Here we are at the final WGC of 2013, and the Asian swing continues, this time in Shanghai, China. This event will give us, for the first time in the new “2014 season” a good look at all the top names in world golf, except one.
The one notable exclusion from the field is none other than Tiger Woods, who this week has lost an exhibition match to his fellow Nike ambassador Rory Mcilroy, and also cut ties with video-game giants EA Sports, which is both interesting and not at the same time. What I mean by this is that, technically losing a one-round event to one of the World’s best golfers, isn’t going to effect his game in the long run, and certainly, not having his face plastered on console game covers should definitely not be a problem, so what’s interesting about it then. Well suddenly Rory Mcilroy looks to getting his game together, whilst Tiger finished his last campaign off disappointingly, failing to hold on to his #1 FedEx ranking, and thus losing out on a $10m bonus. This definitely would of effected his mindset, and whether he decided to pull the plug on it or not, not having his face on game covers everywhere, year in year out, will be a feeling he’s not used to. A feeling that won’t boost his ego. He had an issue with the prize money at this event last year, and even after upping significantly this year, and adding such incentives as FedEx Cup points, it still couldn’t tempt the World No.1 to make the trip. Anyway enough of Tiger, he isn’t playing and therefore isn’t important this week.
The WGC-HSBC Champions has been a WGC event since 2009, but the event itself (formerly HSBC Champions) has been played since 2005. Apart from in 2012, when it was held in Mission Hills, the event has always been held at Shesnan Interntional, and it returns home once again in 2013.
The course is one that will test players off the tee, not so much accuracy wise, but in terms of distance. The course is a monster at nearly 7,300 yards, this Par 72 will certainly provide a challenge for all players, but especially those who struggle to hit it a long way. Having said that, Francesco Molinari won here in 2010, and he would of putted the lights out the course, because he is by no means a long hitter, and he proved that when you’re at the top of your game, you can win, even when looking unlikely. Molinari ranked 68 of 78 in Driving Distance, but 1st in Putts Per Round, and 2nd in Putts Per GIR, so if you’re going to back a player who may not hit it miles, make sure you trust them to produce the goods on the green.
Another thing worth noting is that each of the four par 3s are 200 yards+, two being at 200 yards exactly, the other two being 212 yards and 217 yards, so players will have to be on the money with the long irons/hybrids in order to score on those holes. A couple of the par 5s are reachable for most at a push, but two of them will be reachable to only the bigger hitters, with one stretching 594 yards, the other 603. Simply put, distance off the tee will really help, add a good putting stroke and you’ll be right in the mix this week.
A certain amount of players will be familiar with the time-zone this week, with the PGA Tour event, the CIMB Classic being played in Malaysia, and the European Tour’s Shanghai Masters obviously being played close by last week, you’d think they’d have an advantage over players who have just turned up this week, so that may be worth keeping in mind. Some players of course, even without playing last week at these venues, turn up and prepare early, notably Dustin Johnson, who has been in Asia since his appearance at the Perth International, and will be keen to use his power to his advantage.
With all these factors in mind, and a few other that I’ll explain below, here are my selections for the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions.
Lee Westwood 30/1 (Various) 2pts e/w: Coming off a T24 last week, you could be forgiven for thinking that Westwood isn’t ready to come here and win this week, but I believe he can, and why not here in Shanghai where he has a fantastic record, especially on this course. He’s not played well, not well at all since he could of won the Open Championship in July, but he’s a superb player and given the right event he can turn his fortunes around. Between 2009-2011, when this became a WGC event, Westwood has finished, 8th, 2nd and most recently 13th, proving he has the game to play here at Shesnan International. In addition to this, back in 2007, Westwood finished T2 losing out in a play-off against Phil Mickelson, who saw off both Westwood and Ross Fisher to claim the victory. That’s three top-10s in his last five appearances at this course, a superb feat. He came 6th last year, even with the change of venue, so he’s more than competent at playing in Shanghai, and I think this course form will be valuable. At 30/1 he is, in my opinion well worth a gamble, and although he’s not at the top of his game, I expect him to up it this week. He’s not had a year without a win since 2008, so he’ll be keen to keep that up, and not go winless in 2013.
Nick Watney 50/1 (Various) 1.5pts e/w: Nick Watney has been in impressive form since leaving Butch Harmon, and joining up with Todd Anderson, and although he’s flattered to deceive the last couple of weeks, I’m looking to him to find his game once again this week. Watney is already a previous winner of a World Golf Championship, and he has the game and mentality to win big events, and I don’t see why he can’t do it this week. Although his last two appearances here have seen him finish T33 and T21, he did finish T5 in 2009, four shots behind eventual winner Phil Mickelson and that’s a positive sign. Every one of his professional wins has seen a double-digit winning score, and they have ranged between -10 and -22, so he can certainly go low, and with his recent win at the CIMB Classic in 2012 he has proved he can win outside the U.S and more specifically in Asia. He has won five PGA Tour events after being on the Tour for eight years, but it took him two years to get his first win, and since then he’s shown real signs of being a world class player. As well as winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Watney also won The Barclays last year, a FedEx Cup play-off event, even when out of form, he repayed the favour coming 2nd, so I’m happy to put my faith in him once again.
Ernie Els 66/1 (Coral) 1.5pts e/w: Ernie Els is another player, not unfamiliar with winning on the big stage. The four-time major champion, and two-time WGC winner has certainly shown what a superb player he is, under any circumstance and even in his mid-40s he’s still competing at the highest level. He’s a winner even this year, when he won the BMW International Open, so he’s still regularly visiting the winners circle. Els has won in China before back in 2005 when he won the BMW Asian Open, by a convincing 13 strokes. Now how is this all relevant, well that was just a reminder of what he can do. Let’s look at what he has done here at the HSBC Champions. In 2009 Els finished 1 shot behind winner Phil Mickelson, and then followed that up in 2010 with a T6 finish, so he proved that he good finish that week was no fluke, and he does indeed no his way around this course. Although his most recent finish here was in 2011, when he finished an unimpressive T33, I do think he can find the form he showed here before and try and add to his wins total. He is a prolific winner, and a future Hall of Fame’r who has shown no proper signs of slowing up. Just when you think Els might be regressing as a player he comes out of nowhere and puts together a string of steady performances, and eventually wins again. Els is not someone you categorically rule out, and based on his course form, I thought 66/1 was a tad big for someone of his obvious ability.
Total Points Staked this week: 10 points
Profit/Loss for 2013: +69.25
I’m hoping after a week off, that we can get back on track, and what better way to do it than find the winner in the last WGC event of the year. We are still in profit for 2013, and there’s still plenty of time to add to that total. This week I’ve tried to stick to players who offer some good value, but I do think Rory Mcilroy is building up to a big victory any time soon. His price is probably fair considering his form at this course, but with last week’s performance in mind I, in the end decided to leave him out. Let’s hope the trio of Lee Westwood, Nick Watney and Ernie Els, all proven winners can get the job done for us this week. Although there’s no doubt all three players can hit the ball far enough to challenge here, question marks could be raised about their putting, Westwood and Els especially. Both players are experienced enough to improve this on any given week, and Nick Watney is certainly streaky with his putter so let’s hope they can all get hot on the greens.