The 2019 WGC rota ends this week with the usual jaunt to Shanghai and the Sheshan GC for the HSBC Champions. An event that many have skipped down the years and a few have become part of the furniture. This year some of the bigger names have opted out, nevertheless we have three of the top ten in the world in the shape of McIlroy, Rose and Schauffele. The latter won impressovely last year hunting down Tony Finau in a spellbinding finish. Dustin Johnson blew a sizeable lead on day four two years ago to succumb to Justin Rose's advances. Previous to that we've seen the likes of Matsuyama, Knox, Watson and Poulter winning here so we can conclude any type of game can translate here. Bombers seem to have the upper hand in general with more winners being bracketed in that category. The course has been toughened somewhat with some changes in recent years resulting in the last two winning totals being 14 under par as opposed to Hideki's 23 under winning total, and Knox's total of 20 under. Overall it is necessary to capitalise on the par 5s here, and this is where the longer hitters gain their advantage this week. They are often a stretch and only those who whack in well past 300 will have a chance of getting up in two. Course form tends to hold up however there have plenty down the last decade who have tasted success and played well upon debut at Sheshan.
Xander Schauffele was the only golfer to shoot 3 out of the 4 rounds in the 60s here last year and he is worthy of support to repeat last years victory. He hits it out there with some of the longest in the game and you can count on him for a good deal of accuracy also. He warmed up nicely for this weeks defence with a top ten in the Zozo. Previous to that he was lightly raced and will come here fresher than most despite the long slog in Japan last week. 2nd in the Tour Championship, 3rd at the US Open, Runner up at the Masters and a win in Hawaii was considered an excellent season to back up the previous two years. He is slowly becoming prolific with 4 wins in the last three years and a host of close calls. He would be my clear second favourite in this and the 14/1 on offer is a nice carrot.
2.5u - X.Schauffele to win @ +1400
Elite players have won this many times over the last 14 years but if any were to break through we need to look at improving sorts who could hold their own in decent company. One of those is without doubt Christiaan Bezuidenhout. After a stop start period of his career he has found his feet recently impressively winning the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama by six shots from his closest competitor Jon Rahm. That was a feather in the cap to win so handsomely when Rahm was seemingly in super form. Prior to his win in Spain he finished 3rd, level with Matt Wallace at the BMW International just two strokes off the winning total. 12th in Crans was another solid effort but it was the 3rd place at Wentworth thereafter that especially caught the eye. 68-67-69-68 was an excellent tally for the South African who this time finished one behind Jon Rahm and another handful behind winner Danny Willett. He is keeping up with many of the worlds best and this is a super run of form. Anything at 3 figures or above this week is very juicy.
1.5u - C.Bezuidenhout to win @ +10000
Patrick Reed has only been outside the top 25 once in 12 starts which is hugely impressive given most of these include either majors, wgc's or playoff events. A top 5 at Wentworth is another sign of just how well Reed travels. He finished runner up in last years DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and importantly has a runner up spot here in China when finishing second to Broberg at Lake Malaren. In 2015 here he opened with a 65 when eventually finishing 7th and last year he held the first round lead with a spectacular 64 before finishing 7th once again. He certainly has the tools for here and given how impressive his season has gone he must be a contender here. He can attack the par 5s with the best of them but can marry that with a super scrambling game which is often needed here with the shaved run offs around some greens. I had hoped we'd get a bit bigger than the 31/1 on offer, but it's a solid bet for me nonetheless.
1.5u - P.Reed to win @ +3100
Tyrrell Hatton is coming into some form recently and could improve upon his 6th placed finish at the CJ Cup. At a bigger price though Andrew Putnam appeals a shade more given his effort here finishing 4th on debut last year. Putnam has become a very consistent sort over the last 12 months and has impressed with some of his trips to Europe finishing 32nd at Portrush, 4th in Scotland and 21st at Wentworth. A classy operator who looks overpriced at 65/1.
1u - A.Putnam to win @ +6500