Dustin Johnson won the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions in 2013 and he can win the tournament again at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai. The world number one has a game suited to the host course and can become the first multiple winner of the event which was first played in its current format 2009. It has been played at Sheshan in every year since then except 2012 so there is plenty of course form to assess.
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This WGC event brings together the best players from all the global tours and it is the first elite event since the USPGA Championship in August. There is a limited field of 78 players so no cut which means everybody receives a cheque. The prize fund is almost $10 million and points won count towards the FedEx Cup. It is the third leg of the Far East Swing on the US PGA Tour and the first two legs have been won by Pat Perez and Justin Thomas but the latter is absent.
Sheshan International is a par 72 course measuring 7,261 yards which is about average in length by modern standards. The course puts a premium on accuracy over distance and it features fairway bunkers and water hazards. The fairways are tree-lined and they lead to undulating greens. The key skills for good scoring are driving accuracy, greens in regulation and average putts per round. The course is a good test of a player’s all round game and a quality player is usually the champion.
The average winning score over the seven renewals on the track is 19 under in a range from 11 to 23 below par. There has been one playoff and winning margins from one to seven shots. Three players from the United States have won, there have been four champions from Europe and Hideki Matsuyama from Japan is the defending champion. The field is made up mainly of tournament winners over the last year.
The HSBC Champions is the first event of the US PGA Tour season that attracts a strong field. Johnson is playing for the first time and in addition to win the event in 2013 he was tied fifth two years later. He had a poor playoffs at the end of last season but then won 4 points from 5 matches in the Presidents Cup. Johnson is currently the best player in the world and he can confirm that status by winning this week.
Johnson combines long and accurate driving which is a rare combination. He can avoid the hazards on the fairways and find plenty of greens with relatively short approach shots. His putting is good enough to make him the most likely winner this week and consolidate his position at the top of the world rankings. Johnson can embark on his new season with a victory in Shanghai.
Hideki Matsuyama cannot be ignored as a potential champion. He won the tournament last year with a score of 23 under. He was tied 5th on his last outing two weeks ago and is in decent form. Tyrell Hatton is on a hot streak and has won in his last two starts. The US Open champion Brooks Koepka has only finished lower than 20th once in his last eight outings. However, Johnson has most in his favour so can record his second win at Sheshan.