Tiger Woods equalled the most PGA Tour victories with his 82nd title on Monday at the Zozo Championship in Japan. It was a remarkable feat, even more so coming in his first start following knee surgery. The world number six does not compete this week though, with Rory McIlroy headlining the field at the WGC HSBC Champions.
Good scoring conditions are expected in China this week for the World Golf Championship at Sheshan International. The 7,261 yard par 72 has plenty of birdie opportunities with four par fives and low scoring is likely in Shanghai.
McIlroy heads the betting at 6/1 and it would be a surprise if the exceptionally consistent Northern Irishman is not inside the top ten but his price certainly does not scream value. Hideki Matsuyama finished runner-up to Woods in Japan although odds of 11/1 again look pretty tight for the second favourite.
Bernd Wiesberger - Each Way
Bernd Wiesberger leads the way in the Race to Dubai after the best season of his career by some distance. The Austrian has developed a ruthlessness in contention this year, with three victories since the start of the summer. His first came at the Made in Denmark but his last two have been in elite Rolex Series fields. A victory at the Scottish Open was followed up with a win on his most recent start at the Italian Open.
Wiesberger is in the form of his life and has the confidence and ability to compete towards the top of the game. This is a golden opportunity for the 34-year-old to challenge for his first WGC title and he has solid course form. Ninth place on his last visit, two years ago, is his best result and he will expect to surpass this in his current form. Wiesberger, who won the Shenzhen International in China in 2017, merits support at 33/1 each way.
Sungjae Im - Each Way
Sungjae Im also comes into this week in superb form and a first PGA Tour title could be on the way in China. The South Korean ace lost a play-off in September at the Sanderson Farms Championship before claiming victory at home in the Genesis Championship. After an over-par first round at the Zozo Championship last week, Im shot 14-under-par for his last three rounds to tie for third in Japan.
Im is steadily climbing the world rankings, up to 34, with a huge career in prospect. The 21-year-old claimed seven top tens in his first PGA Tour campaign and a breakthrough victory is only a matter of time. Im leads the standings for total birdies in the new season and the low-scoring layout at Sheshan should play into his hands. It would be no surprise if Im brings his form from Japan into this week and rates a strong each way contender at 28/1.
Andrew Putnam - Each Way
Andrew Putnam made an excellent impression on his first start at the HSBC Champions last year and can produce another big performance on his return. Putnam tied for fourth place at Sheshan, shooting 67 in the third round, as he did not record a single round over par in challenging conditions. With the positive course knowledge, Putnam could be a factor again this year.
Putnam’s biggest weapon is his putting and the American’s touch on the greens should enable him to make plenty of birdies in ideal scoring conditions. The 30-year-old leads the PGA Tour for strokes gained putting and his confidence with the flat stick is a huge asset in a low-scoring tournament. Putnam finished inside the top 20 of his first two events of the season and shook off the jet lag with four rounds in Japan last week. Putnam can challenge for his second title at 60/1 each way.
Phil Mickelson - Each Way
Phil Mickelson has an excellent record at Sheshan and the crowd favourite should not be discounted at a big price this week. Mickelson has two victories at the course, most recently in 2009, with the relatively wide fairways suiting his swashbuckling game. ‘Lefty’ was also second in 2012 and 15th on his most recent start two years ago. Few players competing this week can match this stellar record.
Mickelson has struggled for much of this year but it should not be forgotten the 49-year-old captured his 44th PGA Tour victory at Pebble Beach in February, proving he can still compete at the highest level. An opening round of 65 in Las Vegas recently was encouraging and Mickelson put together four solid rounds for 31st place at the CJ Cup. His driving was much-improved in these two events and he is dangerous with a warm putter. Mickelson, who could yet make a late case for a Presidents Cup wildcard pick, looks overpriced at 80/1.
Kurt Kitayama - Each Way
Kurt Kitayama has been a revelation during his maiden European Tour campaign and can cause an upset this week at a big price. The powerful American shot 20-under-par to win his first title at the Mauritius Open at the start of the season, before backing it up with victory at the Oman Open in March. A quiet summer was understandable but he has returned to top form over the last month.
Kitayama contended in a high class field at the Italian Open in October with an excellent third place finish. The 26-year-old continued this momentum at the Open de France, taking fourth spot to continue his impressive form. Kitayama, who previously plied his trade on the Asian Tour, should be comfortable competing on his first start at Sheshan and has the tools to contend. Ranked tenth for driving distance, Kitayama can attack the par fives and go low at 80/1 each way.