The big boys are all back in town as the golfing world converges on Shanghai for this weekend’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club and it could be another good week for Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes.
There is nothing like a big pay day to coax the sport’s elite back into action and the $10 million purse on offer in China has done just that with the top three players in the Official Golf World Rankings, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Rose headlining the 78-player field.
As defending champion, Rose holds the psychological edge having capitalised on Johnson’s final-round collapse here 12 months ago. DJ crashed to a last-day 77 as Rose closed an eight-shot deficit to wipe out the 54-hole leader’s cushion with a 67 and claim his second WGC title with the largest comeback in the history of the series.
His 2017 victory at Sheshan followed two previous top-10 finishes in the event, a tie for seventh in 2011, and tie fifth in 2013.
He’s clearly a Shanghai kind of guy and what’s more he has been in the form of life since winning the HSBC Champions a year ago.
Rose also has four top-20 finishes in the majors in 2018, including runner-up at Carnoustie in July at The Open. Having scooped the $10m bonus for winning the FedEx Cup series, he contributed to Europe’s landslide Ryder Cup victory over the United States at Le Golf National.
The Englishman is one of 10 members of Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning side that will tee it up this week, alongside Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen.
And though Dustin Johnson won this event in 2013 and Brooks Koepka (second here last year & a winner last week) comes in as both the newly-minted world number one and a dual Major winner this season, it is the European Tour’s Race To Dubai standings that can provide the impetus and incentive for success in China this week.
Both Open champion Molinari and Poulter, have also won this tournament before, in 2010 and 2012 respectively. After the summer Molinari had, with three wins and two runner-up finishes that have helped him to the top of the Race To Dubai ladder with only four tournaments to go.
The Italian will be eager to consolidate his position at the head of the rankings. What’s more, the unbeaten hero of Le Golf National, has already got his hangover event out of the way with a tie for 56th at the British Masters and can get back down to business here.
And then there is Hatton. The Englishman, who did not get the reward in terms of points on an impressive Ryder Cup debut, led the field in putts per GIR when finishing T14 at last week’s CJ Cup. He will arrive in Shanghai on a roll, his record of not going more than three events at a time without a top-10 finish an encouraging stat heading into the pointy end of the campaign.
While Hatton has done okay around Sheshan, with a T11 and T23 in 2017 and 16 respectively, McIlroy’s record in this event has even more to recommend it.
With a scoring average of 68.33 in three HSBC Champions starts since 2013, the Irishman has returned finishes of T6 in 2015, T11 in 2016 and T4 a year ago.
There is a lot to suggest it could be another celebratory Sunday for the Europeans as the Race To Dubai revs up a gear.