The course itself is a standard-size par 72, with the stock four par-fives split evenly across the nines. Taking care of these is so often decisive, never more so than when Bubba Watson played them in 14-under and the rest of the course in three-over en route to his dramatic victory here in 2014, WGC HSBC Champions 2017,
WGC HSBC Champions 2017
Any notion that this is purely a test of power is undermined not only by Knox, who beat Kevin Kisner in an accuracy contest two years ago, but by those who’ve almost downed some of the world’s biggest hitters. Tim Clark’s drive-then-hybrid game almost did for Bubba, while Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter briefly threatened to trouble Dustin Johnson as he won this at an astonishing 40/1 a year earlier. World Golf Championships 2017.
Johnson is a very fair price to win the title once more but one thing stands out when it comes to his three visits here. Twice, he’s been able to prepare in Hong Kong and he’s finished first and fifth on the back of it. Once, last year, he’s arrived following an absence and things did not go to plan, two rounds of 74 leaving him with far too much to do and ultimately unable to crack the top 30.
Preparation has very much been key throughout this tournament’s history, right back to David Howell’s triumph over Tiger Woods in 2005. Only one champion – the enigma that is Bubba – managed to defy more than one week off and the vast majority had teed it up at locations ranging from Spain to Singapore prior to their trips to China.
With that in mind, those who’ve played either a European or PGA Tour event across the last fortnight are favoured and I’ll surprise myself by suggesting that this is an ideal chance for Paul Casey to win the biggest title of his career.
Now 40, the Englishman who was once considered to be a pretty ruthless operator now has quite the opposite reputation. Chances have come and gone since he chose to base himself in the United States and while he’s in exile from the Ryder Cup, he hasn’t even been able to buy himself credit in the way that Ian Poulter has.
Most criticism of his play in contention is fair. While Casey has been unfortunate on occasion – he birdied holes 70 and 71 to force a play-off with Bubba for the Travelers two summers ago and didn’t do all that much wrong when also beaten in extra holes for the Northern Trust Open earlier that year – he has also looked weak in the mix.