Unique to the calendar is this week's co-sanctioned World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. It slots both in the fourth week of the 2018-19 PGA TOUR season and in the fourth-to-last week of the European Tour's 2018 schedule. With no cut, dual-tour members are guaranteed to contribute points for the FedExCup and Race to Dubai.
Among those in the field of 78 at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China, who target multiple long-range goals are Americans Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele and Pat Perez. As they work on their pursuit of the FedExCup, they also rank a respective third, 22nd and 84th in the Race to Dubai standings. Of the five winners of the WGC-HSBC Champions since it became an official PGA TOUR event in 2013-14, Dustin Johnson (2013), Russell Knox (2015), Hideki Matsuyama (2016) and Justin Rose (2017) also are committed to competing.
Scroll beneath the expanded ranking for more on the course, how Rose prevailed and what Mother Nature intends to bring to the party.
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Patrick Cantlay 19 Kyle Stanley 18 Jon Rahm 17 Eddie Pepperell 16 Adam Scott 15 Matthew Fitzpatrick 14 Hideki Matsuyama 13 Cameron Smith 12 Paul Casey 11 Ian Poulter 10 Tyrrell Hatton 9 Tony Finau 8 Rafa Cabrera Bello 7 Tommy Fleetwood 6 Jason Day 5 Francesco Molinari 4 Dustin Johnson 3 Rory McIlroy 2 Justin Rose 1 Brooks Koepka
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Alex Noren and 2015 champion Russell Knox among other notables.
The history of the HSBC Champions, in its first four editions before it was tagged with the WGC badge and in the years since, is complicated. For example, it led off the European Tour's 2008-09 schedule and appeared again very late in the same season when it debuted as a World Golf Championship. However, save in 2012 when the Olazábal Course at Mission Hills hosted, the constant has been Sheshan International.
The stock par-72 tips at 7,261 yards. Its par 5s annually rank among the toughest sets of all courses on the PGA TOUR. The 603-yard eighth is especially difficult. In the tournament's first five years as an official event on the PGA TOUR, No. 8 has been the hardest of all par 5s twice (2014-15, 2016-17). It slotted second-most challenging last season behind No. 14 at Pebble Beach.
Similar to the experience at The Club at Nine Bridges, last week's host of THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES, wind influences scoring considerably at Sheshan International. Winning aggregates have ranged from Bubba Watson's 11-under 277 in 2014 to Johnson's 24-under in 2013. Rose recorded a two-stroke victory last year at 14-under 274. That's a reasonable target again this week.
The narrative for the majority of Rose's career has been sculpted in his putting. As long as he's in control of it, he's borderline unbeatable. Case in point, he reached a career peak in putting in 2017-18 and won the FedExCup, and it started at Sheshan International where he ranked seventh in putts per greens in regulation. (ShotLink is not utilized in the tournament.)
With bentgrass greens prepped to run just 11 feet or so on the Stimpmeter (to help balance the international field's overall inexperience on faster surfaces with undulation), it's understandable why scoring has gone as low as it has. The premium of hitting greens in regulation is multiplied due to the fact that Sheshan International was the third-hardest to scramble for par last year, and that not an anomaly.
Moderate breezes cannot be ruled out during any of the four days of this week's competition. It'll freshen the most on Friday when a serious threat of rain shares the headline. Daytime temperatures won't climb out of the low 70s.
The winner of the Old Tom Morris Cup will bank 550 FedExCup points and $1.7 million of a record $10-million prize fund.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings (WGC-HSBC)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Sanderson Farms), Sleepers (WGC-HSBC), Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done (WGC-HSBC), One & Done (Sanderson Farms), Twitter live fantasy show
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.