The 2019-20 WGC-HSBC Champions comes on the heels of Tiger Woods‘ record-tying 82nd career win on the PGA Tour. Woods’ quest for his 83rd career title will have to wait; however, as he isn’t in this week’s field in Shanghai, China. Many of the top golfers from the Official World Golf Ranking are scheduled to compete for the $10.25 million prize purse – the largest of the season thus far. Among those, are world No. 2 Rory McIlroy and reigning Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry. Former champions in Shanghai Xander Schauffele (2018), Justin Rose (2017), Hideki Matsuyama (2016) and Bubba Watson (2014) are also in the 78-man field. Below, we make our HSBC Champions betting picks.
The tournament, the first of four World Golf Championships events on the 2019-20 schedule, concludes the PGA Tour’s three-week swing through Asia. The Bermuda Championship runs as an alternate event this week. The Tour takes a brief break next week before the Mayakoba Golf Classic and the proceeding RSM Classic will be the final standard events on the 2019 portion of the PGA Tour schedule.
The course: Sheshan International Golf Club
Sheshan International Golf Club is one of China’s most exclusive and prestigious golf clubs. The 7,261-yard, par-72 venue has hosted the tournament every year since 2005 with the exception of 2012. Over that time, the winning scores have ranged from minus-10 to 24-under par. Schauffele and Rose won each of the past two runnings of the event, respectively, with aggregate scores of minus-14, 274. The event at Sheshan International has been part of the WGC circuit since 2009 and an official PGA Tour event since 2013.
The four par 3s all exceed 200 yards and top out at 217 with two on each nine. The four par 5s are also split evenly across both nines; they range from 538 to 603 yards. The par 4s come in at a low of 288 yards and a long of 487. Three are shorter than 400 yards. Just six holes played to scoring averages below par last season. The easiest was the 550-yard second. It carded three eagles and 150 birdies against 33 bogeys, nine doubles and four ‘others’. The most difficult was the 486-yard par-4 ninth at a scoring average of 0.435 strokes above par. It saw just 18 birdies against 101 bogeys, 24 doubles and one ‘other’ over four rounds. Only four holes other than No. 2 gave up an eagle last year.
Key stats to consider for the HSBC Champions
With so few holes playing below par last year, our most important stat of the week is Birdies Gained. It’s of the utmost importance to create scoring chances and capitalize on those chances on the holes where the competition is struggling. Due to the length and design of the course, Proximity: 150-175 Yards is the key distance of the week. Sheshan International requires well-placed tee shots (Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee) and strong ball-striking (SG: Ball Striking). We’ll also look at Greens in Regulation Gained as a key stat that can help set up scoring opportunities and eliminate bogeys.
My model at Fantasy National this week looks at each of these five key stats over the most recent 36 rounds for each golfer in the field. The venue also has extensive course history from which to draw. We’ll be looking at Data Golf‘s Strokes Gained figures at Sheshan International over the past five runnings of the event.
HSBC Champions betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Li enters the week ranked 59th in the world and is the top-ranked golfer from China. His 24 rounds played at this venue since the 2015 tournament are more than any golfer in the field other than countrymen WC Liang and Ashun Wu. The 24-year-old has a top finish of T7 in 2016 with his T-11 last year being his next best result in the event. Li made the cut in the first three majors last year before falling short at The Open Championship. He made it to the weekend in nine of 12 events overall and finished inside the top 20 in the three stroke-play WGC events. He is just +6500 at FanDuel Sportsbook, so his DraftKings price represents tremendous value for someone so well-versed on the track.
Li ranks 33rd overall by the stat model. He’s 24th in Proximity, 25th in Greens in Regulation Gained and 26th in Birdies Gained.
van Rooyen got his first European Tour victory last August at the Scandinavian Invitation. The 29-year-old South African is ranked 57th by the OWGR and has climbed up from 142nd as of his first event of the 2019 calendar year. He tied for 22nd last year in his first appearance at Sheshan International. EVR ranks fifth in the stat model with top-10 field ranks in all but Proximity and trails only McIlroy in Birdies Gained. van Rooyen finished eighth at last year’s PGA Championship and 20th at The Open to prove he can hang with the PGA Tour’s best in the marquee tournaments.
Conners hasn’t finished outside the top 13 in three events since missing the cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship to begin his season. The Canadian enjoyed a breakout season on Tour last year, picking up four top 10s and nearly $3 million in tournament earnings including his first victory at the Valero Texas Open. He made five straight cuts to end the 2018-19 season, making it all the way to the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. He finished seventh at the BMW Championship in the penultimate event of the FedExCup Playoffs. Conners is third by the stat model and ranks second in SG: Off-the-Tee and third in both SG: Ball Striking and Greens in Regulation Gained. This is the first appearance at Sheshan International for Conners, but inexperience hasn’t been a major hindrance to him thus far.
HSBC Champions betting picks: Our winner
Garcia has averaged 2.43 strokes gained per round over 16 career rounds at Sheshan International. He last played in 2017, finishing tied for ninth following a T-11 result in 2016. The 2017 Masters champion played in each of the first two events in Asia. He finished T-60 at The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges and T-33 at The Zozo Championship. El Nino last won just over a month ago at the Euro Tour’s KLM Open. It was his 26th career victory on either the PGA Tour or European Tour. His +4500 odds at DraftKings are a more accurate representation of his chances, so be sure to take advantage of the price at FanDuel.