Fantasy Golf Cheat Sheet: Breaking Down the WGC-HSBC Champions

The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.

THE FIELD

This is an annual event with a field of around 70 golfers and no cut. As a World Golf Championship stop, this event carries a large prize purse and often attracts several of the top golfers in the world for one final big money week in China. The field this year isn’t quite as strong as it has been in recent ones, but there are still plenty of big names on the list including Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson. There are quite a few international golfers in the field as well, and while not all of them are household names, many will have experience playing the course. It may not be the most meaningful event ever, but a win here can really set up some golfers for more success down the road. This will be our third week in a row with no cut to worry about for DraftKings purposes, and in another international field, making sure you research the names in the bottom half of the salary grid is a good idea.


THE COURSE

Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
Par 72, 7,200-7,300 yards

Outside of 2012, this event has always been held at Sheshan GC. However, while the locale has remained the same, the course did see numerous upgrades in 2014. The winning score here was a mere 11-under in 2014, down about six or seven shots from the previous incarnations of this tournament when golfers would regularly break the 20-under mark. In 2015, however, we saw golfers take advantage of some softer conditions, as Russell Knox took home his first PGA Tour win at 20-under. Last year we saw the golfers again make this track a birdie-fest, as Hideki Matsuyama romped to a seven-stroke win at 23-under par. The changes have seemingly made the course play much tighter the last couple of years with thicker rough, making accuracy off the tee more important. I would still expect a fair number of birdies given the usually slow greens and the shortness of the course in general, but the pure-power golfers’ advantage may be diminished.

Sheshan features a pretty eclectic blend of longer tough par 3s and 4s, some short, drivable holes and four par 5s, which will offer the best shots at birdie. Just to give you an idea of how much easier the par 5s are to play compared to the rest of the holes, in 2014, winner Bubba Watson went an astounding 14-under playing the par 5s and played the rest of the holes to the tune of 3-over to barely hold off Tim Clark. Playing these four holes well under par will undoubtedly be the key to success at this venue.


LAST SIX WINNERS

  • 2016 — Hideki Matsuayam -23 (over Daniel Berger -16)
  • 2015 — Russell Knox -20 (over Kevin Kisner -18)
  • 2014 — Bubba Watson -11 (over Tim Clark playoff)
  • 2013 — Dustin Johnson -24 (over Ian Poulter -21)
  • 2012 — Ian Poulter -21 (over four golfers at -19)
  • 2011 — Martin Kaymer -20 (over Freddie Jacobson -17)


WINNING TRENDS

  • Each of the past six winners had at least a T20 or better at a major championship or THE PLAYERS in the year of their victory
  • Six out of the past seven winners had a T5 or better in one of their five starts before this event


STATISTICS

Par 5 Scoring
Par 3 Efficiency 200-225 Yards
Strokes Gained: Approach

I’ve already explained in the course description how important Par 5 Scoring is this week, but just to reemphasize, with the par 3s all playing over 200 yards and many of the par 4s getting reshaped, or toughened, doing well on the par 5s has really become necessary to scoring well on this course. It’s a stat to focus on this week.

With all of the par 3s being in the range of 200-225 yards, looking at a golfer’s performance over that distance is also a great stat to focus on. These will generally play as some of the toughest holes on the course as well, so performance on them will be key.

Finally, while there’s no one style of golfer I’d necessarily favor over another this week, it should be noted that the past few winners have all had extremely strong approach games, with last year’s winner Russell Knox ranking 10th on tour in Greens in Regulation and 10th in Strokes Gained: Approach in the year of his win. Likewise, last year’s winner Hideki Matsuyama ranked third in this category. I’d definitely weigh this stat heavily this week and look for golfers who have been toting strong iron play in recent events.


FINDING VALUES

Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking golfers (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the golfers who have the best fantasy value compared to their odds of winning this week.

GolferOddsDraftKings PriceComparables
Francesco Molinari28-1$8,000Rafa Cabrera-Bello $8,100 and 50-1
Daniel Berger $8,300 and 40-1
Patrick Reed $8,500 and 35-1


HORSES FOR COURSES

Ross Fisher isn’t a name most will be familiar with, but he is someone to look out for this week. Fisher has played this event six times and finished runner-up twice and was also third here in 2015. He has an incredible course history and has been playing well on the Euro Tour of late as well with runner-up finishes in his last two starts.

Paul Casey has played this event 10 times since 2005 and now has amassed six top-10 finishes to his name at this course. He’s been playing great for some time now, and perhaps now that he’s off the mainland U.S. he might finally get back in the winner’s circle.

Francesco Molinari has played this event five times. He’s the 2010 winner of this event and was also T6 here last season. Overall, the Italian has three top-10s at this event and fits the profile of some recent winners who won here with superb approach games.


Top Recent Form

1. Marc Leishman has now finished 2, 1 and T3 in three of his last four starts. With some big names missing, Leishman looks like the class of this field.
2. Tyrell Hatton has been scorching hot on the Euro Tour and has now finished 1-1-T8-T3 over his last four starts. He will look to score the hat-trick win here.
3. Pat Perez kept up the good play last week by finishing T5. He has now finished inside the top-20 in each of his last five starts.


MY PICK: Matthew Fitzpatrick ($9,200)

Fitzpatrick’s a young English golfer who has already racked up four wins on the European Tour, including one this season at the Omega Masters. The 24-year-old has had a strong end to his season as he has gone 1-T11-T15-T15 over his last four starts and has already come through with two strong finishes of T16 and T7 in two appearances at this week’s venue. While he’s not a big hitter, Fitzpatrick can certainly rack up birdies with the best of them and has posted scores of 14-under or better in all four of his wins. The Sheshan course is not extremely long, and in the past couple of years since the renovations it has tended to favor more accuracy-driven golfers who can take advantage of easier approaches with their iron play. Either way, I think this is prime spot for Fitzpatrick to make his mark against a more elite field and a solid spot to deploy him on DK.


MY SLEEPER: Kiradech Aphibarnrat ($7,500)

Aphibarnrat is a Thai-born golfer who has been on a nice run of late, posting five top-20 finishes in his last six starts, a run which includes a T2 his last time out in Italy. Aphibarnrat hasn’t fared too well at this week’s venue as his highest finish over four starts is T30 from 2015. That being said, he is certainly familiar with playing in this part of the world, is playing perhaps the best golf of his life at the moment and also comes in with far more experience playing against elite fields than he did in past seasons. At only $7,500, he’s a golfer who could definitely pay off here with big week given his recent form and experience.

 


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.