WGC-HSBC CHAMPIONS: In the midst of what has traditionally been known as golf’s offseason, many of the world’s best players have made a trip to China an annual tradition, where a guaranteed paycheck and a week of 5-star luxury living awaits at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Originally a tournament sanctioned by the European, Asian, Sunshine, and Australasian tours, this event has steadily grown in prestige over the past decade, achieving the WGC designation in 2009 and then becoming part of the FedExCup points race in 2013, meaning it now counts as an official event on both the European Tour and PGA Tour schedules. There is no cut this week and the field is a limited one, consisting of only 78 players, but it includes many of the biggest names in the sport– Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood… the list goes on. Definitely worth setting the DVR is you won’t be able to stay up all night for the telecast.
For the 14th time in this tournament’s 15-year existence, Shanghai’s Sheshan International Golf Club will serve as the host venue; it’s a 7,250-yar par-72 that the players usually eat up, as it’s taken 20-under or better to win this event in three of the past five years. Longer players have fared particularly well here, with Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, and Hideki Matsuyama all hoisting the trophy since 2013. Rose is the defending champ and can be backed at around 13.0 at BETDAQ, which may be a little short for comfort but is certainly understandable given his recent form. DJ (9.2) and Koepka (10.0), who won last week’s CJ Cup, currently head the market, but as is always the case with field of this caliber, there is value to be found a bit further down the board.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Tony Finau (28.0)- Finau certainly fits the profile when it comes to length off the tee, as he’s one of the longest guys in the world. He was on a great run to end the season, finding the top-15 in all four Playoff events and the top-5 twice, and he was one of the only Americans to shine at the Ryder Cup, so there shouldn’t be any concerns about his current form. He made his debut appearance at this event last year and played very well, opening with a 67 and going on to finish 11th, putting to rest any concerns about how his game fits Sheshan International (not that there should’ve been any concerns from a stylistic perspective). And the best part here is the price– though Finau has been playing just as well as some of the guys at the very top of the market, he can currently be backed at better than 25/1 at BETDAQ, a very reasonable number for somebody who should be considered one of the favorites this week.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (52.0)- Though Fitzpatrick will never be considered a “bomber”, he’s certainly long enough off the tee, averaging nearly 290 yards per drive on the European Tour last season. Hitting fairways is really more his thing and that should be helpful this week as well, as the rough was particularly difficult as Sheshan last year, which drove the scores up a bit. Fitzpatrick has been on a really nice run lately– T7 at the Made in Denmark, a victory at the Omega European Masters after getting snubbed for the Ryder Cup, and T16 at the British Masters two weeks ago. Now he comes to a place that has treated him very well in the past, as two of his three career PGA Tour top-10s have come at this event, including a T9 last year. He’s certainly a live one this week, and at better than 50/1, one of the best values on the board in my opinion.
Julian Suri (90.0)- Though he’s enjoyed some really nice results on the European Tour over the past couple of years, including two victories in 2017 and a pair of runner-ups (Hong Kong Open; Open de France) in 2018, Suri has yet to really make his mark in a big-time international event like this, but given his recent form, a breakthrough might not be too far off. He’s coming off a T5 at his last event, the British Masters, and frankly he was probably a little disappointed with that result, as his Sunday 74 was the highest final-round score of anybody in the top-10. Though he’s never played this event before, he seems to fit the mold of someone who should succeed at Sheshan, as he averages better than 300 yards off the tee and has plenty of experience with American-style courses full of water hazards (water comes into play on more than half the holes at Sheshan), considering his collegiate experience in Florida and the fact that his lone PGA Tour top-10 came at the Houston Open, which is held at a course (Golf Club of Houston) that has drawn comparisons to Sheshan. Though no one would consider him one of the favorites this week, Suri is may favorite bet on the board of the guys listed at 80/1 or higher.