Welcome to the HSBC Champions Preview! The HSBC Champions tournament comes from Sheshan International GC in Shanghai, China this week. It is a WGC event so it is the first tournament of the year with a very deep field and there is no cut. Bubba Watson won here last year with an amazing performance, dominating the par 5s. Sheshan GC is a 7,266 yard par 72 course with many elevation changes and water on 11 holes. 7,266 yards is not that long for a par 72 course but that yardage is misleading. There are a couple of really short par 4s that skew the yardage. It’s supposed to rain 3 out of the 4 days so the course will be playing long. The fairways are tree lined, above average in size, and the rough will be thick and penalizing, especially if you’re not hitting a short iron. There are strategically positioned bunkers on the fairways and many bunkers surround the green. The greens are rather large and undulating. Missing the greens will usually put you in a bad spot with collection areas, bunkers, and water protecting almost every green on the course. Another interesting stat for the course is that eight of the nine winners here were ranked inside the Top 30 in the World Golf Rankings at the time of their win, with the majority of the winners actually in the Top 10.
Looking at the course description above, a few key stats come to mind. I will be using these stats, current form, and course history to select golfers for my DraftKings lineups this week.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G) and Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P), which are key stats every week. Since the Euro Tour doesn’t have SG:T2G, SG:P stats, and Par 5 Scoring stats, I will look at Scoring Average (SA) and Putts per Round (P/R) for the Euro players.
Par 5 Scoring (P5):
Before last year’s tournament I probably would have focused more on Par 4 scoring. Though it may still play a part, the changes to the course were very noticeable in 2014. The thicker rough and addition of new hazards made the course play much tougher than in the past. The majority of the previous winners before Bubba shot -10 or better in the Par 4s. Last year Bubba shot +3 on the par 4s and 3s. He shot -14 on the par 5s. With rain in the forecast the course will play a lot longer making the par 4s more difficult. To contend, golfers will need to take advantage of the par 5s.
Green in Regulation % (GIR):
In the last 2 years at Sheshan, five of seven golfers finishing in the Top 5 were 65th or better in this stat for that specific year. The other three golfers didn’t play enough on Tour to get their stats recognized. Bubba was Top 3 in this category for the tournament last year. With a lot of trouble around the greens, missing them will lead to many problems this week.
Driving Distance (DD):
With rain in the forecast, the course will play long this week. In the last two years five of the seven golfers in the Top 5 have finished inside the Top 60 in this stat for the specific year. The other three golfers didn’t play enough to get their stats recognized. Even if the bombers hit it in the rough, their distance should still make it a lot easier since they will more than likely have a short iron in their hands on the approach. Distance will also help golfers on the par 5s since two of them are very long and only reachable by the longer hitters.
With thick rough, tree lined fairways, and strategically placed bunkers off the tee, greens are going to be missed. How golfers recover will go a long way in deciding the outcome this week. Six of the seven golfers that finished in the Top 5 the last two years were inside the Top 60 in this stat for that specific year. Once again, three golfers did not play enough on Tour to get their stats recognized.
High End Picks ($9000 and up)
*** I will be using stats from last season.
Rory McIlroy ($12300):
Rory loves this course. He has stated so in multiple interviews and you can easily see it when you see that he’s finished inside the Top 6 all four times he has played at Sheshan GC. He is due for a victory and it could very well happen this week. His price is the only reason he isn’t my favorite play this week.
Bubba Watson ($10500):
The gap in price between Spieth and Watson seems very high. Personally I think Bubba is a better play this week, even if they had the same price. Bubba is the #1 PGA Tour player in my key stats ranking. He’s 1st in P5, 2nd in DD, 32nd in SCR, 19th in GIR, 54th in SG:P, and 1st in SG:T2G. He plays courses well that he likes. He won here last year so I think he likes the course. He is my favorite high end play this week and I think he can defend his title.
Rickie Fowler ($10300):
Fowler finished 3rd here last year and has been playing good golf recently with three Top 25s in his last three starts, including a 4th place finish at the BMW Championships a few weeks back. He hits it far, plays par 5s well, and is a good putter. Great combo for this week. I also think his ownership level will be low with DJ and Bubba (the two previous champions) at a similar price range. Could make for a great GPP play this week.
Henrik Stenson ($10100):
Stenson, like usual is high in my stat rankings for the week coming in at #3. He’s 40th in P5, 43rd in DD (using almost only his 3 wood off the tee), 25th in SCR, 1st in GIR, 16th in SG:P, and 2nd in SG:T2G. He has finished as high as 5th here in the past and has multiple 2nd place finishes in the last couple of months. A Top 5 finish can be achieved this week by the Swede.
Justin Thomas ($9400):
“Jordan Spieth’s Best Friend” might be losing his moniker soon if he continues to play as he has. He was one of my picks to win last week and he came through clutch, earning his first Tour victory. His stats for the course are Top 5 for the week. He’s 2nd in P5, 15th in DD, 37th in SCR, 27th in GIR, and 17th in SG:T2G. He has putted real well this year and if he continues his success with the flatstick, he can win again.
