The final World Golf Championship event of the season is this week’s HSBC Champions of 2012. A lucrative prize fund has attracted a strong field including Luke Donald (pictured) and Lee Westwood, ranked at number three and four in the world respectively.
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are notable absentees, but the entry also includes two reigning major champions, Ernie Els and Bubba Watson. The subplot of the event concerns European based players trying to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai next month.
The leading 60 players in the standings after the final qualifying event will receive an automatic invite to the 2012 finale. That event carries a massive first prize and is the second most sought after title on the European Tour after the Open Championship.
McIlroy has a lead of about 700 thousand euros and has decided to rest before continuing his season in Singapore next week. We are now embarking on the phase of the European Tour season in which events are held in the Southern Hemisphere and co-sanctioned by other Tours around the world.
Peter Hanson is one of the players who can overtake McIlroy in the money list. He would have to win in this week and that is a difficult task after winning the BMW Masters last week. Mental letdown can often be a problem after winning a tournament, so other players are preferred as potential champions in the HSBC event.
The tournament is being held at the Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China. This is the first time the Olazabal Course at that complex has staged a regular event so there is no course form to assess. Mission Hills was the venue for the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Golf World Cup, but changes to the course and a different format makes any form from that spell irrelevant.
The course has 151 bunkers, including 24 on one hole. Jose Maria Olazabal was an outstanding bunker player and his design in China reflects that ability. Players who score well for sand saves will have an advantage this week. The fairways are undulating, so driving accuracy and hitting the greens in the correct number of shots will both be key to decent scoring.
Justin Rose and Donald excel in these areas and must be leading contenders to figure this week. Martin Kaymer is the defending champion and no medium length putt will faze him now after holing from about five feet to secure the Ryder Cup for Europe.
Brandt Snedeker appears to have the best attributes of the visiting American contingent. He won the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus last month. His skill’s profile suggests he can enhance his bank balance even further with a good week in China. Phil Mickelson has the short game to also contend and Jason Dufner‘s game is suited to the course.