This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.8M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Shanghai, China
Course: Sheshan International GC (West)
2017 champion: Justin Rose
We are in the midst of a six-month stretch of golf in which this week's event will feature the strongest field. It surely doesn't feel that way, coming during the fall season (and during the football season and World Series) and taking place half a world away, but 34 of the top 50 in the world will be on hand. It is best field since the BMW Championship in September and until THE PLAYERS Championship in March. The HSBC signals the halfway point of the fall season, the fourth of seven weeks of action until the PGA Tour breaks until the New Year. The European Tour also has three weeks to go after this, with its three playoff events in the Race to Dubai. We don't yet know how many of the Europeans will take part in Turkish Open beginning on Nov. 1, but for most of the other big-name PGA Tour players, this week will mark their final event of 2018.
The 78-man field is loaded at the top, with four of the top-5 in the OWGR, including new No. 1 Brooks Koepka, No. 2 Dustin Johnson, No. 3 and defending champion Justin Rose and No. 5 Rory McIlroy. The only one missing is Justin Thomas, who for the second straight year played the first two legs of the Asian Swing but is skipping the finale. In all, a dozen golfers will play all three Asia events, and if you throw in the season-opening Safeway Open, Brandt Snedeker, Chez Reavie and Emiliano Grillo will have played all four weeks of the new season – which is not a bad reason to fade those three.
Last year, three of those big names were front and center. Johnson began Sunday a whopping six shots in front of Koepka and eight ahead of Rose, but he collapsed with a 77 to let Rose come away with the title. The Englishman was still six down with eight holes to play before he birdied the last six holes. That began Rose's huge surge that culminated with him becoming No. 1 for a short while over the summer. At the time, Johnson still held the top ranking, but he was left with an ignominious record, tying the star-crossed pair of Greg Norman (1996 Masters) and Sergio Garcia (2005 Wells Fargo) for the largest 54-hole lead lost in PGA Tour history. On the other hand, Johnson won the HSBC in 2013, setting the tournament record of 24-under 264. He is second all-time in WGC wins, albeit 13 behind Tiger Woods' record 18.
Sheshan International is a pretty short course for a par-72, yet it features some really long holes – and, not surprisingly, also some really short ones. The four hardest holes last year were all par-4s in excess of 450 yards. All the par-3s are 200-plus. Two of the par-5s are in the 600 range. Conversely, there's a drivable par-4, the 288-yard 16th that could lead to some late-day drama. For the most part, the track has favored the longest hitters, which will be addressed in the Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, there was a lot of rain earlier in the week, softening and perhaps lengthening the course, though it will be mostly dry during the tournament. Temperatures will be around 70 all four days, and right now only Friday is forecast to be breezy. Scores could be low
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
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Birdie or better percentage
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
2008 - Sergio Garcia
We are going to consider events from 2013 onward. That's when this became a PGA Tour event. Since then, the fields have been different, the dynamics have been different. Johnson and Watson are super long off the tee; Rose and Matsuyama are on the longer side. And that makes sense, with all the long holes we mentioned above. Sandwiched in between Watson and Matsuyama's wins, however, a very short hitter emerged. Knox won the title with laser-like efficiency, finishing fifth in fairway accuracy, fourth in greens in regulation, sixth in putting average. And when Watson won in a playoff, he did so against the light-hitting Tim Clark. So there is more than one way to win and, even for the guys who hit it super long, they still will need to excel at greens in regulation and putting to emerge. All five of those winners but Watson finished in the top 10 in greens in regulation and all but Watson finished in the top 10 in putting average. It's a marvel that Watson even won. That won't cut it in a shootout, however. In the past five years, Johnson, Matsuyama and Knox were at least 20-under, but Watson was 11-under and Rose 14-under. That is quite the disparity, but when planning lineups you have to figure we'll see those higher numbers, especially with the favorable weather conditions expected.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
Justin Rose - $11,200 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
It's really hard to find separation among the top four guys but, since we choose only three golfers in Tier 1 for this limited-field event, we're bypassing the top guy on the DraftKings board, Dustin Johnson. Rose has been machine-like for a year now – ever since he won here in 2017. He arrives having finished the playoffs 2-2-T4, playing well in the Ryder Cup and finishing eighth two weeks ago at the tournament he hosts, the British Masters.
