A far from ghostly field will assemble in Shanghai, China as all the top boys from across the globe will be getting on their broomsticks and making the journey over. It will be hard for us to pick the bones out of the field this week, with so many people possessing such deadly course form. Stenson, Mickelson, Westwood, McIlroy, Hanson and Casey all have two or more top 10 finishes on this course, not to mention Garcia, Kaymer and Molinari who have all lifted the trophy on this track.
There is nothing scary about the 7,266 par 72 Sheshan International Golf Course this week. If ever a WGC event could be classed as a birdie-fest, this is the week. Kaymer (2011) -20, Molinari (2010) -19 and Mickelson (2009) -17 were the previous winning scores here. It shows you need to go low if you want to walk off into the mist with the Old Tom Morris Cup. So for us, this always highlights two key areas. GIR and putting. Taking 2011 as an example, GIR was by far the most crucial statistic, and it makes sense. The more greens you hit, the more putts you can sink. So anyone you back needs to have a magical week on these mysterious, undulating greens.
The course as a whole is renowned for just being a great all-round test of the best golfer’s game, which any WGC event rightly should be! Lanterns will be lit, pumpkins shall be calved, and golf will be played to the highest possible level. Let’s have a crazy 4 days! Oh.. and Tiger will not be there this week either.
So which golfers are we throwing into the DownThe18th cauldron?
Francesco Molinari (33/1 various)
We have all seen resurgence in the form of Francesco Molinari in recent weeks. It has been mentioned before on DownThe18th that he has not had the greatest year by his very high standards, so to start clicking now, it could propel him to a hefty Race To Dubai position.
He is winless in 2013 but only 1 shot off a playoff last week will give him plenty of confidence, as he stormed up the leaderboard, pushing Fernández-Castaño all the way.
What impressed us the most was his marked improvement on the greens. The bentgrass surfaces of Lake Malaren are identical to this week and in putts per round, he never finished outside the top 3 in the field. 112 putts for the tournament shows incredible consistency and when you add in to the fact his irons are looking in good shape once more, then he is a real threat here.
Back in 2010 he picked up his first big trophy by winning this event on this very course, so he has proved he can transfer his abilities onto this track, whilst a T9 in 2006 gives another positive.
If the Italian can putt like he has done in recent outings, then the rest of his game should fall into place and considering the odds of players higher up, he could prove great value.
Paul Casey (33/1 Coral)
You have some weeks where a player is just too good to ignore, this week Casey is exactly that man. Someone who has recorded 6 top 10’s in their last 7 starts on this track (other finish was 11th) then it shows they have intimate knowledge of the course.
We have spoke of a lot recently of Casey’s decline in form over the past couple of years. A mixture of swing problems, injuries and other personal reasons saw the former world number 3 plummet down the rankings. But over the past few months the Englishman has been back with a vengeance, winning the Irish Open title on the European Tour and also putting in a string of other solid performances. Casey seems to have a bit of love affair for Asia. Even in 2013, he finished T8 in the Volvo China Open. Previously, Paul has won 2 titles on the Asian Tour in China, 2 titles in Abu Dhabi, not to mention his outstanding consistency on this track.
And he comes here in fine form. Last week he recorded a very solid T8 at the BMW Masters, again in China, where he did not rank outside the top 10 in GIR all week and his driving was back to its ultimate best! For us, he is the real deal this week and we expect a big performance.
Dustin Johnson (35/1 PaddyPower)
Firstly, we must admit this is pick is a hunch more than anything; although certainly an educated hunch.
When you look at the course, it is not the longest but there are 3 reachable par 5s and one par 4 that can be driven. Obviously, you need an attacking flair to go for the greens and Dustin Johnson is certainly one of the first names you think when it comes to an attacking golfer. Plus he can really batter a ball. His driving distances are well documented and he is known as someone who can go on a roll and score very low.
In the last 5 years he is 27th in scoring average on the PGA Tour and is constantly top of birdie stats.
There is no reason why DJ can’t perform this week, the only thing he needs to is find his putter, because that at times can let him down. But a T12 2 weeks ago and T5 at the season ending Tour Championship will give him plenty of confidence.
Just one of those players who decides to turn up randomly and lets just hope he brings his big tournament game to China this week.
Peter Uihlein (40/1 888Sport)
As you probably know if you follow us, the American is one of our favorite golfers. He took the plunge in coming to Europe a year back and what decision it was. He earned full-time status on the European Tour after his first win on the tour (Madeira Islands Open), and since then he has gone from strength to strength. 4 top 10’s in his last 5 starts is some going, including a 2nd at the Wales Open and a play-off defeat to David Howell at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he shot -23. And that was after narrowly missing out on a 59 on day 2.
This course will be set up perfectly for Uihlein’s game. Going low, long off the tee and attacking those pins. People are going to question his credentials as this is a whole new level to what he’s been playing on, but we can assure you nothing will phase him. He has all the tools to do well, it’s just whether he can bring his mental game as well!
Thongchai Jaidee (80/1 StanJames)
Thongchai Jaidee looked supreme on the greens last week, holing everything, as we know he can – eventually finishing T2. He is the sort of player whose whole game hinges on his short game and when he gets going, he can be very dangerous.
He was never outside the top 12 for GIR or putts per round on each day last week and when you need to shoot low, he will come here with confidence and potentially do really well on a course he has played at many times before.
Although he is yet to find a top 10, he has never given a woeful performance, so if his irons an putter continue showing the impressive form they did at Lake Malaren, then this outsider could be of great value.
Scott Hend (275/1 Stan James)
Just a quick one for you here. He is arguably one of the biggest hitters in the world and he is in some form at the moment. He has won 2 of last 4 tournaments and he’s swinging well. It’s as simple as that. Whack a few pence on him.