PGA Stars Check In to China

Image courtesy of skysports.com
World No. 3 Luke Donald is among the favourite at Mission Hills G.C. this week. Image courtesy of skysports.com
A gun 78-man field will line up in China this week for the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions event starting Thursday. Since 2005 the tournament has been played at the Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, but this year it moves to the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen. Not surprisingly for a man who mastered the short game, this course features a lot of sand, but it is also long at almost 6,600 metres.

As is expected with a tournament of this quality, there are plenty of chances coming in to the event. Germany’s Martin Kaymer won last year’s event from Swede Carl Pettersson after firing a final round 63 to finish three shots clear. After an indifferent 2012, Kaymer has returned to form of late with a 5th in the Italian Open, a tie for 11th at the BMW Masters, while he also secured victory for the European team at the Ryder Cup last month.

Another Swede, Peter Hanson , won the BMW Masters last week from Rory McIlroy, and he is chasing the Northern Irishman in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. He is arguably the form golfer in the field with that victory his second win in four starts after taking out the KLM Open recently. Also in with a shot of overtaking the World No. 1 in the ‘Race’ is fifth-ranked Englishman Justin Rose , who incidentally won the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this year, and has 12 top-ten finishes so far this season. Fellow Englishmen Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are also likely to be in the mix come Sunday.

The length of the Mission Hills course should suit the booming drives of American Dustin Johnson , who has also improved his putting noticeably this year. Masters champion Bubba Watson could also come in to contention given his ability with the driver, but it is his consistency that has impressed this year with 15 top-20 finishes this season.

Given his length off the tee, Adam Scott should be on the leaderboard come Sunday, and he is also favourite to finish as the top-placed Australian at the tournament. He is coming off a five-week break, though, since finishing 19th at the Tour Championship in mid-September. Fellow Queenslander John Senden will almost surely be among the leading Aussies . He has been commendably consistent this year, making the cut in 19 of 22 starts, and racking up five top-ten results. He came home 66-66-67 in the final three rounds of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last weekend to finish 16th. 

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