This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.845M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Shanghai, China
Course: Sheshan International Golf Club (West)
2018 champion: Xander Schauffele
We are streaking through the fall season and concluding the Asian Swing with an event that traditionally boasts the strongest field in the world between the months of September through April. Of course, the WGC-HSBC Champions generally gets little attention from anyone but the most ardent of golf fans, as it takes place opposite NFL and college football games – not to mention on the opposite side of the world. This is the 11th edition of the tournament as a PGA Tour event and, while the field is very good, it's not great. It's not as strong as last year and maybe not even as strong as last week's in Japan. Three of the top 10 in the OWGR are entered – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and defending champion Xander Schauffele. The tournament recently lost Brooks Koepka to a recurring knee injury, and Dustin Johnson had committed but is still not recovered from offseason knee surgery. And of course, there will be no Tiger Woods.
After this week – which also includes a new alternate-field event in Bermuda – there are only two more tournaments in the expanded 10-week fall season, with the Mayakoba Golf Classic next week and The RSM Classic the week after that putting a lid on things until January, at least in terms of PGA Tour events. The European Tour will still have playoff events through November, and Tiger's Hero World Challenge and the Presidents Cup will both take place in December.
This is the third straight week with 78-player, no-cut field. This one will feature 10 players in the top 20 and 34 of the top 50 in the world rankings. Miraculously, Phil Mickelson is still in that coveted club. The two-time winner of this tournament (lastly in 2009) has hung on for another week, but barring a good week he will almost surely drop out of the top 50 for the first time since November of 1993. Mickelson played in South Korea but skipped the event in Japan. There are 20 players in the field who will have played all three events on the Asian Swing.
Now, for the course. Last year, Sheshan International was the third toughest track on the PGA Tour – behind only two courses that hosted majors, Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach. It was home to the absolute toughest hole on the entire PGA Tour. The 486-yard 9th played to a scoring average of 4.435, with only 18 birdies. There were a whopping 101 bogeys, 24 doubles and one "other" on that hole alone. In fact, three of the 15 hardest holes all season were at Sheshan, including the 212-yard 17th (the hardest par-3) and the 487-yard 15th. The carnage at Sheshan included the fourth-most double bogeys or worse on Tour, and when you consider the field is half the size of most other tournaments, that's really saying something. A third of the field shot at least 10-over-par, topping out at a whopping 29-over.
Overall, it's a pretty short course for a par-72, but as we noted, there are some really long holes. All the par-3s are 200-plus. Five of the par-4s are over 450. There's a 603-yard par-5. There's also a drivable par-4, the 288-yard 16th, but for the most part, the track has favored the longer hitters, which we'll address in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, all four days look similar, with temperatures in the 70s, and very little chance of rain and light wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Sheshan International
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
2018 - Xander Schauffele
2017 - Justin Rose
2016 - Hideki Matsuyama
2015 - Russell Knox
2014 - Bubba Watson
2013 - Dustin Johnson
2012 - Ian Poulter (Mission Hills Golf Club)
2011 - Martin Kaymer
2010 - Francesco Molinari
2009 - Phil Mickelson
As we see, most of the winners have been among the longest hitters. But accuracy will count plenty this week. Last year, Sheshan was the 14th-hardest course on which to find the fairway off the tee. It didn't get any easier thereafter, as it ranked as the fourth toughest in both greens in regulation and scrambling. Putting was middle of the road. It was one bear of a course, and while there have been some very low winning scores through the years, the past two years delivered champions at 14-under-par. In 2011, Watson won at only 11-under. Only three guys reached double figures a year ago – Schauffele and Tony Finau at 14-under-par and Rose at 10-under. The three of them are aligned in that they are pretty long off of the tee and not the best putters.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 6-1)
Really, the way McIlroy is playing, it almost doesn't matter what the price is or what tournament it is or whatever. But, just for the record, McIlroy has four top-6s here this decade, plus a tie for 11th. Last year saw McIlroy down at T54, but that was quite the outlier.
Justin Rose - $10,500 (16-1)
Rose, who was No. 1 not too long ago, has quietly dropped to No. 8 in the world. He hasn't won since Torrey Pines back in February, but sprinkles in high finishes here and there, such as T3 at the U.S. Open and a T8 in a strong field just a few weeks back at the BMW PGA Championship. Rose has a great track record at Sheshan, following up a win two years ago with a T3 in his title defense.
