EUROPEAN Tour golf specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) returns to share his thoughts on the upcoming WGC HSBC Champions.
WGC HSBC Champions | 26th October – 29th October 2017 | Sky Sports
It’s a trip to China and the WGC HSBC Champions this week in search of a winner. For those not in the know, the WGC tournaments are limited to the top 50 players in the world and the best players outside the top 50 in the money lists/order of merits from each Tour in the season.
This is the fourth and final WGC event of the calendar year and sits in an awkward position, so we’re lacking a few star names but nonetheless it’s a very strong field.
Wide open tournament
The PGA season finished a few weeks ago and they launched straight into the 2017/18 season with an opener on home soil then two Far East tournaments in the past fortnight and unsurprisingly a fair few are taking the opportunity for a break.
Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and last week’s winner Justin Thomas are all missing. Add in doubts over the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama and this is a wide-open tournament.
An easy course
This is the eighth renewal on this course and it’s proven to be fairly easy. The winning score in six of the seven previous events has been -17 or better so it’s unsurprising to see that putting has been the key stat.
Other than that, it’s been fairly mixed in the past with different types of winners. One thing that I think will be key is having played in the last few weeks because there won’t be much time to get over the rustiness with low scores being posted.
With the PGA Tour being out in the Far East in the last few weeks, it could also prove beneficial to look at those who decided to play in the CIMB Classic and/or CJ Cup last week.
Travelling half way around the world tends to be off putting for me, though unavoidable for most this week; the few who haven’t travelled far could have an advantage and leads straight into my main pick.
Marc Leishman (18/1 Bet365)
Marc Leishman lost in a play-off last week at the CJ Cup, losing out to Justin Thomas. Over the week he ranked first in Putting – which will be a necessity this week.
That isn’t his only recent form having won the BMW Championship on -23 three starts ago and a third place the start prior to that. Back in March he also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
They are two high quality fields and they won’t be the last – at some point I’m sure he’ll win a Major but before that he’s got a chance of a WGC win this week. Add in a ninth and 11th in his two appearances here and the case is pretty compelling.
At 18/1 he’s the pick of the favourites, for me.
Matt Fitzpatrick (35/1 Bet365)
With the quality of the field, it’s very tricky trying to narrow the picks down to just a few and the market reflects that, it’s very compact.
I’m very tempted to back Tommy Fleetwood at a very big looking 40/1 but instead I’m siding with fellow Englishman, Matthew Fitzpatrick at 35/1. His form reads 15-15-11-1 with 14 of those 16 rounds being under the 70 shot mark, so is in form. He’s also course form of 16-7 the last two years plus three other top-10’s in China in his short career.
His putting hasn’t been the best recently but he’s finding fairways and greens at a phenomenal rate – if he can carry on doing so he’s got every chance.
Chez Reavie (80/1 Coral)
Chez Reavie has played both tournaments out in the Far East and has started the PGA season with three top-20’s so is automatically someone I wanted to have look at.
The word to sum Chez up at the moment is probably consistency. He hasn’t missed a cut in 14 starts, in those he ranked first in DA four times and over the course of the season ranked fourth on Tour. He also ranked 13th in Scrambling so when he does find himself off line, he invariably gets out of trouble.
40th in GIR and 30th SG putting over the course of the season indicates that he could and should be challenging for wins if he can just make a few tiny improvements.
I’d be happy to predict that win will come in the upcoming season. It may not be this week in such a high-class field but he’s got the ability and form to. At 80/1 he’s a bigger price than I was expecting by a distance and has a better chance than many who are shorter odds.
Haydn Porteous (275/1 Bet365)
Lastly, you may remember Haydn Porteous who provided us with a 66/1 winner just eight weeks ago. Ludicrously, Stan James opened up at 400/1 for him to win again. That’s gone now but he’s still a best price of 275/1 which is still too big.
Since his win the results dried up slightly but a 15th at the Alfred Dunhill a few weeks ago gives signs of coming back to form. He’s a big hitter, which may prove beneficial on the par-5’s especially, and his putting can be very good.
At the price he’s worth a small punt.