Brooks Koepka - $11,000 (8-1)
There was something in Koepka's voice after he won the CJ Cup that told us he's not going to take his foot off the gas this week. He said he wants to stay No. 1, but the way the rankings are so bunched, he could easily fall back without a good showing this week. Lost last year amid Rose overtaking Johnson on Sunday was the fact that Koepka wound up tied for second.
Rory McIlroy - $10,700 (10-1)
McIlroy kind of quietly has climbed back to No. 5 in the world. He cannot assume the top spot this week, even with a win. McIlroy has never finished worse than T11 in five visits, and he was T4 last time here in 2016. For McIlroy, it will be all about the putting. Luckily, he has rolled it well at Sheshan.
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
Tony Finau - $9,900 (16-1)
Finau has been almost as machine-like as Rose the past six months, the big difference being Finau hasn't won. He was top-15 in all four playoff events, then came back after a quality Ryder Cup and tied for 10th at the Dunhill Masters. Finau tied for 11th here last year, and his putting has become far superior to where it was then.
Paul Casey - $9,200 (20-1)
Casey has played this course in competition more than anyone else in the field. He played the tournament 10 of the past 12 years and never has been outside the top 25. He tied for 11th last year. Unless he putts out of his mind, he won't win, but the rest of Casey's game is well-suited for Sheshan. He was top-20 in each of the first two legs of the Asian Swing.
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $8,900 (30-1)
The Spaniard tied for fifth here a year ago, after debuting with a T19 in 2016. Right now, Cabrera Bello is playing some of his best golf, having finished top-20 in five of his past eight starts, including a tie for third last week in South Korea.
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
Thorbjorn Olesen - $7,900 (60-1)
The Dane arrived at this tournament a year ago ranked 88th in the world and with a DK price of $7,300. He's now 43 spots higher in the OWGR and $600 more expensive. That's what a good year does. Olesen made the Ryder Cup and took down Jordan Spieth in singles. He also tied for third at the most recent WGC event at Firestone.
Eddie Pepperell - $7,300 (60-1)
Pepperell has been one of the hottest golfers going for four months, and he's soared to No. 34 in the world. He recently won the British Masters, but he's shown he can hold his own in stronger fields, too. He tied for sixth at the Open Championship and for second at the Scottish Open the week before. We don't need Pepperell to win or even contend to have him pay off at this price.
Branden Grace - $7,200 (100-1)
By any measure, Grace has not had a good year, but the price is too appealing to pass up for a guy who has played well in this tournament, not to mention other big events with elite fields. Grace tied for 15th here a year ago and was T5 in 2015.
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
Julian Suri - $7,000 (100-1)
Suri is an interesting guy. He's a native New Yorker who has been playing mostly in Europe, tried to get his PGA Tour card but couldn't, then went to Web.com Tour finals and did. But at No. 69 in the world, he's not your ordinary Web.com grad. And Suri has even fallen a bit since his career-high ranking of 60th, which came after he tied for 19th at the PGA. He tied for fifth two weeks ago at the British Masters.
Ashun Wu - $6,800 (200-1)
Wu has far outplayed his higher-ranked Chinese countryman, Haotong Li, at this event, finishing top-25 three of the past four years. He did so last year despite having arrived at No. 300 in the world. Wu now stands at No. 176, after a stunning win last month at the KLM Open on the European Tour. It was not a top field, but there were some decent names that Wu outplayed, including a bunch of guys in this field: Li, Pepperell, Chris Wood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Martin Kaymer and more.
Matt Wallace - $6,700 (80-1)
There are three rising Euros in the field: Pepperell, 53rd-ranked Lucas Bjerregaard and Wallace, at No. 62. We jumped on Pepperell just above and now we are jumping on Wallace at this very favorable price. There's a chance the Englishman isn't quite ready for prime time, though he showed flashes with a top-20 at the PGA Championship over the summer.