’s world ranking over the last few years means that he has played in every World Golf Championship over the last three seasons. He’s competed towards the top of the leaderboard in a few of them and has a decent record in the HSBC Champions. Spurred on by what he sees as a missed opportunity in South Korea, Hatton can grab at least a place at tempting odds of 40/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Tony Finau to Win
Tony Finau and Tyrrell Hatton have both had more than their fair share of near misses. Of the two it’s Hatton who has had the most success in terms of wins on tour but it’s Finau who is higher in the world rankings and who the bookies favour in Shanghai. Finau has certainly enjoyed his two previous visits to Sheshan International and is well placed to pick up a first WGC win at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
About the WGC-HSBC Champions
The WGC-HSBC Champions in one of the four World Golf Championship events, with the WGC-Dell Match Play, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational being the other three.
The HSBC Champions takes place at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai in China. Indeed 14 of the 15 tournaments have been held at Sheshan, with the 2012 version taking place at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen. The Sheshan course opened in 2004 and the par 72 course plays to 7,266 yards. It is regarded by many players and golf pundits as the best course in China.
The event has the greatest prize money on offer in East Asia, with Rory McIlroy’s victory in 2019 bagging the Northern Ireland man $1,745,000 in winner’s prize money. From 2013, the HSBC Champions has been an official PGA Tour event.
The first event was won by Englishman David Howell back in 2005. Since then a further four Brits have triumphed: Ian Poulter in 2012, Russel Knox in 2015, Justin Rose in 2017 and Rory McIlroy in 2019.
Mickelson Wins His Second Title
With this being a relatively new tournament, only one player has won the HSBC Champions more than once. American star Phil Mickelson has two wins to his name, with the first being a playoff success over English duo Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood in 2007. Mickelson won with a score of 10 under par, which is actually the worst winning score there has been in the tournament (ahead of the 2020 event).
However, ‘Lefty’s’ second victory in 2009 was his standout success. Mickelson won a tournament while playing in the final group with Tiger Woods for the first time. Mickelson led Woods and Nick Watney by two going into the final round, fending off Ernie Els in the end to win by a single stroke and ending up on 17 under par.
Britain Versus America
Players from several nationalities have won this competition since the first in 2005. There have been winners from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Japan and America.
We have seen four American winners, with Phil Mickelson winning the tournament on two occasions. Since Phil’s double, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Xander Schauffele have all won the HSBC Champions.
The Brits have won three of the last five competitions in China. Before Rory McIlroy’s success in 2019, Justin Rose won in 2017 by two stroke from a trio of chasers: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Keopka and Henrik Stenson; meanwhile Scotsman Russell Knox picked up a memorable victory in 2015 when he finished the tournament on an impressive score of 20 under par, two strokes ahead of American Kevin Kisner.
Britain and USA have dominated this competition in recent years, with Hideki Matsuyama being the only player from outside of Britain or America to win the HSBC Champions since Martin Kaymer’s win in 2011.
|Number of Wins||Winning Nationality||Player(s)|
|5||Britain||Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Russell Knox, Ian Poulter, David Howell|
|5||USA||Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson (2)|
|1||South Korea||Yang Yong-eun|
Kaymer’s Time to Shine in Shanghai
Martin Kaymer became the first German to win this trophy when he came out on top in the 2011 WGC-HSBC Champions. Kaymer, who was five shots adrift of the leader after 54 holes, had a stunning end to the tournament to claim the crown in Shanghai by three strokes from Swedish player Fredrik Jacobson.
After his superb victory, the former world number one said, “on the back nine I made nearly every putt that I looked at. I can’t remember a day when I have played that well.” Since then, Kaymer has picked up just one more European Tour victory, which was the US Open in 2014. That was his second major after having won the US PGA Championship in 2010.
Yang Sees Off Woods in 2006
The second HSBC Champions event was certainly one to remember, as South Korean Yang Yong-eun edged past Tiger Woods, who was gunning for a seventh consecutive stroke-play event victory. Despite hitting a final round of 67, Woods was denied by Yang, who went on to secure a two-stroke win over Woods and South African Retief Goosen. Woods has never won a HSBC Champions tournament.
Yang, who is the only South Korean to win the HSBC Champions, had more success over Tiger three years later, when Yang and Woods went head-to-head again. This time for the 2009 US PGA Championship, in which Yang beat Woods by three strokes in Minnesota. That victory was the first ever major win for a man born in Asia; at the time of writing no male player from Asia has emulated the achievement.
Poulter Has a Year to Remember
Shortly after his heroics at the 2012 Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois, Ian Poulter’s stunning form continued in the WGC-HSBC Champions. The Englishman became the first British winner since David Howell prevailed in the opening event in China in 2005.
Poulter birdied eight of his first 15 holes in the final round to beat Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Scott Piercy to the number one spot by two strokes to finish 21 under par. The tournament at Mission Hills in Shenzhen, China was certainly one to remember for the Hitchin-born man. It was the second time Poulter had won a World Golf Championship event having won the WGC Match Play event in 2010.
Major Winners Dominate
Nine of the 14 winners of the WGC-HSBC Champions between 2005 and 2019 have also won majors, with four of them having won two or more:
- Phil Mickelson – Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), US PGA Championship (2005), The Open (2013)
- Rory McIlroy – US PGA Championship (2012, 2014), US Open (2011), The Open (2014)
- Bubba Watson – Masters (2012, 2014)
- Martin Kaymer – US PGA Championship (2010), US Open (2014)