Sheshan International Golf Club
Yards: 7,266 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Creeping Bentgrass
Rough: Seashore paspalum and rye at 2”
Water Hazards: 7
Course Architects: Nelson and Haworth (2004)
Winner’s Share: $1,530,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Defending Champion: Ian Poulter**
Dates: October 31- November 3
**Notes: Ian Poulter’s victory did NOT come on this course. This event returns to Sheshan where it was played from 2006-2011.
Notes II: There are only 78 players in the field and they will all play 72 holes of stroke play. There is no cut.
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has won the first three of the 2013-14 season as Jimmy Walker broke his maiden and Webb Simpson and Ryan Moore each add another trophy to their respective cabinets.
There were 12, first-time winners in the 2013 season and just six players with multiple victories (Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar, Snedeker, Scott and Stenson). In 2013-14, we now have a first-timer and two proven “veterans” hoisting trophies through three events.
Gamers, please omit last year’s results at Mission Hills.
The HSBC returns to Sheshan where it was staged from 2005 through 2011.
Previous champions, their OWGR at the time and their scores on this course include:
2005: David Howell; No. 19 (-20)
2006: Y.E. Yang; No. 77 (-14)
2007: Phil Mickelson; No. 2(-10)
2008: Sergio Garcia; No. 3 (-14)
2009: Phil Mickelson; No. 2 (-17)
2010: Francesco Molinari; No. 30 (-19)
2011: Martin Kaymer; No. 6 (-20)
For what it’s worth, Ian Poulter was ranked No. 26 last season when he won at Mission Hills.
Those are all Ryder Cuppers or Presidents Cuppers. No slouches here, boys and girls and plenty of chalk. The WGC events are dominated by the chalk as we have seen over the past five years.
No first-timer has even won a WGC event, minus the inaugural event, obviously.
Only Geoff Ogilvy (2006 Match Play) won a WGC event in his first season of playing in them.
From the list of past champions above, only Y.E. Yang is not playing this week.
Only Phil Mickelson has won this event twice.
Only Tiger Woods has won back-to-back WGC events. He’s not playing this week.
Only seven players have won multiple WGC event titles. Tiger Woods (18), Geoff Ogilvy (3), Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Ian Poulter all have two victories. Again, there are no slouches in that group either.
Lee Westwood (44) and Ernie Els (42) have the most WGC starts.
In 2011 Martin Kaymer closed with 63 and came home in 29. He overcame a five-shot deficit to win and tied the course record. On Sunday. It’s not a hard course folks.
Also in 2011, the top 15 were double-digits under par and the top 45 (of 78) were under par for the tournament. In 2010, 38 players finished under par. It’s not a hard course folks.
Inside the Ropes
It’s week two in the Far East at minimum for most of the 78 players at the WGC-HSBC Champions so everyone should have their body clocks tuned and ready to go. The European Tour was in Shanghai for the BMW Masters and the PGA TOUR was in Kuala Lumpur for the CIMB Classic.
The average winning score around the Sheshan International course is just a tad above 16-under and I would expect more of the same this week unless the weather happens to play a major factor. The TOUR players will be excited to see slicker rolling Bentgrass after dealing with sticky, wet paspalum all last week in Malaysia. The players who strike the golf ball well off the tee will be encouraged to see tree-lined fairways and water hazards throughout this set-up. The premium iron players will have a chance to pick and choose their spots on the undulating greens and will try and avoid the false fronts. The putters will hope the Bentgrass is the great equalizer but if 16 and change is the average winning score and more than half the field is under par, it’s no wonder players like Mickelson and Garcia, known for their ball-striking over their putting, have excelled here.
All of these guys will be drooling again this week to get a chance to attack four par fives and a drivable par four. In 2011, only three players in the top 10 were outside of the top 11 in GIR; only four were INSIDE the top 10 in putting. This tells me what I need to know so I’ll be looking for ball-strikers this week who will get the most chances on these greens.
