2017 HSBC Champions – Course Preview and Picks

By October 23, 2017PGA, PGA Premium

Introduction and Strategy

Written by @kendoVT

Golfers head to Shanghai, China to play the WGC-HSBC Champions this week. Like the last two weeks, this is another no cut event with 78 golfers in the field. The field consists of the top ranked golfers from all 6 major Tours 8around the world plus Major winners, WGC event winners, and the best golfers in the Chinese Golf Association. This tournament has been played at Sheshan International Golf Club every year since 2006 except for 2012 when it was moved to Mission Hills. The winners here have been a who’s who list of dominant golfers the last decade including Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, and defending champ Hideki Matsuyama. The winning score here is usually in the high teens to low twenties except for the year Bubba won. That year the rough was up/thick and the course played a lot tougher. Because of all the rain the last two years here, the course superintendents took it easy on the players as the rough was still high but not very thick and golfers were able to hit the ball easier out of the rough than in 2014. The weather looks dry and pleasant this year with possible higher winds during the weekend. Not sure exactly how the rough is going to look this week yet, but I still expect low scores and a ton of birdies. Just a reminder, because of the time zone difference the lineup lock for DraftKings is WEDNESDAY evening. Get your lineups in early!

Course Description

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Sheshan International Golf Club is a 7,261 yard par 72 course. There are four long par 3s and three of the par 5s are reachable in two by the majority of golfers in the field. There is water in play on all four par 5s which makes them tougher than they seem but a lot of scoring will still come from these par 5s. The par 4s on the course are diverse in length. Half of the par 4s are over 450 yards, two of the par 4s are between 400-415 yards, another two are between 345-365 yards and the drivable par 4 16th is only 288 yards. With the five long par 4s and four par 5s on the course, I expect to see more drivers off the tee than we have seen the previous two weeks in Asia. Longer hitters should have a slight advantage here but short knockers can’t be excluded as we’ve seen the likes of Poulter, Tim Clark, Knox, and Molinari contend here and in the case of Molinari and Knox, even win. Six of the last seven winners were inside the Top 20 in GIR AND were inside the Top 20 in either Driving Distance OR Driving Accuracy. Off the tee golfers will see narrow to average sized tree lined fairways that have a bit of undulation in them. Large well positioned fairway bunkers will be in play if the golfers miss the fairway and water is in play on eleven holes. The rough around the fairways have been at different lengths throughout the years here but like I stated in the introduction, I don’t think the rough around the fairways will be as penalizing as it was in 2014. This course has consistently been one of the Top 20 or so most difficult courses on Tour for Driving Accuracy but since the winning score is usually low, I don’t think missing the fairways will be too much of a detriment, thus bombers having an edge. On approach shots golfers will see a wide array of green sizes from small and narrow (hole 16 which is a reachable par 4) to large and undulating (hole 13). Overall the greens are on the smaller side when you take into account total square footage. The greens use bentgrass and have played as fast as 12.5 on the stimpmeter in the past. There are many large green side bunkers that golfers will have to deal with if they miss the green. There are also large collection areas around the greens that will gobble up poor approach shots and I expect the rough around the green to be thicker and taller than the rough around the fairways.

Key Stats For The Course

***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P) and Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G), which are key stats every week. Since more than half the field plays on Tours other than the PGA, stats will be limited for those players. Focusing more on current form and course history for the non PGA players is a good way to go when doing your research.

Birdie or Better % (BoB%):
Dustin Johnson had birdie or better in 30 holes during his win here in 2013. Bubba had 26 in 2014, Russell Knox had 25 in 2015, and Hideki had 29 last year. The winning score is usually in the high teens to low twenties so a bunch of birdies will need to be made to contend. Plus since this is a no cut event, even if golfers in your lineup struggle to place highly due to a lot of bogeys, they can still help your lineup out a lot by making birdies because that is the nature of DraftKings scoring.

Strokes Gained: Approach (SG:A):
19 of 24 golfers with recordable stats that finished in the Top 5 here since 2009 were inside the Top 55 in SG:A for the specific year they finished Top 5. Even though the OTT game is more important here than the last few tournaments, I still think approach game should be looked at harder especially since, as I stated earlier, this course has difficult to hit fairways but scoring is still very low.

Par 5 Scoring (P5):
The last four winners here averaged ten under on the par 5s. Golfers will need to take advantage of these easy holes to be in contention come Sunday.

