Who will harness the power of the Dragon in Shanghai?
HSBC Champions Tournament Preview
The Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China, welcomes a stellar field of the golfing elite, all bidding to win the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament and walk away with €860,000 in the process. The tournament was upgraded to World Golf Championship status in 2009 and as such, now attracts the very best golfers in the world, a tidy field of just seventy-eight will participate but none arrive in as good form as Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.
The World No3 is the man to beat in Shanghai after defeating Anthony Kim in a sudden death play-off in last week's Shanghai Open. Although the event wasn't sanctioned by any tour and therefore the prize money didn't count towards any leaderboard, the victory over an elite field will have boosted his confidence no end, oh and the $2 million cheque won't have hurt either! Prior to that play-off win at the last week, McIlroy strung together four consecutive top-three finishes and posted a solo fifth here last year, closing out with a 67 that featured seven birdies. The Ulsterman can be backed at 4/1 to follow up his Shanghai Open win with another victory here.
Due to Luke Donald deciding to attend the birth of his second daughter in Chicago rather than travel to China, Lee Westwood is the highest ranked player taking to the tees in Shanghai. Westwood (7/1 outright), who finished second to Francesco Molinari in this event 12 months ago, will surely relish his return to a country that has proved very profitable for him in recent years. The Worksop born star had a field-low two bogeys here last year and played his final 43 holes in a bogey free 12-under-par. A solo fifth placed finish in last week's Shanghai Open saw Westwood produce some excellent golf and the highly consistent World No2 should be there or thereabouts come the reckoning.
Talking of last year's victor Francesco Molinari, that tournament triumph was his last success to date and despite coming close on a few occasions, has been unable to grab another win. Terrific putting at Sheshan last year was the basis of his brilliant victory, co-leading the field in birdies and registering just four bogeys. Priced at 28/1, can the Italian rediscover his winning form at a course he thrived on.
Two players that should not be overlooked are the USPGA champion Keegan Bradley and the born again Thomas Bjorn. Bjorn (50/1) heads to China in fantastic form, he has amassed a trio of titles this season. He believes he is playing the best golf of his career and he has won two of his last five events, also coming off a top ten finish at the Portugal Masters and a tied 15th at Valderrama last week.
Keegan Bradley (45/1) has had time to acclimatise after tying for 11th place in the Shanghai Open last weekend and in the past 12 months has gone from virtual unknown to reigning USPGA and PGA Grand Slam of Golf champion. On his day, this Vermont rookie can compete with the very best on either tour.