With the WGC- HSBC Champions getting under way this Thursday in China’s largest city, Shanghai, we tackle some of the must-knows to get you set for the year’s final World Golf Championships event.
1. Historic defence - Justin Rose will look to become the first player to retain a WGC- HSBC Champions trophy when he tees it up at Sheshan International Golf Club this week. If the World Number Two, who came roaring back in last year’s final round to erase an eight-shot deficit, goes on to win again this year, he would follow Tiger Woods as the only other player to successfully defend a WGC tournament – Woods has done so on eight separate occasions.
2. Reunion tour - After winning back The Ryder Cup last month, almost all of Team Europe will be reunited in China this week. Joining Rose are his two playing companions from Le Golf National, Jon Rahm and Henrik Stenson, while Paris partners Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton will also tee it up. Rory McIlroy is sure to provide plenty of star-power along with two of his session-mates, Thorbjørn Olesen and Ian Poulter, who won this tournament in 2012 when it was played at Mission Hills Golf Club. Alex Noren will look to add a first WGC title to a growing trophy collection, but he and the rest of the field have their work cut out for them as both halves of the famed ‘Moliwood’, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, round out the strongest field to compete in China all year. Molinari will be one to watch closely this week as one of this season’s most in-form players returns to the site of his only WGC win, which he earned here in 2010.
3. Grand Slam – All of the reigning Major Champions are competing this week. Brooks Koepka, who won three Major titles in 16 months, will look to further his historic year with a maiden WGC triumph. He will be joined in China by his Ryder Cup teammate and Masters Champion, Patrick Reed, who is after a second WGC title to go with his 2014 WGC- Cadillac Championship win. Molinari, who famously triumphed at The 147th Open Championship this year, is two spots ahead of Reed in the Race to Dubai and aiming to win the season-long points race for the first time.
4. Sheshan International Golf Club - Framed by 1000-year-old Ginko trees, Sheshan Golf Club has served as host venue for the WGC- HSBC Champions in all but one edition of the event since its inception in 2009 — where Phil Mickelson beat Ernie Els by a single shot to win. The venue is known for its well-placed bunkers, deep collection areas, and famed water hazards.
5. China’s frontman - As China continues its immersion into the world of golf, one man has emerged ahead of the rest as the country’s top talent. Li Haotong, who triumphed on home soil at the 2016 Volvo China Open, claimed his biggest win earlier this season at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic where he defeated McIlroy in a thrilling final round. That victory earned him a place in the history books as Li became the first male professional golfer from China to move into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking.