2016 WGC – HSBC Champions Preview
Venue: Sheshan International GC 7,266 yards, Par 72.
As we edge closer to the end of the golfing year, the fourth and final World Golf Championship event sees a stellar 78-man field arrive in Shanghai, China to battle it out for an event often dubbed ‘Asia’s Major’.
As with each of the WGC events, a healthy prize fund is on offer and since 2013 it has been afforded both PGA and European Tour status. The availability of FedEx Cup points, as well as WGC status since 2009, has helped make this tournament a necessity for the majority on all the major golfing tours.
Sheshan opened in 2004 and is already widely accepted as the best golf course in China. It has hosted every edition of the WGC - HSBC Champions since the inaugural tournament in 2005, with the exception of the 2012 running which was switched to the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills in China.
Though it may look an intimidating test at times, the fairways are generous and winning scores have regularly exceeded the -20 mark. Wonderful tree-lined fairways help shape the course and a natural quarry comes into play on the 16th and 17th hole.
The WGC - HSBC Champions is the final chance of the year to bring together the top players in the global game. Next week heralds the start of a three-event ‘Final Series’ on the European Tour which will determine the champion of this season’s ‘Race to Dubai’.
With such strong opposition to contend with, Scotland’s Russell Knox faces an uphill task if he is to retain the title he so famously captured in 2015. In winning last year’s tournament, Knox recorded a two stroke victory over American Kevin Kisner in what was his first win on either the PGA or European Tours, also seeing him become the first Scot to pick up a WGC event.
The event sees eight of the top ten teeing it up at Sheshan in a field which also boasts all of this year’s major winners (Danny Willet, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker). Hole19’s brand ambassador, Matt Fitzpatrick, will be one of the 19 men on show who went toe-to-toe in Hazeltine for the 41st Ryder Cup. As always Matt, best of luck!
The absence of world number 1 Jason Day, as he continues to rest a troublesome back, is the only real source of disappointment.
Who wins it?
Four of the last six WGC - HSBC Champions events have been won by European players and there will be a strong contingent vying to follow this trend. With Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia joining the aforementioned Stenson and Willett, it is possible that we may see just that.
If history was to repeat itself and Knox were to retain his trophy he would be the only man other than the GOAT, Tiger Woods, to have done so.
McIlroy was pumped beyond belief at Hazeltine and is showing great form as he gets ready to fight for the 'Race to Dubai' title over the coming weeks. Expect the Northern Irishman to give a good account of himself this week in China.
From an American perspective, discount Dustin Johnson at your peril. The current US Open champion holds the tournament record and is well equipped to take advantage of the long par-5s and post another low score
It truly is too close to call - so we won't. Sit back, relax and enjoy. It's going to be a late one!