Shane Lowry ($9300):
I like Lowry as a low owned, high upside GPP play this week. With a similar price, everyone will be on JT this week but Lowry is no slouch. He has two Top 8 finishes in his last two events, including a 2nd place finish at the British Masters a few weeks back. His stats for the course are solid. On the Euro Tour last year he was 64th in DD, 32nd in SCR, 20th in GIR, and 12th in SA. He has experience on the course and I think he can surprise people this week.
Brendan Grace ($9000):
Grace is my #1 ranked Euro player in key stats for the week. On the Euro Tour last year he was 21st in DD, 20th in SCR, 11th in GIR, 30th in P/R, and 3rd in SA. He finished 17th last week at the CIMB Classic and has experience at Sheshan GC. He makes for a solid, low owned GPP play this week.
Mid Level Golfers ($7200-$8900)
Patrick Reed ($8900):
Reed has been playing well lately with back to back Top 10 finishes, including a 3rd place finish two weeks ago at the Hong Kong Masters. He has a Top 25 finish here in the past and has solid stats for the course. He’s 28th in P5, 69th in DD, 28th in SCR, 19th in SG:P, and 41st in SG:T2G. A victory is coming for him soon and I think it could be this week.
Chris Wood ($8100):
This Euro golfer has been playing lights out lately. He has four Top 10 finishes in his last four starts, including three Top 5s and a 2nd at the Portugal Masters a few weeks back. He is a great scrambler and a good putter. Both nice aspects to have this week. He will be criminally under owned and I feel comfortable using him in cash games AND GPPs.
Bernd Wiesberger ($8000):
Wiesberger is my #2 ranked Euro player when it comes to key stats for the course. On the Euro Tour last year he was 32nd in DD, 16th in SCR, 15th in GIR, 43rd in P/R, and 5th in SA. I like his price a lot and think he can finish in the Top 15 this week. He has finished inside the Top 16 twice in his last three events.
Byeong-Hun An ($7900):
An has two Top 20s in his last three events, including a 4th place finish at the Turkish Airlines Open last week. His stats for the course are solid. On the Euro Tour last year, he was 18th in DD, 18th in SCR, 37th in GIR, 52nd in P/R, and 15th in SA. Out of all the golfers under $8000, An is my favorite to win.
Thomas Pieters ($7500):
Pieters is a long hitter that can putt well. I tend to like good putters at this price point and below and being a bomber is just an added bonus for this course. He has two Top 26 finishes in his last two events, including a 6th place finish a few weeks back at the Portugal Masters. He is strictly a GPP flier but he could make some noise this week.
Soren Kjeldson ($7200):
Kjeldson is playing some great golf right now with three Top 11 finishes in his last four events, including a 2nd place finish at the British Masters. He hasn’t played Sheshan in a few years but he does have two Top 15 finishes here in the past. I like him as a low priced punt play in cash games and I definitely will use him in some GPPs.
Harris English ($7200):
English didn’t play very well last week but has three Top 22 finishes in his three prior events. His stats for the course are very strong, especially for his price point. He’s 28th in P5, 33rd in DD, 36th in SCR, 70th in GIR, 10th in SG:P, and 81st in SG:T2G. I probably won’t use him in cash lineups due to his dud last week but his stats say you have to use him in at least a couple of GPPs.
Daniel Berger ($7200):
Another golfer who underperformed last week but did well prior. Before last week Berger had four straight Top 17 finishes. His stats other than putting are almost in the elite category. He’s 13th in P5, 18th in DD, 59th in SCR, 30th in GIR, and 33rd in SG:T2G. Like English, I probably won’t be using him in cash lineups but he will be in quite a few of my GPP lineups this week.
Low End Value Picks ($6100-$7100)
Thongchai Jaidee ($7100):
If I had to pick someone to win in the low end value picks, Jaidee would be my #1 choice. He has three Top 26s in his last three events and he won at the Porsche European Open a few weeks ago. He is a world class putter and I like picking great putters at this price point.
Tommy Fleetwood ($7100):
Fleetwood hits the ball long and hits a lot of greens. A solid combo this week. He has played at Sheshan the last two years finishing 24th and 18th so he has good course history. He also has two Top 22 finishes in his last three starts. I think he makes for a safe, cheap cash game play. He won’t win you a GPP, but he won’t be the reason you lose your 50/50 this week.
Matt Jones ($6900):
At this price point you’re just grasping at straws but once again I like good putters at this low price point. Matt Jones falls into this category finishing 20th in SG:P last year. He also has other good stats for the course. He’s 19th in P5, 46th in DD, 42nd in SCR, and 72nd in SG:T2G. He will be low owned so he makes for a decent GPP punt play this week.
David Howell ($6700):
Howell was 3rd in P/R on the Euro Tour last year and he has won at Sheshan in the past. Add his $6700 price tag and that’s enough to put him on my picks list this week. Strictly a boom or bust GPP play.
Marc Warren ($6700):
Warren was 5th in P/R last year on the Euro Tour and has made seven of his last 8 cuts. Pretty solid for such a cheap player. He has finished as high as 5th at Sheshan in the past as well. He is another safe cash game play for his price this week. He won’t ruin your cash lineups but he won’t win you a GPP.