The final World Golf Championships event of the year returns to its home in Shanghai and with big-time Race to Dubai points up for grabs, here is what you need to know ahead of Thursday’s opening round.
The Xander defense
Defending champion Xander Schauffele will aim to become the first, and only, player to successfully defend a World Golf Championships title since Tiger Woods accomplished the feat at the 2006 and 2007 editions of the WGC – FedEx St Jude Invitational, formerly known as the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational. Should Schauffele win this week, he would then take aim at Woods’ record of three consecutive World Golf Championships event wins, which he claimed at the 1999, 2000 and 2001 editions of the WGC – St Jude Invitational, then known as the WGC – NEC Invitational.
Making their debut
There will be 12 European Tour Members making their World Golf Championships debut this week at Sheshan International Golf Club after strong seasons have provided them a big chance to climb the Race to Dubai. The debutants are: Christaan Bezuidenhout, Bryce Easton, Benjamin Hebert, Jazz Janewattananond, Masahiro Kawamura, Kurt Kitayama, Romain langasque, Zander Lombard, Robert MacIntyre, Victor Perez, Matthias Schwab and Paul Waring.
Robert MacIntyre leads all the first-timers in the Race to Dubai, currently occupying seventh, and after his tied-sixth finish at The Open in his Major Championship debut, do not expect him to be out of his element in Shanghai.
Of those 12 debutants, Perez and MacIntyre have both enjoyed thrilling moments on Chinese soil. Last year on the Challenge Tour, the two players holed monstrous putts to force a play-off at the Foshan Open. Playing in the group ahead, MacIntyre made a near-70 foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to set the mark on 19 under par before Perez, playing in the final group, holed a 40 footer for a birdie of his own, which forced extra holes. In the play-off, Perez set up an eight foot eagle putt after a brilliant four-iron approach, and sealed the title with two putts after MacIntyre could only manage a par.
World Golf history
The 2019 season is the 21st since the first World Golf Championships event was played. The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, then known the Accenture Match Play Championship, took place at the La Costa Resort and Spa, in California, in 1999 and was won by Jeff Maggert. The NEC Invitational, now the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and the American Express Championship, now the Mexico Championship, were also part of the debut season. The WGC-HSBC Champions was added in 2009.
Sheshan International Golf Club
Since being elevated to World Golf Championships status in 2009, every edition of the WGC – HSBC Champions, except for one, has been played at Sheshan Internatrional Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Ian Poulter won the only edition of the tournament, which was not played at Sheshan International, when he triumphed in the city of Shenzhen at Mission Hills Golf Club in 2012.
Sheshan International GC is consistently rated as one of the best golf courses in all of China and the 7,261 yard, par 72 layout is known for the demand it places on both shot-making and strategy.