The PGA TOUR finishes its time in Asia with the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at Sheshan International Golf Club (West) in Shanghai, China. The field will consist of 78 golfers from the PGA TOUR as well as six Chinese players teeing it up for the first of four World Golf Championships (WGC) tournaments this season. Similar to the last two tournaments, this will be a no-cut event.
Sheshan International will play as a par 72, measures 7,261 yards and be putt on bentgrass greens for the third straight week. This tournament has been played at Sheshan International in 13 of the last 14 seasons and all but two of the last 13 winners have been outside the top-30 in overall world golf ranking at the time of their win (exceptions: Y.E. Yang 77th/2006, Russell Knox 85/2015). The course is fairly straight forward with tree-lined fairways, which will be average in width, but where the course gets difficult is when the golfers miss the fairway and hit it in one of the many fairway bunkers or in one of the many water hazards that come into play on 11 holes. Over the last three years, the course has played inside the top-half of difficulty in scoring relative to par with last season playing as the third most difficult; this is evident with both fairways hit in regulation and greens hit in regulation percentage registering lower at Sheshan International relative to the TOUR average.
Par-5 scoring average will again be important this week with three of the four playing over 550 yards. Golfers who also do well on Par-3 scoring average from 200 to 225 yards should be considered when building lineups, all four of the par-3s measure over 200 yards. Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee will be paramount with accuracy as a priority; hitting it in the rough or in any of the many fairway bunkers may be penal this week.
Rory McIlroy ($11,700)McIlroy’s Off-The-Tee game is second-to-non. When he’s hitting fairways and over his last six tournaments, he’s gained almost a stroke on the field in hit fairway percentage and ranks first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee over the same timeframe. Even though Rory finished outside the top-50 last season at Sheshan International, he ranks just outside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Total at this tournament over the last five years with top-5 back in 2017.
Tony Finau ($9,700)Finau struggled in Japan, but now gets to play a tournament he’s had success at finishing 11th back in 2017 and second last season. Like Rory, Finau’s ability Off-The-Tee is elite ranking fifth in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee over his last six tournaments; it’s not only his distance, but he’s also been hitting the fairway this season ranking T11 in fairway hit percentage and 30th in hit fairways gained over the field in his last 24 rounds. Finau also putts better on bentgrass greens ranking just outside the top-30 in Strokes Gained: Putting over his last 36 rounds.
Patrick Reed ($9,600)Reed isn’t on the same level as Finau or McIlroy with his driver, but still ranks inside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee over his last six tournaments and has the short game to contend at this course. Reed ranks inside the top-30 in Par-5 scoring average and eighth in sand save percentage over his last 24 rounds along with two top-10 finishes here dating back to 2016.
Kevin Kisner ($7,200)There’s no metric for “narrative-street” analysis, but Kisner may take a page out of Tiger’s book last week and go for the win this week in Shanghai so he can qualify for the President’s Cup. We’re not just relying on the metaphoric analysis with Kisner, he also has solid current form ranking ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green and sixth in Par-3 scoring average which measure 200-225 yards in distance. He’s a great putter on bentgrass and has a second place finish here back in 2016.
J.T. Poston ($6,700)Poston had a good end to his season making it to the BMW Championship with a T16 finish and followed it up with a Top-11 in his first start of the new season at the Sanderson Farms Championship. If those finishes weren’t enough, Poston also recorded a top-30 last week in Japan and his solid finishes have a lot to do with his ball-striking gaining 3.3 strokes Tee-to-Green over his last five tournaments. Poston ranks inside the top-15 in Par-3 scoring average from 200 to 225 yards, 11th in birdie or better percentage, 16th in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green and 23rd in Par-5 scoring average over his last six tournaments.
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