Ian Poulter will aim to create history and continue European Tour Members’ recent dominance of the WGC-HSBC Champions by successfully defending his title in Shanghai, as The European Tour's Final Series enters its second week.
The Englishman, who arrives at Sheshan International Golf Club on the back of a top 15 finish in last week’s BMW Masters, followed Germany’s Martin Kaymer (2011) and Italian Francesco Molinari (2010) into the winners’ enclosure when he triumphed by two shots at Mission Hills Golf Club 12 months ago.
Should Poulter, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2010, claim his third World Golf Championship this week, he would become only the second player after World Number One Tiger Woods to defend a WGC title.
All four previous winners of the US$8.5 million event, including the 2010 champion Phil Mickelson of America, are in a high-class field, which also features no fewer than ten Major Champions.
Molinari has targeted a repeat of his heroics at the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions, as the Italian bids to build on a superb performance in the BMW Masters.
After closing with a stunning round of 64 at Lake Malaren Golf Club last week, Molinari finished joint runner-up behind Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and has made the short journey across Shanghai to Sheshan International GC with something of a spring in his step.
He said: “WGC events always attract a world-class field and HSBC always run great tournaments anyway, so it’s the perfect combination. I’ve obviously got very good memories of my win at Sheshan three years ago, so I’m really excited to be back.
“The weekend really turned into a battle with Lee [Westwood]. We were both playing well, and pulled a long way clear of the rest of the field. It could have gone either way, but I was lucky enough to win by one in the end. Winning your first WGC is always a special moment in your career, but to play so well under the pressure and beat a great champion like Lee made it even more memorable.
“My form going into the week couldn’t be better. I obviously played very well at the BMW Masters last week, and I was especially pleased with my putting, which has maybe let me down in the past. Now that I’m used to the conditions and my body clock is on the right time zone, hopefully I can do even better this week.”
A total of 44 European Tour Members will tee up in the second event of the final series, with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Korean Jin Jeong and American Peter Uihlein all making their WGC debuts.
Fernandez-Castaño earned qualification at the 11th hour through his victory at the BMW Masters, the first event of the new Final Series, beating Molinari and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee by a single stroke.