The First Look: WGC-HSBC Champions
October 19, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- October 19, 2018
- Justin Rose captured his eighth of nine TOUR titles at last fall's WGC-HSBC Champions. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Justin Rose, who chased down Dustin Johnson a year ago to set his FedExCup-winning season into motion, makes his first start of the new PGA TOUR campaign when he defends his crown in at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Johnson also is back for another shot at a second WGC-HSBC title, now five years after capturing his first. Newly crowned Player of the Year Brooks Koepka and fellow major titleholders Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed also highlight the first WGC lineup of the 2018-19 TOUR season.
FIELD NOTES: Rory McIlroy returns to Shanghai after a year’s hiatus, giving the field four of the top five in the current Official World Golf Ranking. McIlroy was fourth two years ago, but sat out the final three months of 2017 to let a rib injury heal. … In all, the lineup boasts 19 of the top 30 in the rankings. … Rose, McIlroy and the “MoliWood” duo of Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood headline a reunion of 10 members from last month’s winning European Ryder Cup squad. … Johnson and Koepka are among four U.S. Ryder Cup members headed to China, joined by Reed and Tony Finau. … Brandt Snedeker, winner at the Wyndham Championship two months ago, and Paul Casey are among 12 men set to play all three stops on the TOUR’s Asia Swing. … Snedeker, Chez Reavie and Emiliano Grillo are the only ones among that dozen who also teed it up at the Safeway Open to start the new season. … Haotong Li, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic last January, heads a faction of seven Chinese entrants.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
STORYLINES: Johnson returns to the scene of last year’s staggering finish, where a closing 77 allowed Rose to overcome an eight-shot deficit entering the final day. Nonetheless, Johnson’s five career WGC titles are No. 2 all time behind Tiger Woods (18). … Rose, whose win last year was the first of three in the final 10 weeks of 2017, is heating up again. The FedExCup champ was no worse than fourth in each of the final three Playoffs events, a key contributor to Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph and eighth at the British Masters. … All but two of the previous 12 HSBC Champions winners have come from no lower than 30th in the world rankings. The exceptions: Y.E. Yang (77th/2006) and Russell Knox (85th/2015). … The HSBC Champions wraps up the PGA TOUR’s three-week Asia Swing … Three events follow on the TOUR calendar (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, The RSM Classic).
COURSE: Sheshan International GC (West), 7,261 yards, par 72. Set amid 1,000-year-old gingko trees, man-made waterways and a natural quarry, Sheshan International is one of China’s most exclusive clubs and has played host throughout the event’s 14-year existence except for a 2012 venture to Mission Hills. The Nelson & Haworth design, built in the shadow of Sheshan Mountain, opened in 2004 as the Shanghai region’s first golf club. Tiger Woods once praised the layout as “the crowning jewel of all of Asian golf.” To create the course’s drastic elevation changes, crews reportedly moved more than 2 million cubic yards of earth.
72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Dustin Johnson (2013).
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Martin Kaymer (3rd round, 2013), Danny Willett (4th round, 2015).
LAST YEAR: Rose became the beneficiary of Johnson’s stunning Sunday, as Johnson failed to make a birdie and watched his six-stroke lead dissipate to nothing. The English pro still found himself six shots behind with eight to play, but reeled off six birdies in that closing stretch on the way to a closing 67. A birdie at the par-3 17th, where his tee shot stopped 2 feet from the flagstick, pushed Rose to the front and left it for Johnson to answer. Needing an eagle at the par-5 18th to force a playoff, Johnson wound up hitting his second shot into the water. That left the world No. 1 to join Greg Norman (1996 Masters) and Sergio Garcia (2005 Wells Fargo Championship) for the largest final-round lead surrendered in PGA TOUR history. Rose prevailed for the first time since his Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, winning again a week later in Turkey and ending his year with victory at the Indonesian Masters.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Wednesday-Thursday, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. ET (Golf Channel); Friday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-4 a.m. (GC).
PGA TOUR LIVE: None.