Phil Mickelson: He’s won here twice and he’s knocked the rust off with his T19 last week. The lower the winning score, the better as Mickelson loves par five scoring and making birdies. His driver and putter struggled last week but he will be on a track of land where he should be more than comfortable and has had past successes. Only premium players win these events and he fits that bill.
Keegan Bradley: I should just copy and paste what I wrote last week. He taunted gamers last week with a blistering first 36 holes and a four shot lead before playing the weekend in four-over to finish 10th. His worst finish in any WGC stroke-play event is 23rd and he has four top 10s. He did play here in 2011 and finished T16.
Jimmy Walker: For those of you non-believers, of course he’s going to have a week where he doesn’t bring it. I just can’t get off a guy who has started the 2013-14 season WIN, T12 and solo sixth last week. The more birdies he has to make, the better. DYNOMITE has no problem rolling them in.
Sergio Garcia: His T11 last week in Malaysia continued his excellent recent form which has seen him net T18 or better in his last four, including two top 10s. He won the 2008 event on this course before it became a WGC event so that won’t dissuade me either!
Rory McIlroy: I’m on record in our pre-season chat stating that McIlroy will bounce back nicely this season and he’s already showing signs of moving in that direction. He was upset with his high finish at the Kolon Korea because he thought his final round 67 should have and could have been lower. He lost by a shot. Earlier this week he defeated Tiger Woods for the second time in a row in a heads-up, pay-for-play event at Mission Hills, the site of last year’s HSBC, so that can’t possibly hurt his confidence. McIlroy fired 67 to Woods’ 68. Sure, he’s in the midst of suing his former management group but I think he’ll find refuge in good golf. I would take a chance this week because of the no-cut format as well.
Brandt Snedeker: After an incredible 2012, Snedeker roared back in 2013 making even more cash (not including bonus money, of course) and there is no sign this train should be slowing down for 2013-14. His improved ball-striking was the key the last year and will be the key again this season because you and I both know he’s not going to suddenly forget how to putt! He’ll have no problem putting these Bentgrass greens and making birdies.
Jason Dufner: Here’s another player who was disappointed to see summer end and fall begin as Dufner’s season didn’t really get kick-started until the first week in August. He cranked out a T4 at WGC-Bridgestone before claiming his first major a week later at the PGA at Oak Hill with a masterful ball-striking performance over the four days, including the course record 63 on Friday. He cashed on two top 9s (T9 both) in the FedExCup Playoffs, including a 66-65 finish at East Lake to conclude an excellent run. The way he hits it, I have no problem endorsing him after a break as he’ll jump right back on that horse that only finds fairways and greens.
Francesco Molinari: A 63 in Portugal led to T17 and a closing round of 64 last week should find Molinari on your radar this week. He’ll hit every fairway and should find quite a few GIR and obviously his current form doesn’t hurt. Neither does his 2010 victory, 2009 T10, 2007 T9 or his T23 last here on this track. In 16 rounds around Sheshan, he’s been over par exactly once.
Justin Rose: If you’re looking for a ball-striker this week, well he’ll qualify! The Englishman sits third in the Race to Dubai and is the reigning U.S. Open champ. He finished second at the Barclays and sixth at the season-ending TOUR Championship. His worst round in the Playoffs was 72, exactly ONE time. He’s played here once and shot 14-under to finish T7. No rounds were over 70. Yes, please.
Jordan Spieth: If you’re not sure what I think about Spieth, then I know you must be new to the column. Thanks for reading! Here are his last six events: P2, T19, T4, T16 and T2. The last four were his first swing at the FedExCup Playoffs. The only thing that worries me this week is a twinge of rust but he’ll have all four rounds to swing himself silly.
Lee Westwood: The man with the most reps in the WGC series, Westwood is also quite fond of the golf at Sheshan. In 20 rounds of play here, he’s been over par three times and his finishes are T12, T2, T8, second and T13 the last time this event was held here. That’s more proof that premium ball-strikers are the way to go this week. Westwood also played last week at the BMW Masters and tuned up with a T24.