October 24th, 2018

WGC-HSBC Champions Preview

The European Tour heads to China for the final World Golf Championship of the year. Last year’s champion, Justin Rose, is joined by stars from both Tours including Ryder Cup teammate Rory Mcilroy and the new World Number 1, Brooks Koepka.

Last week, I tipped three players for the CJ Cup and two of the three finished in the Top 5. Hopefully we can have similar success this week but go one better than Gary Woodland’s second place finish.

 

Rory Mcilroy 10/1

As a global star, Rory tries to negotiate both tours. In recent months he has played more on the PGA Tour. In six of his last seven events he has finished in the Top 20, knocking on the door for the win – this could be the week he gets that win.

The Irishman is fresh and ready having been absent from the tour since the Ryder Cup; looking at the course set up, he seems to have timed his return well. The modern course is a par 72 offering risk-reward par 5’s and driveable par 4’s – a test that requires power, length and accuracy off the tee is always one that Rory will relish.

He led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 2018 which is an impressive stat given the fierce competition. On the European Tour, he averages over 315 yards off the tee and follows it up with over 71% GIR – this is a devastating combination and if he can roll the ball well this week he will take some stopping.

 

Jason Day: 16/1

Jason was one of my tips for last week and he got off to a poor start. Unfortunately, he left himself with too much to do to catch the impressive Koepka. That said, he rallied over the weekend and finished in a tie for 5th.

I see no reason not to give Day another chance this week. Over the last decade, Day has won more wins on Bentgrass than any other player; this week’s grass is Bentgrass and it clearly suits the Aussie’s game.

In addition, he has found form with his putting ranking in the top 10 over the past 8 weeks. If Day can get off to a fast start he will be a factor on Sunday.

 

Jon Rahm: 20/1

At 23, the Spaniard seems to have been around forever but there is still plenty to come from him. As an amateur, he was the No.1 for a record 60 weeks so when he made the decision to turn pro he was definitely ready.

Two years on and Rahm has won multiple times on both the PGA and European Tour’s and is fresh off the back of a Sunday singles win over a certain Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup… not bad, right?

His T36 last year shouldn’t deter you from backing him this week, his scheduling was all wrong last year and he played the event running on empty. Now, a year older and wiser, he won’t make the same mistake again.

I believe the course set up will suit Rahm. Like McIlroy, Rahm has an aggressive style and can go on birdie streaks that make him hard to live with. The conditions are likely to be soft which is perfect for Rahm’s power based game. He ranked inside the top 5 in putting average in his last two starts and if he can find this kind of touch he’ll be hard to beat.

 

Russell Knox: 85/1

The gritty Scot is a past winner of the event and at 85/1, he certainly offers us value for an each way selection.

He has struggled in recent months since his impressive playoff victory in the Irish Open. Returning to a place he’s had success could be the tonic he needs to get back to form – I think he is worth an each way punt as on his day he can mix it with the best.

 

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