Frazzled looks at the final WGC event of the year, which is the HSBC Champions event from Shanghai, with selections of Paul Casey and Adam Scott.
The 11th staging of the HSBC Champions takes place this week and once again, the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai is the host. This is the 6th time that Sheshan is hosting the tournament under the banner of the World Golf Championship and for the 10th time overall and the event continues to be sanctioned as part of the PGA Tour along with the European and Asian Tours.
This Nelson and Haworth design was opened in 2004 and was the first golf club in the region. Tiger Woods has described it as the "Crowning Jewel of Asian Golf". This is traditionally the weakest of the WGC fields, despite its huge prize pool and once again there are numerous players from the Top 20 in the world missing. These include Jason Day, Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker. It does present us with an attractive betting heat however, given the small field of 78 runners, which contains many no hopers, and with all firms paying each way on the first five places.
The Sheshan International Course is the second Nelson and Haworth designed venue to be used by the PGA Tour in a row, after a number of these players were involved in the CIMB Classic last week at the Kuala Lumpur Golf Club in Malaysia, where the scoring was incredibly low.
The Sheshan course measures 7.261 yards this year after a number of adjustments were made to the venue last year; some further tweaks have taken place ahead of this year's event. In marked contrast to previous renewals, where scoring was very low, last year's event was much tougher and the winning score of -11 recorded by Bubba Watson, was the 4th highest on all the Par 72 courses on the PGA Tour last season. The course ranked inside the Top 10 most difficult in terms of fairways hit, greens in regulation ("GIR") and scrambling last year, which was only matched by Torrey Pines South and Trump Doral (Thanks to Rob Bolton). The weather was favourable last year as well, so it is fair to assume that the course will play tough again this year, with the rough described as fairly penal again, so we would expect that a very solid tee to green game will be needed, although the rain that the course has had over the past week, may soften it up a little.
The course is set amid 1,000 year old gingko trees and manmade waterways. There are many elevation changes throughout the course and not surprisingly, water is in play on 11 of the holes. The tree lined fairways are reasonably generous, but are seashore paspalum grass, which like last week in Malaysia, can take a bit of getting used to. The undulating bentgrass greens are below average size at 5,000 sq feet and are set to run to a reasonably fast 11.6 on the stimpmeter, despite the recent rain.
We called the requirements wrong last year to an extent, given that we expected it to be a birdie test once again. This time around, we will be looking for players that can hit greens and have a very solid all round game that will hopefully be complimented by a good week on the greens. Players that have been out here in the Far East for a week or two now may also have an advantage as they have got used to conditions and do not have to shrug off the effects of travel.
Adam Scott has not won since the Crowne Plaza Invitational last year, but his form is certainly trending upwards and he makes plenty of appeal this week. He has had a relatively poor 2015, but still contended in some of the biggest events, finishing 4th in the US Open and 10th at St Andrews. This was despite the fact that he has been trying to get to grips with life without the anchored putter.
He ranked 4th in Driving Distance last year, along with 16th in GIR, 35th in Strokes Gained Tee To Green, 15th in Total Driving and 8th in Ball Striking, but his putting really forced him out of contention, with him ranking 158th in Strokes Gained, 170th in Putting Average and 173rd in Scrambling. That is why his recent displays on the greens have been much more encouraging. He finished 7th in the Japan Open two weeks ago and followed this with a runner up spot in the CIMB Classic last week, closing with a 63. He was 2nd in Driving Accuracy, as is nearly the norm, but he was 5th in Putting Average and if he is anything like as effective with the flat stick this week, then he surely will take a lot of beating on this more testing course. He has been 6th, 11th and 12th in previous events here and he looks a very decent bet at 20/1 each way in this reduced field.
2 points each way Adam Scott at 20/1 each way with Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power
We are staying away from the front of the market and our second pick this week is Paul Casey. Casey has a very solid record in this event with 6 finishes in the Top 10 and also 11th and 20th from his 8 appearances. He also has an excellent record in the Far East, with wins in the 2005 China Open and the 2005 TCL Classic and has won events in the Emirates and Bahrain.
He also arrives here in decent form, warming up for this event with 4 solid rounds in the 60s in the CIMB, on his way to 24th and he finished last season's PGA Tour with a 5th place behind Jordan Spieth in the Tour Championship. That ended a season where he was he was runner up in the Northern Trust and Travelers and was 3rd in the Wyndham and the Honda Classic, which he really should have closed out.
Casey is excellent from tee to Green. He ranked 5th in GIR last year, 58th in Driving Accuracy & 35th in Driving Distance and was 9th in Scoring Average, while he was 10th in Strokes Gained Tee To Green. Putting is certainly not his strongest weapon, but this is a course that we think will once again place a high premium on getting the ball to the green and he should rank very highly in that category, giving himself many chances for birdie and limiting the amount of saves he has to make.
The early 35/1 is gone, but he still appeals at 33/1 and is our second bet this week.
1.25 points each way Paul Casey at 33/1 with Ladbrokes, Betfred and Bet365