Golfers who usually ply their trade in Europe or America will make all the right noises about heading to the Far East, suggesting, amongst other things, that the game’s development in relative new territories is uppermost in their minds. However, tournaments in far-flung places at this time of year are usually all about the money. And with a prize fund totalling almost $10million for the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club, who can blame them for taking the cash?
In fact, there’s the best part of $32million up for grabs over the course of the last four events of the European Tour season. The money available ensures the Race to Dubai is far from over, even though Tommy Fleetwood currently stands atop the rankings by just shy of 800,000 points from Sunday’s Valderrama winner, Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard has eschewed the opportunity to close further on the Southport native by skipping the sojourn to Shanghai, but with 18 of the world’s top 25 professionals in the field, this tournament offers plenty of ranking points as well as hard currency – and in fairness, some kudos.
Matsuyama Primed For Asia’s Major
This is the 13th renewal of the event (ninth under the WGC banner) that can boast six different Major winners on its honours board. Hideki Matsuyama’s victory 12 months ago was the first time an Asian player had claimed the title, but the Japanese golfer looks to have a great chance of following up that win with further success. The world no.3 ranks his 2016 win as ‘his biggest achievement’ and there is a real sense that this tournament is looked upon as ‘Asia’s Major’. His form coming into this year’s contest is very similar to last season. Then, Matsuyama was second in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, this year he was fifth. And with two wins in 2017, his form has remained excellent throughout the campaign. Tellingly, he ranked top of the driving accuracy and greens in regulation statistical categories in Malaysia – handy given water comes into play on the majority of holes at Sheshan. At 10/1, Matsuyama is the headline selection.
Easy To Make A Case For Paul
Paul Casey’s recently arrived baby daughter hasn’t halted the Englishman’s fine form. He’s played in ten HSBC Champions since 2005, claiming seven top 12s and always finishing in the top 25, save when he had to withdraw in 2009 due to a rib injury. It’s incredible to think his last victory was over two years ago at the KLM Open, but as he can boast 10 top 13 efforts in 14 starts since finishing sixth in the Masters back in April, surely his time has come to get back into the winners’ enclosure. Casey, who trades at 20/1 to break his 2017 duck, has won in China twice previously, although not this event. But with his flat stick stats generally on the rise (he ranked in the top ten for putting-average at the Tour Championship and the CIMB Classic), he cannot be discounted this week.
Leishman To Bounce Back
There will be plenty of focus and betting interest on world no.1 Dustin Johnson, who won this event in 2013 and heads the market at 17/2. But DJ hasn’t picked up a club in competitive play since the USA steamrollered the Internationals in the Presidents Cup a month ago, and could be a little ring rusty. So, the last advice for punters is to back Marc Leishman at 18/1 – remember the place terms are a healthy 1/4 of the odds for the first five. The Australian only fractionally missed out on the CJ Cup title in Korea, on Sunday, after losing in a play-off to Justin Thomas. Leishman birdied the 72nd hole to tie the USPGA Championship winner in Jeju, but found water at the second extra hole to lose out. However, the Melbourne born pro has developed a happy knack of bouncing back after disappointment, with his last two tour wins coming after near misses the previous week. Leishman’s form figures of 38-18-9-11 at this week’s par 72, 7,261-yard venue, look good enough to set him up to get over Sunday’s shootout defeat.