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The WGC HSBC Champions 2016 Preview
Our golf scribe takes a looking at the betting for this week's WGC HSBC Championship.
What a contrasting weekend for the two leading tours in golf. Justin Thomas flew the flag for the future of American golf en route to victory in Kuala Lumpur, while the European Tour decided to get all nostalgic with Padraig Harrington winning his first regular European Tour victory since 2007. Read in to the dichotomy what you will. The season’s first co-sanctioned WGC event takes the players to the picturesque Sheshan International Golf Course in Shanghai. While usually a scoring friendly course (taking 2014 out of the equation it averages -20 over the last five editions) this course bears its teeth when the weather rolls in. Bubba Watson’s -11 winning total in 2014 was in the exacting conditions that players seem forecasted to face this week. The guys who can hit the greens and avoid the natural quarry that pervades the course should thrive.
The beautiful course, cut into the contours of Sheshan and surrounded by Tuscan inspired Villas, will provide the scene for a veritable smorgasbord of golfing talent. Forty of the world’s top fifty players will be teeing it up this week. The tournament will have added significance for those European players aiming to mount a concerted push for the Race to Dubai title. Danny Willet has led those standings for an eternity in the wake of that Masters defeat, despite being in the type of form that sees him start as a 75-1 outsider. Henrik Stenson and Rory McIllroy will be relishing the chance to exploit Willet’s complete lack of confidence at present. It’s as if his allegedly coarse treatment at the Ryder Cup has left a lingering psychological effect on the Masters Champion.
The likes of Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed will spearhead a considerable threat from the American contingent. It is rather interesting to add that four of the previous six champions have been European. I suppose it does make sense giving the stage of the season that the European Tour finds itself in. Russell Knox’s sensational victory last year is another bitter reminder of what I believe was a near criminal omission from Darren Clarke at the Ryder Cup. The man from Inverness - that sounds worryingly like a poor James Bond film - will aim to become only the second man after a certain Tiger Woods to defend a WGC title.
WGC HSBC Champions | Thursday 27 October - Sunday 30 October | Sheshan Golf Club
2015: Russell Knox (-20) | 2014: Bubba Watson (-11) | 2013: Dustin Johnson (-24) | 2012: Ian Poulter (-21) | 2011: Martin Kaymer (-20)
To Win Outright
Rory McIllroy 5/1 | Dustin Johnson 11/2 | Hideki Matsuyama 18/1 | Henrik Stenson 20/1| Justin Thomas 20/1
Paul Casey To Win 22/1 & To Place 9/2
Of the players amongst the upper echelons of the betting, Casey seems the best value. 22/1 strikes me as a bit long for someone routinely peppering the top of the leaderboard since the beginning of last season’s Fed Ex Cup Playoffs. It was inevitable that he would eventually falter slightly, as he did last week in Kuala Lumpur with a disappointing tie for 21st. Having said that, the Englishman was still right in contention until a disappointing weekend left him stranded. An encouraging sign for Casey heading into this weekend was that he co-led in scrambling in Kuala Lumpur. The assortment of green side bunkers and potentially dodgy weather will require a deft hand around the green.
Louis Oosthuizen To Win 50/1 & To Place 11/1
Louis Oosthuizen is one of those mercurial players who delights and frustrates in equal measure. A player of his distance from the tee and shot-making ability should probably have won more majors than the one Open Championship in his possession. His travails with the putter have been his real Achilles heel. He has, however, managed to rope together some consistency and could once again be a threat this season. He finished in the top 25 in his last five appearances last season, and he also has finished inside the top 15 in three of his last five visits to Sheshan. He will welcome the rain, which should make the greens more receptive, thus alleviating some of his putting concerns.
Kevin Kisner To Win 90/1 & To Place 19/1
I can’t believe that Kisner is currently sitting at 90/1. He finished 2nd last year, just two shots shy of Knox, and these PGA events in Asia tend to favour repeat performers. Just look at Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas winning back-to-back victories in Kuala Lumpur. There is a familiarity with course and conditions that always leads me to value history more in these offshore events. Kisner had ten top 25’s last season, six of which he converted into top 10’s. He finished in a respectable tie for 26th last week, but more importantly was 12th in driving accuracy and 5th in GIR. I can’t believe that Richard Sterne and Scott Hend are more fancied by the bookmakers. Cue embarrassing failure by Kisner. Let’s hope not.
The Man to Beat
Dustin Johnson To Win 11/2 & To Place 12/10
I just can’t see past the reigning PGA Player of the Season this weekend. He clearly is coming off a devastating season and will be looking to be the first man since Tiger Woods - yes, him again - to win back-to-back WGC events. He took advantage of Jason Day’s collapse to clinch the WGC Bridgestone invitational and has history on his side going into this week. He was champion in 2013 where he shot a record 24under par. He averages 66.89 in his last nine rounds in Shenshan and will be looking to his massively improved wedge game to capitalize on those iconic, booming drives.