Fantasy Forecast: 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions preview

Dustin Johnson will not be part of the American lineup Saturday morning.

Fantasy Forecast: 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions preview

PGA Tour

Fantasy Forecast: 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions preview

Golfweek fantasy expert Mike Glasscott previews this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions, which begins Thursday at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai.

• • •

First Look

WGC-HSBC Champions

Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai

  • Course specs: 7,266 yards, Par 72 (36-36)
  • Grass: Greens – Creeping Bentgrass running at 11.5′; Rough – Seashore Paspalum and Ryegrass approaching three inches.
  • Bunkers: 82
  • Water Hazards: Water is on play on 11 of 18 holes.
  • Course architect(s): Neil Haworth 2004
  • Purse: $9.5 million ($1.62 million; 550 FedExCup points).
  • Defending champion: Russell Knox defeated Kevin Kisner by two shots to win his first PGA Tour event.
  • Notes: 78 players, stroke play, no cut.
  • Notes II: The 2012 event was held in Shenzhen at Mission Hills and should be ignored in any research.
  • Notes III: In 2013 this became an official PGA Tour event with official prize money, FedExCup points and a regular spot on the Tour’s schedule.

• • •

Previous champions at Sheshan

OWGR rank at the time of victory listed along with the winning score in relation to par.

  • 2005: x-David Howell; No. 19 (-20)
  • 2006: x-Y.E. Yang; No. 77 (-14)
  • 2007: x-Phil Mickelson; No. 2 (-10)*
  • 2008: Sergio Garcia; No. 3 (-14)*
  • 2009: x-Phil Mickelson; No. 2 (-17)
  • 2010: Francesco Molinari; No. 30 (-19)
  • 2011: Martin Kaymer; No. 6 (-20)
  • 2013: Dustin Johnson; No. 23 (-24)
  • 2014: Bubba Watson; No. 7 (-11)*
  • 2015: Russell Knox; No. 85 (-20)

*-playoff
X-not playing this week
• • •

Roll Call

Who’s NOT here this week from the OWGR top 30

  • Jason Day: World’s No. 1 player WD from the last two FEC Playoff events due to back issues. He’s taking the entire fall off (no Australian events either) to rest.
  • Jordan Spieth: No. 4 hosted a charity event last week and is not entered.
  • Justin Rose: No. 11 will be skipping the entire fall calendar, including the Race to Dubai, as he rests as aching back.
  • Phil Mickelson: No. 15 will return to action in the California desert at the Career Builder Challenge in January.
  • Brandt Snedeker: No. 21 won in Fiji the week immediately following the Ryder Cup. Not surprising he’s not making another massive trip.
  • Jim Furyk: No. 25 has opened his schedule the last five years in the following calendar year. The TOUR should take a clue from Furyk.
  • Zach Johnson: No. 29 has played three fall events in the last five years, one in Las Vegas and two at his winter home on St. Simons Island.

• • •

Angles

  • Since becoming an official event, Knox is the only winner to make this his first Tour victory.
  • Knox became just the seventh player to claim their first PGA Tour win in a WGC event.
  • Knox is the only player to win in his WGC debut.
  • Tiger Woods is the only player to win back-to-back WGC events.
  • Five of the last seven WGC winners are major champions.
  • Dustin Johnson owns the tournament record of 264 in 2013.
  • Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are the only multiple WGC champions in the field this week.
  • Martin Kaymer owns the course record, 62, set in 2014. Danny Willett matched that mark last year but lift, clean and replace was in play.
  • 63 was the low round last year set by Branden Grace in round one and Jordan Spieth (not entered) in round three.
  • Knox racked up 25 birdies to lead the field last year.
  • Knox finished in the top six in fairways, greens and PPGIR last year.

• • •

Inside the ropes

With only three years as an official Tour event, the data is limited on the Sheshan track so I’m going to lean on the majority ruling.

Dustin Johnson punished this track to the tune of 24-under in the first year. He was joined in the 20-under club by Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, hardly bombers of the golf ball.

The following season, Bubba Watson and Tim Clark reached a playoff at 11-under and were joined by just three other players double-digits under par (McDowell was one of these players again). Clark and McDowell don’t hit it anywhere and both contended but scores plummeted as new tee boxes were added and the weather was wet and windy.

Last year, Russell Knox and Kevin Kisner, two more guys who aren’t going to win any long-drive contests, were the two best of the bunch on 20 and 18-under respectively. Matthew Fitzpatrick was T-7. The top 26 players were double-digits under par with similar weather conditions. These fellas are quick learners and unless they grow the rough out and speed up the greens, this will continue.

