Shanghai is the destination for the final World Golf Championship event of the season this week. These events rank just below the majors in the golfing calendar so there is a predictably strong field assembled in Shanghai. The 78 players will compete around the Sheshan International Golf Club which is hosting this tournament for the 10th time.
Sheshan is one of the most popular courses in the professional ranks but last season the players didn’t find it to be the birdie fest that it was in years previous. The course is always having subtle adjustments made to it but the scoring was affected last season by the decision to keep the rough long. Gone was the score of 24 under par that saw Dustin Johnson win in 2013 as Bubba Watson and Tim Clark made it to a playoff having shot 11 under. This year the conditions are going to be largely the same so this will be a real test of the best in the business.
This has always been a difficult tournament to predict, largely because of the nature of the course. Oftentimes a course will favour a certain style of play but Sheshan is a well-balanced track that will test all facets of those competing. However, last season the change in conditions meant that those who ranked highly in terms of scrambling and who putted well had an edge on the rest of the field. This time around it is worth siding with players who are going to make the most of their scoring opportunities once again.
That probably rules out Rory McIlroy who is the pre-tournament favourite with the bookies. The world number three looked very strong in Turkey last week but he just couldn’t “get the ball in the least number of shots” as he put it. He will once again go up against Jordan Spieth, who does not possess Rory’s brilliance with the long game but who is widely regarded as the best putter in the world. McIlroy has placed in the top six every time he’s competed at the HSB Champions but of the two front runners Spieth is the player to side with at 17/2 with Coral.
Justin Thomas will have plenty of backers this week. The 22-year-old is tipped for big things and got his first PGA Tour win last week at the CIMB Classic. The par fives at Sheshan are not the gimme birdies that most longer holes are for the top pros, which should give Thomas an edge as he is the best in the game when it comes to par five scoring. He’s obviously in great nick and represents fantastic value at 33/1 with Ladbrokes despite the step up in class here.
As this is the second event in the Race to Dubai Final Series it means something a bit extra for the 44 European Tour players in the field. One man who could do with the bonus points awarded this week is Lee Westwood. The popular Englishman looked in fine form last week in Turkey and having finished runner up here on two occasions Westwood must be worth an each-way shot. He’s worked very hard on his short game and putting so add him to your bets at 66/1 with Betfred.