Fantasy Golf Making picks for the WGC Championship
Course: Sheshan Golf Club (Shanghai, China)
Yardage: 7,261 yards – Par 72
Purse: $9.75 M
Field: 78 Players
Recent WGC-HSBC Champions
2012 Ian Poulter
2013 Dustin Johnson
2014 Bubba Watson
2015 Russell Knox
2016 Hideki Matsuyama
Justin Thomas is back at it again. Thomas beat Marc Leishman after two playoff holes to capture his sixth victory in 364 days. Thomas’ win last year at the CIMB happened on October 23, 2016, and his most recent victory at the CJ Cup was October 22, 2017. That means Thomas has won six tournaments in less than a year, including five of them in this calendar year. What else can you say about this guy?
He won without even playing his best golf this week. He came out of the gates to shoot a 63 on Thursday, then failed to break 70 for the rest of the week, shooting for an even total over the final three days. Thomas showed a lot of grit, grinding his way through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, birdieing his final hole in regulation and his second playoff hole for the win. Thomas has shown every intangible that you’d want to have to be great in this game. He’s proving that he already is great, and he’s still only 24.
The co-sanctioned PGA, Asian and European Tour swing ends this week with the WGC-HSBC Championship. The field will gather at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, China for the 13th edition of the tournament. The WGC event will be of near-major quality, although it’s just 78 players deep, with only 18 of the Top 25 players in the world teeing it up. Unfortunately, it may be a long time before we see a field of this quality again. World No. 1 and 2013 winner of this event, Dustin Johnson, will be at Sheshan.
Joining from the Top 10 is 2017 WGC-HSBC Champion Hideki Matsuyama, now-sophomore sensation Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson. More firepower is being brought in U.S. Open Champion Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar and last week’s runner-up Marc Leishman, who’s been storming up the world rankings lately. The rest of the field is made up of top players from the PGA, Euro Tour and Asian Tours, along with seven Chinese entrants.
The WGC-HSBC has been held at Sheshan Golf Club every year of its 13-year existence except for 2012. Sheshan Golf Club, built in 2004, was the first golf course built in the Shanghai region. It winds its way through 1,000-year-old Gingko trees, manmade waterways and a natural quarry. The course features some drastic elevation changes that required over two million cubic yards of earth to be moved. I’m having trouble grasping how much land that is, but I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot more land than your local club moved. If you’ve ever played on a course with drastic elevation changes, that means you must be supremely confident in your ball-striking abilities.
When hitting a drive or approach from a much higher elevation than your target, any slight miss is magnified because of the length of time the ball is in the air. So, players must be in complete control of their swings. Because of that, you’ll want to target players who rank highly in driving accuracy and strokes gained: approach. The rough can be very thick in some spots on the course, so if your player isn’t known for supreme accuracy off the tee, their scrambling will keep them in contention. Birdie or better from the rough is something that this course requires to stay near the top. Often the winning scores here have been in the 20-and-under range. Players have raved about how the greens are terrific to putt on, and that’s exactly what you must do to compete here. Strokes gained: putting is necessary this week to get anywhere near that 20 and under mark.
Strokes gained: approach
Birdie or better from rough
Strokes gained: putting
*prices are listed from DraftKings
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,400) – At the very top you have a toss-up between Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama. Both have won this event, both are Top-5 golfers right now. You can make a case for either. I’ll side with Matsuyama to save a few hundred dollars and because he’s played more recently, finishing fifth in the CIMB last week. In this short year, Matsuyama leads the PGA in driving accuracy and is Top 10 in scrambling on the rare occasions where he does miss the fairway. I’m picking Matsuyama to defend his title here and win a second straight WGC-HSBC.
Marc Leishman ($9,900) – If you don’t think that one of the top dogs will get it done this week, then you can start your team right here with Leishman and save some dollars to spread more evenly. Leishman has been the second-best golfer for the last month outside of Justin Thomas. Over his last four events, Leishman has finished third, first, 24th and second. He’s currently playing the best golf of his life, and is still priced under $10,000. Leishman has been getting it done with solid driving accuracy (23rd), terrific iron play and he’s been putting as well as anyone lately.
Phil Mickelson ($8,800) – Phil was one of the scariest picks to go with last year. His consistency was closer to being consistently bad than anything else. Over his last three starts Mickelson has finished third, 20th, and sixth. It’s been a while, but Mickelson does know what it takes to win here, he won this event in 2007. His driving accuracy is always a question, but he’s making up for it right now with great second shots and good putting. Phil ranks second this season in strokes gained: approach, and he’s third in birdie out of the rough, birdieing nearly 40 percent of holes when he’s in the rough. His putter is currently in a nice groove as well, picking up over three-fourths of a shot per round this season.
Matt Kuchar ($7,700) – Get me on board any time Kuchar is listed in the $7,000 range. Kuchar is one of the most consistent players in golf, and he plays very well in better fields. It’s a wonder Kuchar hasn’t found himself in a major yet; last year he finished T4, T16, 2, T9 in the four majors. There are no holes in his game; last year he was above average in nearly every important statistical category. He has yet to log any stats this year, but Kuchar will be back and hungrier than ever to get his first win since 2014.
Thorbjorn Olesen ($7,300) – Every now and then, Thorbjorn Olesen makes his way up on top of some very prestigious leaderboards. Olesen is a European Tour member who has played well in American-heavy fields. Olesen finished T-10 in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last season, and he’s finished very well all three times he’s played at the WGC-HSBC Championship. He finished T11 in 2012, T6 in 2014, and T19 in 2015. Olesen can give you the biggest return for his low price.
Bill Haas ($7,300) – In Bill Haas’ last event, the Safeway Open, he was priced at $9,900. That’s too high a price to pay for him. On the other end of the spectrum $7,300 is too low a price to pay for him. This season Haas has ranked above average in strokes gained: approach, scrambling, birdie or better from the rough, and strokes gained: putting. With Bill Haas you’re getting an above average player, for a below average price.
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