That’s two of the three years where this place has been ripped to ribbons so I’m leaning on scoring again this time around, regardless of weather. With four par fives, a drivable par four and less than 7,300 yards on the card, in-form players who can make birdies will again be featured. Johnson racked up 28 birdies in his win while Watson and Knox each circled 25. I’d add that Martin Kaymer shot 62, posted 20-under and circled 29 birdies in 2011 but that would be overkill. Plus, none of these would be classified as premium putters.
• • •

Favorites

  • Dustin Johnson: Out first this week as he’s not fiddling around with a new brand of clubs plus he’s been on fire. In his last 11 Tour events he’s won three times and hit the top 10 nine times. 2013 champ finished T-5 last year and is the tournament record holder. #BombsAway.
  • Rory McIlroy: Never won in five tries but his worst finish was T-11 last year as he dealt with food poisoning. Posted 17 of 20 rounds in the 60’s. Won two of his last three starts on Tour.
  • Paul Casey: T-21 last week isn’t throwing me off the scent! He’s had one finish worse since June and T-17 or better during the rest of that streak. He’ll be conveniently overlooked this week in his sixth time playing this track.
  • Hideki Matsuyama: With a pair of WD’s and T-41 from three tries, we’ll see if he’s jinxed this year as he enters off a win and solo second in his last two worldwide. I’m riding along again this week as this has been his strongest close to any year in his young career and there are no mentions of injuries I’ve seen.
  • Adam Scott: Class bounce-back last week after MC in Japan. T-10 last week was his fifth in his last six worldwide. Heading to Australia for “summer” he’ll look to keep his stellar run form rolling along.
  • Justin Thomas: Going back-to-back on Tour is never easy but neither is defending your first championship. I have no problem with riding the hot hand and he’s already played here last year (T-27). If power and making birdies is required again this week. I can’t see leaving him out of the conversation.
  • Patrick Reed: Left gamers for dead last Sunday in Kuala Lumpur with a final round meltdown. Playing here for the third year in a row tells me that he’s embracing this journey. Opened with 65 and finished in the top 10 last year while making NOTHING on the greens plus was T-22 on his maiden voyage.
  • Rafael Cabrera Bello: Rio, the States, Europe, Malaysia, it just doesn’t matter. His game travels and the evidence is four top 12’s in his last five world-wide starts. His Ryder Cup was also excellent and he kept the mo’ going last week with another top 10 (T-10). He’s made 23 of 24 cuts in 2016. Vamos.
  • Martin Kaymer: The 2011 champ has added top 10’s in two of the last three years plus holds the course record of 62. Playing full time on the European Tour has sharpened his game as he’s posted eight top 10’s in 22 starts this season. Four of those have been recorded in his last six starts including three of the last four. Get in.
  • Bernd Wiesberger: Speaking of HOT EUROS, the Austrian has blistered that Tour with second, fifth, T-7 and second in his last four events. He’s also figuring it out at Sheshan as he’s 21-under in his last six rounds. Throw another shrimp on the barbie!
  • Sergio Garcia: I was curious to see if he could keep the Ryder Cup momentum rolling last week and T-17 suggests he has. With a pair of top 11’s in the last three years, his 32-under par over those three tournaments points that this track fits his eye. He also won in this part of the world, in Vietnam, last December to spark his 2016.
  • Alex Noren: Surprised that this is the first Swede on the list? Don’t be as he’s won three times in his last 10 starts in Europe. He’s also racked up a solo second, solo eighth and T-11 during that stretch. Fireball.
  • Henrik Stenson: Gamers will be encouraged with his Ryder Cup participation but his lingering knee issue remains. He’s never hit the top 10 here in five tries but closing 66-67 last year shows he’s heading in the proper direction.
  • Russell Knox: Trying to pull a Justin Thomas this week, Knox warmed up last week at CIMB with T-10 as he defends this week. Knox has no interest in 2016 ending so I’d expect another very solid performance as his career year continues to expand. He’ll be one who’ll be hoping for thick rough and dodgy weather as he finds every fairway and every green.
  • Francesco Molinari: The 2010 champ on this track enters the week off a win at his national open last time out. His worst finish in this event over the years is T-23. Sometimes these write themselves.
  • Scott Piercy: Red-hot form entering the week with T-3 in Napa Valley and T-10 last week at Malaysia. He has no problem with Bentgrass or big fields as he showed at his last WGC event (T-2, WGC-BI).
  • Tyrrell Hatton: Blasted on to the scene this summer with a second, T-5 and T-10 stretch that included the final two majors of the year. Cooled off as summer ended but won the Alfred Dunhill links three weeks ago and backed that up with T-9 at the British Masters.
  • Rickie Fowler: His recent tournament form is a major turn-off but I like what I saw at the Ryder Cup and he’s gotten lower each year he’s played Sheshan. He’s 23-under combined the last two seasons on this track.

