Strong line-up at HSBC Champions
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2013 WGC - HSBC Champions Tournament | Preview | 30 Oct 2013
The US$8.5 million WGC HSBC Championship gets underway on Thursday where four of the game’s leading six ranked players take to the fairways of the Olazabal course at the Sheshan International Golf Club near Shanghai in China.
The event is now into its fifth staging with all four former champions, Phil Mickelson, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter in this year’s field.
Phil Mickelson, who has had a such a great year with three victories and two runner-up finishes, begins the favourite despite not being at his peak over the past three months. Mickelson won this event in 2009 and 2010 and last year finished in a share of second position, two shots behind the winner, Ian Poulter.
He was 19th at the CIMB event last week and 12th at the Tour Championship in his previous starts and clearly has a liking for this layout.
Henrik Stenson was perhaps disappointing last week in Shanghai at the BMW Masters but 2013 generally has seen him return to the elite of the game. He has not played this event since 2010 but he has been the big improver in world golf this year and should be given a chance.
Ian Poulter is the defending champion, interestingly his only top ten in seven starts in the event. Since a very good finish to the 2012 season and a good start to the year Poulter has recorded only one top ten since February, that coming at the Open Championship where he finished 3rd. That form is not at the level he was last year so it is hard to imagine him successfully defending and this is a different venue to that on which he won.
Justin Rose has played this event only twice, finishing 7th in 2011 and 24th last year. Rose has had an outstanding season, his US Open victory the highlight although there have been several other very good finishes as well.
Seven top tens in addition to his win at Merion gave Rose his best season in the game and although he has not played a tournament for five weeks or so he is too good to dismiss on that basis.
Lee Westwood has not won this event although he has perhaps the best record in the tournament. The Englishman has been inside the top ten in four of his six starts at the HSBC Champions, two of those runner-up finishes.
Like Poulter, Westwood has been below his best since his 3rd place finish at the Open Championship, form considerably below that he was producing prior to when 6th last year.
Last week’s winner in Malaysia, Ryan Moore, has played this event just once in 2009 but finished 3rd when he did. That, along with his current form, gives him some sort of chance.
Martin Kaymer won the event with a final round of 63 in 2011 and was 9th last year. Kaymer finished 13th last week in Shanghai and is expected to be a factor.
The Australasian challenge sees Brett Rumford, Scott Hend, Daniel Popovic and New Zealander Mike Hendry earning a start in the lucrative event.
Rumford is having his best season on the Europe Tour where he has won twice, Hend his best season on the Asian Tour where he is currently the number two on the money list, Popovic gets a start because of his Australian PGA Championship victory and Hendry because of his Australian Tour money list success.