Strokes Gained Off The Tee (SG:OTT):
17 of 24 golfers with recordable stats that finished Top 5 here since 2009 were inside the Top 50 in SG:OTT for that year. It looks like a ball strikers course so golfers that are proficient in both SG:OTT and SG:A should be targeted.

Driving Distance (DD):
As stated earlier, length off the tee should be helpful. Shorter hitters with good approach games, especially with longer irons can be targeted as well.

High End Picks ($9000 and up)

Jason Day ($10,200/$9,600):
Day’s game has been trending up since the latter part of last season and a win is coming for him very soon. His tee to green game wasn’t too sharp last week in Korea but he had a great week with the flatstick. I can look past his struggles from tee to green and place the blame on jet lag due to the fact that his tee to green game is what has helped him in his late season revival. Prior to the CJ Cup Day had gained strokes with his approaches in six straight tournaments and had gained strokes OTT in five of his last six. If he gets back in form from tee to green this week and continues his stellar putting from last week, I think he can win even with no course history to speak of here. (GPP and cash)

Jon Rahm ($10,000/$9,300):
Rahm missed the cut last week in his home country event but I’m hoping the added pressure of playing in Spain might have attributed to that. I’m also hoping that the MC keeps his ownership down a touch. His length and solid putting should be a nice advantage for him on this easy course and the fact that he’s guaranteed four rounds is very useful when it comes to DK scoring because of his birdie making abilities. (GPP only)

*** Even though I don’t write them up I do like Leishman and Casey this week especially in cash games. I’ll be having at least one and maybe both in my cash game lineup because it’s still fairly easy to make a lineup starting with these two and not having to use multiple golfers under $7,500 on DK. I would advise against having multiple low priced golfers in cash this week due to the huge drop off in talent under $7,500.

Mid Level Picks ($7500-$8900)

Phil Mickelson ($8,800/$8,200):
Phil is a two time winner here at Sheshan and has had good form with a nice showing at The Presidents Cup and a 3rd at Safeway. In his last 50 rounds on bentgrass courses with easy scoring he’s Top 8 in the field in SG:A, SG:P, SG:T2G, Total Birdies, SG:P5, and SG:BallStriking. He’s also 4th in the field in P4 scoring from 450-500 yards. (GPP and cash)

Tony Finau ($7,700/$8,000):
Finau only finished 26th last week in Korea but in my opinion that is a very respectable finish for Tony on a tough course with tough conditions. He still had 15 birdies or Better for the week including two eagles. Sheshan should play more to his strengths as his length, elite par 5 scoring, and birdie making prowess should lead him to a good week at a very affordable price. (GPP and cash)

Others to look at in this price range:
Ross Fisher ($8,400/$7,200)- GPP only
Daniel Berger ($8,300/$8,200)- GPP and cash

Low End Value Picks ($6900-$7400)

Bill Haas ($7,400/$6,800):
When it comes to talent, experience, and good course history Haas and Schwartzel are the cream of the crop in this price range. Haas finished 4th here last year and has been solid with his iron play lately gaining strokes on approaches in ten of his last eleven tournaments played. He’s also inside the Top 25 in Total Birdies in the field during his last 50 rounds on easy bentgrass courses and he’s inside the Top 20 in the field in Scoring on 200+ yard par 3s and 450-500 yard par 4s on easy bentgrass courses. (GPP and cash)

Hudson Swafford ($7,200/$5,300):
Swafford is long and has one of the better OTT games in the field especially in this price range. This will be his third week in a row in Asia so he should be acclimated to the time change. On my Fantasy National model he’s actually my 14th ranked golfer in the last 50 rounds on easy bentgrass courses. He’s inside the Top 26 in the field in every stat category I’m looking at. (GPP only)

Others to look at in this price range:
Charl Schwartzel ($7,400/$6,900)- GPP and cash
Ryan Fox ($7,000/$4,700)- GPP only

That’s it for this week. For more PGA DFS knowledge check out my Podcast. It’s called Fantasy Golf Degenerates and you can find it on iTunes or SoundCloud. Make sure you check out the other golf DFS tools on RotoCurve including Jaebberwock’s weekly cheat sheet and the Albatrosser spreadsheet, as it is the best in the business. Follow me on Twitter @KendoVT for more fantasy golf info! Good luck to everyone this week and hopefully you win big!

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