• • •

Just Missed

not in any particular order

  • Alexander Levy: In the last four he’s played in Europe, he’s won, finished T-4 and T-7. Oui.
  • Anirban Lahiri: He rattled off seven birdies in a row on Sunday to force a playoff (lost) in Macau two weeks ago. Last week he sat at 19-under par with a four-shot lead after 54 holes at CIMB.
  • Si Woo Kim: This is a recording. Get on. Fasten seat belt. Enjoy ride.
  • Charl Schwartzel: Hasn’t teed it since T-4, T-10 finish to the FEC Playoffs. Not much success his last two trips here with only two of eight rounds under par but his form keeps me looking.
  • Richard Bland Nothing outside of T-27 in his last nine in Europe which includes four top 10’s. He has four podium finishes in 455 events though.
  • Scott Hend: His all-or-nothing last three months has included four top sevens in seven events, a pair of MC’s and a T-34. Nothing worse than T-24 or better than T-19 in three starts here, his best in any and all WGC events.
  • Ross Fisher: T-3 last year will garner attention has he’s finished second and T-2 in two of his last three. The downside is his other finishes surround those two runner-ups are chilly.
  • Branden Grace: Put together a pair of 69’s to close last week in Kuala Lumpur. Fired 63 here to open last year (T-5) and has posted seven consecutive rounds in red numbers.
  • Richard Sterne: Lands in Asia on the back of T-2 at the Dunhill links and T-9 at the British Masters.
  • Thongchai Jaidee: Best showing here (T-11) last year that included his career-best rounds.
  • Emiliano Grillo: Ball-strikers tend to make the most noise here and he easily qualifies. Consistently churning out top 35’s.

• • •

Leftovers

Course horses, hot tamales, DFS, general debauchery

  • Lee Westwood: All-or-nothing in Europe and on this track. Guess well!
  • Daniel Berger: T-11 in his maiden last year included an opening 68 and closing 66. Quick learner knocked the rust off last week with T-51 and probably will get lost in the shuffle.
  • K.T. Kim: Closed with his best round on this track, 66, last year.
  • Hideto Tanihara: Annually trashes the Japan Tour and has been doing so recently. First time on this track but made the cut at Oakmont and Baltusrol.
  • Kevin Chappell: I love him more after a poor finish than a top 10. He was T-45 last week!
  • Jason Kokrak: Rank outsider MC his last time out at Safeway but closed the FEC Playoffs T-7, T-8 and T-17.
  • Kevin Kisner: No top 10’s in his last five but he’s played each of those weekends. Opened 64-66 here last year before finishing second.
  • Younghan Song: T-21 at Akron in the last WGC-BI. T-21 last week in a top-heavy field. Hmmmmmmmm…

• • •

Fades

  • Danny Willett: Finished T-3 here last year with 65 to open and 62 to close. Missed his last start at the British Masters with a back problem suffered in the Wednesday Pro-Am. Not as confident after a dodgy Ryder Cup.
  • Kevin Na: Only two rounds of eight in the 60’s here and didn’t fire last week. I’m passing.
  • Jimmy Walker: Just finished up as host of youth event on his home course last week. I’m not sure if this is the softest landing place to get caught up and back to speed. Can spray it off the tee and a deep field isn’t going to wait for him to get hot.
  • Ryan Moore: Recent form suggests he’ll be fine but his course forms shows only one round in the 60’s in his last eight. I’ll lean on course form and take my chances that he has one eye on his hometown event in Las Vegas next week.
  • Brooks Koepka: Gamers will remind me that Knox won here on his first try last year and Kisner came second. He looked out of gas in the Playoffs so I’ll patiently wait for him to come back around.
  • Bubba Watson: On a track where he’s won this doesn’t seem too bright. There are enough trees and water off the tee to bother him and he only made 12 birdies in his defense last year. His current form and Ryder Cup absence doesn’t fill me with confidence either.

• • •

Up next

Wednesday, I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @GolfweekMag, @GolfweekFantasy and @MikeGlasscott for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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