Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Preview - WGC-HSBC Champions

Yes! After a slow start to the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season, we finally get a star studded tournament worth getting excited for. The fact that the tournament is held in China shows how that country is emerging as a golfing power.

Course: Sheshan International GC, an incredibly scenic 7,300 yard layout. You are unlikely to find a better golf course throughout Asia. It is not terribly difficult, however, so expect the winning score to be in the high teens, perhaps low 20's under par.

Strength Of Field: A-. 40 of the world's top 50 are in this event. It is missing Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, but everyone else is here. Perhaps this won't get casual fans on board, but if you are a golf fan (and you're reading a golf blog, so it's reasonable to assume you are), you should be excited about this field.

Extra Tidbits: While this is one of the early events in the PGA Tour season, it is incredibly important for the European Tour pros, as it is the second of four tournaments in the Race To Dubai year end playoffs. It stands to reason that the European Tour pros will have extra motivation this week...The WGC-HSBC Championship is the second highest-ranked golf tournament in terms of world ranking points outside the United States. The Open Championship is first...The winner of this events earned a three year exemption onto the PGA Tour, so non-members will also have that as a motivating factor...Six golfers from China will be in the event, including Lian-Wei Zhang, the first Chinese pro to play at the Masters. Also playing is Hao Tong Li, who is currently second on the Chinese PGA Tour Order Of Merit, so we'll probably be seeing him on the Tour next year.

Fantasy Four:

NOTE: Before I get into this, I should tell everyone that I originally had Victor Dubuisson as one of my picks, but I was talked out of him. If Dubuisson goes on to win this tournament, I will kick myself right in the jeans.

Jamie Donaldson - Currently second on the European Tour Order Of Merit. Fell a few inches short of the playoff last week at the BMW Masters. Only finish outside the top 10 in his last 5 starts was the World Match Play. Had the winning point for the Europeans at the Ryder Cup. Everything is coming up roses for Donaldson right now. 

Sergio Garcia - His T2 finish in Malaysia proves he can play just about anywhere. His finish last week is his sixth top 10 in nine events, including an astonishing four runner up finishes. Has won somewhere in the world each of the last four years. 

Hiroshi Iwata - Sleeper pick. This is the deepest of sleeper picks, especially in this field, but his recent results warrant a look. Seven top 10's compared to three missed cuts on the Japan Tour this season, including a win. Third on the Japan Tour Order Of Merit. One of his top 10s was at The Crowns, a premier event on the Japan Tour. In these events, there is always a player that rises on the final day and few have heard of, and Iwata fits that mold.

Justin Rose - Finished tied with Donaldson outside that playoff in China. Also finished T4 at the Tour Championship. A brilliant Ryder Cup, where he went 3-0-2, rounds out a great three tournament stretch for the Englishman. Has become a top 10 machine. 

Also taking place this week is the Sanderson Farms Championship. Since it is an alternate field event, I will not be doing a complete breakdown of the event, but I will give my four picks.

Tony Finau - Best rookie in the early going of the season. Opposite field events are great for rookies.
Sung Joon Park - Winner on the Japan Tour made the cut in his only event this season.
Peter Uilhlein - Plays all over the world. Had a down season last year, but seems to be turning it around
Scott Piercy - Has played well in the early going of the season. Appears due to cash in.

Last Week's Team:
Ryo Ishikawa: T26
Hideki Matsuyama: T21
Lee Westwood: T13
Sergio Garcia: T2

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