This week’s HSBC Champions field looks a lot like last week’s Zozo Championship field with one 82-win-sized exception. Tiger Woods will take his talents … somewhere outside of Asia while most of the rest of his playing partners from last week tee it up in Shanghai, China, for this week’s HSBC Champions.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: HSBC Champions | When: Oct. 31 – Nov. 3
Where: Sheshan Golf Club — Shanghai, China
Ranking the field (odds)
- Rory McIlroy (11/2): Played poorly in the first round last week but bounced back with a 63 to a T3.
- Hideki Matsuyama (12-1): Easy choice as second-biggest favorite, but he’s also top 16 in four of five.
- Xander Schauffele (14-1): Let’s just go in order here. Schauffele won here last year in a playoff.
- Justin Rose (16-1): All-time leader in strokes gained on this course.
- Adam Scott (28-1): Top 20 in three of his last five worldwide, feeling things about him this week.
- Sungjae Im (28-1): Stay king, Sungjae! More on him below, but the T3 finish last week has me pumped.
- Tony Finau (25-1): Probably should have won here last year before Schauffele birdied the last two.
- Paul Casey (22-1): Great run over the last few months, including a win on the Euro Tour.
- Tommy Fleetwood (25-1): Four top 25s in his last five starts. T7 here last year.
- Corey Conners (50-1): Seriously! All in here. He’s gone T6-T12-T13 in his last three events.
Field strength — B: For a WGC, it’s pretty mediocre, especially without guys like Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. But for a Halloween golf tournament on the other side of the world? Elite.
Three things to know
1. Sungjae’s run: I can’t get enough! Globally, he has finished in the top three in three of his last five events, including a T3 alongside McIlroy last week in Japan. He’s up to No. 34 in the world, and this will be his 35th (!) event worldwide this year (there have only been 45 weeks!). Im is going to win on the PGA Tour at some point, and a Thomas-Tiger-Sungjae 1-2-3 punch on the Asian swing would be perfection to me.
2. Korn Ferry’s finest: Let’s talk about Xinjun Zhang’s weird year. He was the top player on the Korn Ferry Tour in the regular season, beating out guys like Robby Shelton and Scottie Scheffler. But he waned late in the season, and had just one top 10 on that tour after winning the Lincoln Land Championship in June. Then he started the new PGA Tour season like this: MC-T7-T16-T4. He hasn’t played yet on the Asian swing, but this is a pretty fun spot for the No. 123 player in the world.
3. Rory: He’s too good right now. He’s either finished 20th or better or missed the cut in every PGA Tour event since the Masters. That includes a Tour Championship win and a T3 last week at the Zozo Championship following a weak first round. He’s as sure a bet as it gets in golf right now when it comes to strong performances and top-10 finishes, and I expect nothing less on a course where he’s 11th all time in strokes gained (even with a T54 finish in 2018).
- 2018: Xander Schauffele
- 2017: Justin Rose
- 2016: Hideki Matsuyama
- 2015: Russell Knox
- 2014: Bubba Watson
HSBC Champions picks
Winner: Rory McIlroy (11/2) — It feels like another one for Rory this week. Despite the poor opener last week in Japan, I don’t think his confidence has been this high in years. He believes he’s an auto-66 right now, and for the most part since the Open Championship, that’s been true.
Top 10: Tony Finau (+185) — He’s +185 to top 10 here at a course where he lost in a playoff to Schauffele last season. Bad week last week in Japan, but before that, he had top 10s in four of his last five.
Sleeper: Kurt Kitayama (100-1) — I love him here as a deeper sleeper along with Zhang. He’s been cruising around with top 20s at the BMW PGA Championship, Italian Open and French Open over the last few months. I like him even better at +220 to finish in the top 20.