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,900 (25-1)
Bypassing the No. 3 guy on the DraftKings board, defending champion Xander Schauffele, may come back to bite us. But we don't want to take the top three guys. So we turn to Fleetwood, who turned around a sub-par season over the summer and has been going strong since. In his past 10 events beginning with the Open Championship, the Englishman notched four top-10s and four more top-25s, including two on the first two legs of the Asian Swing. Fleetwood tied for seventh last year at Shanghai. While there is no cut this week, we'd just like to point out that Fleetwood hasn't missed a cut in his past 39 starts worldwide, dating back to July of 2018.
Tier 2 Values
Shane Lowry - $8,800 (40-1)
It took awhile for Lowry to return to Earth after winning the Open Championship, but the Irishman has fashioned three top-15s in his past four starts, including last week in Japan. Lowry hasn't played this event since posting a T23 in 2016. He's ranked 12th on the European Tour in greens in regulation and a surprising first in putting average.
Tyrrell Hatton - $8,600 (40-1)
Hatton has top-25s in three straight trips to Shanghai. He also arrives having regained some form after a mostly lackluster 2019. The Englishman is riding three straight top-20s into this week, including a tie for sixth at the CJ Cup two weeks ago. Hatton is top-20 on the European Tour in putting, far better than he ranked last season on the PGA Tour.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $8,500 (40-1)
We liked the Spaniard last year, and he wound up tied for 14th. All he got for his troubles was a $400 drop in price compared to last year. Go figure. Cabrera Bello was T5 here the year before, after debuting with a T19 in 2016. Right now, he is playing some of his best golf, having finished top-10 in five of his past 11 starts. Cabrera Bello finished top-20 in the two other stroke-play WGC events this year.
Tier 3 Values
Charles Howell III - $7,900 (60-1)
Howell traditionally does a big chunk of his season's work in the fall. This will already be his fifth start, and he has a T4, a T8 and a T20 so far, the latter two finishes coming during the Asian Swing. Howell has played Shanghai only once, because he usually didn't qualify, but it was a quality showing – a T15 two years ago. He ranked seventh in greens in regulation on the PGA Tour last year and 16th in strokes gained: around the green, perfect for this Sheshan setup.
Ian Poulter - $7,700 (50-1)
Poulter has won this tournament before, but interestingly it was the one year it wasn't played at Sheshan. Still, in his past six visits to this track, he has a runner-up, a tie for sixth and three more top-25s. So not being one of the biggest hitters has not hurt Poulter here. He ranked top-20 in both strokes gained: around the green and putting on the PGA Tour last season. Poulter arrives coming off a pair of top-16s in the first two events on the Asian Swing.
Kevin Na - $7,300 (60-1)
Na does not have a great track record here, but there's no one else we really like in this price range (sorry, Phil Mickelson, $7,400). Na already has a win this season, giving him a victory three years running – only Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods can also say that. And he finished T20 in South Korea two weeks ago. Na has one of the great short games on Tour, ranking top-10 in scrambling and top-20 in strokes gained: putting.
*Na withdrew from this week's event and will not play.
Keegan Bradley - $7,000 (80-1)
We saw a lot of Bradley on TV last week, playing the final 36 holes alongside Tiger Woods. He didn't score great, but for the week he was sixth in greens in regulation and 11th in putting average. If he can putt anywhere near that again, he's surely looking at a second straight top-15. Bradley returned to Shanghai last year after a three-year absence and impressively tied for sixth. He also has two other top-16s here through the years.
Kurt Kitayama - $6,900 (100-1)
The native Californian who had been playing in Asia but now is on the European Tour, is on a pretty good roll. Kitayama has top-5s in his past two starts in Italy and France, moving to 87th in the OWGR, within four spots of his all-time best ranking. Of course, this week is a big step up in class, but he also held his own last month at the loaded BMW PGA Championship with a tie for 14th. This will be Kitayama's Shanghai debut.
Xinjun Zhang - $6,900 (100-1)
The native of China just graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour, and he's started the PGA Tour season with some nice results. Zhang has gone T7-T16-T4 in his past three outings. He didn't play in the first two legs of the Asian Swing. This will be Zhang's sixth visit to Sheshan, and he already has a pair of top-25s. Not too shabby.