Inside the Ropes
World Golf Championships HSBC Champions
Mission Hills Golf Club Olazabal Course
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Platinum Paspalum; 5,715 square feet on average
Rough: 2.75” but not penal; resort course
Stimpmeter: 11.5 feet
Course Architects: Jose Maria Olazabal (2004)
Purse: $7,000,000 USD
Winner’s Share: $1,200,000
Defending Champion: German Martin Kaymer birdied nine of his last 12 holes to win by three shots over Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson.
Date: November 1-4
Format: The field is 78 deep and will play stroke play for 72 holes. There is no cut.
Notes: Gamers, please note that this is the FIRST time the Olazabal Course has been used for this tournament. The Olazabal Course has been used for the Mission Hills World Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The Olazabal Course at Mission Hills is the longest of the 12 courses on the property and plays to just around 7,300 yards. This is the first time that this course is being used for a major event outside of the Mission Hills World Cup. Designed by the man that bears its name, the Olazabal course is known for its intricate and extensive bunkering and its undulating paspalum fairways. The last four holes will provide the excitement but the course has greens are on the average side size-wise (5,700 square feet on average) yet the fairways average almost 40 yards in width. These are resort courses and we know what touring pros do to resort courses: They go low.
I’m looking for guys who are playing well and obviously have no problem going low. Looking back at this event, the winners include all big-time players and/or Ryder Cuppers. I see no reason why that trend will not continue this week even though the Olazabal Course is being used for the first time.
10 Best-Plus One
Luke Donald: Donald finished his season stateside with a T3 finish at The TOUR Championship before celebrating the Euros victory in the Ryder Cup. Donald was back in action last week at the BMW Masters in Shanghai and showed no rust as he completed the podium in solo third after closing with 66. Donald is acclimated and playing well and that’s a great combination this week.
Ian Poulter: Poulter played the Omega Mission Hills World Cup on this course from 2007-2009 so he’s quite familiar with this track. Last week, Poulter finished solo fourth as he closed 68-65 in Shanghai. Don’t forget, the Olazabal Course has paspalum greens and Poulter had no problems figuring those out at the PGA Championship as he finished T3.
Graeme McDowell: He admitted last week that he was worn out at the end of the FedExCup Playoffs and this led to his poor play at the Ryder Cup. He went on to say that he’s now well rested and ready to close out 2012 and make some noise in the Race to Dubai. He finished 11th at the PGA and was 11th last week. He also played in the last two World Cups in 2008 and 2009 so he’s familiar with this set up.
Dustin Johnson: Four FedExCup events, four top 10’s. After handling his business at the Ryder Cup, he was T47 at the Dunhill Links earlier this month. Smash it, find it and smash it again.
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson’s two wins in this event came both came in Shanghai but a course with wide fairways and multiple birdie chances should suit Mickelson. After struggling through June, July and August, Mickelson found his form in the final three events of the FedExCup Playoffs as he closed out T4, T2 and T15 at The TOUR Championship.
Francesco Molinari: Molinari joins Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter as guys who played in all three World Cups here from 2007-2009. Molinari is one of the best ball-strikers in the world and should create multiple birdie chances this week. Molinari is currently sixth in the Race to Dubai so he has his sights on playing well to end the season. Francesco and his brother Edoardo were the final champions of this event at this course in 2009.
Peter Hanson: For a guy who barely played during the Ryder Cup, Hanson has had a “Nick Watney”-type of fall. In his four starts since his T7 finish at the PGA, Hanson has two wins, including last week when he held off world No.1 Rory McIlroy by one shot. He’s currently second and chasing McIlroy, who is off this week after his match with Tiger Woods on Monday, for the money title on the European Tour. He has a huge opening if he can take advantage this week.
Justin Rose: He started the playoffs T46 at The Barclays and MC at the Deutsche Bank Championship before rallying to T16 at the BMW and solo second at The TOUR Championship. His Ryder Cup play was excellent, including his singles victory against Phil Mickelson. He shook the rust off last week with 68-68-69-69 last week to finish T6 at the BMW Masters. He has no problem smashing GIR and making birdies.
Nick Watney: When you fire 61 on Sunday to set the course record and personal best, you should win and Watney did just that last week at the CIMB Classic. Two wins in his last six events played and he made 25 birdies last week so he’s quite in the mood. I’ll ride the hot hand.
Martin Kaymer: The German has also played in all three World Cup events on this course from 2007-2009. He also won the HSBC at Shenshan last year so there’s no doubting how comfortable he is in China. Kaymer had struggled in the months leading up to the Ryder Cup but we all remember who hit the winning putt on Sunday. Ya think that helped his confidence? He finished T11 in a strong field last week to keep proving the “he likes China” theory.
Louis Oosthuizen: After being cut at the Dunhill Links in early October, Oosthuizen finished T6 last week in Shanghai. His length and iron play will have him right in the mix this week if his putter can hold up. I think he’s ready to get low this week after his rounds of 68-69-69-68 looked like a warm-up last week. He’s currently No. 5 in the Race to Dubai.
Nicolas Colsaerts: Bombs away! The “Dude” has finished T19, T8, T5 and T14 (last week) since the PGA where he MC. U.S. fans saw during the Ryder Cup just how long he is and just how hot he can get with the putter. His T14 was pretty good considering he’s been drinking ale since the Ryder Cup has ended. Party on, Dude!
Lee Westwood: Three fantastic results in the first three events of the FedExCup Playoffs before crashing out dead-last in The TOUR Championship. He rebounded from less-than-stellar Ryder Cup play with a final round 66 last week at the BMW to finish T14.
Bubba Watson: His worst finish this year when he plays all four rounds is T23 and that was The Open Championship. It makes it hard to leave him out of the top 10 but there are guys playing for fun this week and guys playing for the Race to Dubai.
Jason Dufner: This will be his third tournament in a row in the Far East/Australia so he’s either worn out or will be building on his 64-67 weekend last week when he finished T16.
Adam Scott: Scott has been off since The TOUR Championship so I would expect him to have some rust this week. I would expect a late-weekend charge to jump into the top 15.
Scott Piercy: He closed out last weekend 64-62. No doubt he will be overlooked in a field of this quality. He showed at WGC-BI in Akron that he might be bothered. He finished T19 in that event. He’s T6 and T10 in October in 2012.
Carl Pettersson: He also closed on Sunday with 62 last week at the CIMB. He makes tons of birdies and will be happy to see huge fairways.
Shane Lowry: In his last two starts, he won the Portugal Masters and was solo fifth last week at the BMW. Throw in another fine finish, T13 at the BMW Italian Open back in September and you’ll find a nice “outsider” this week.
Bernt Weisberger: He has two wins in Europe this year and three top 12’s in his last six events, including T4 in Portugal in mid-October. Step up in class here.
Robert Garrigus: Hit it long? Check. Make tons of birdies? Check. His last four finishes on TOUR are T4, T10, T22 and T2 last week at CIMB. Big stage and a big field this week.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: WGC-HSBC Champions (Glass Picks)
Group 1: Luke Donald
Group 2: Ian Poulter
Group 3: Shane Lowry
Group 4: Thorbjorn Olesen
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
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Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: WGC-HSBC Champions (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Justin Rose
Group 2: Ian Poulter
Group 3: George Coetzee
Group 4: Thorbjorn Olesen
Coming Sunday: WGC-HSBC Champions Wrap Up