PGA Tour Odds and Predictions: WGC-HSBC Champions
by Alan Matthews - 11/2/2011
To most casual U.S. golf bettors, this week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai will be it for 2011 in terms of individual tournament competition – the team-oriented Presidents’ Cup in two weeks might draw some interest. But in terms of stroke play events, we hit the “silly season” on the PGA Tour after this weekend. And there are at least a few interesting events on that schedule I will preview (plus any key strong-field Euro events remaining).
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That’s not to say the WGC-HSBC Champions isn’t important as it is considered a semi-official PGA Tour event. The win would count toward Tour Player of the Year honors and would get a player exempt status on the PGA Tour for three years. However, the money doesn’t officially count on the PGA Tour money list – that race is over, won by world No. 1 Luke Donald.
The money here does count on the Euro Tour’s Race to Dubai, which Donald also leads as he looks to be the first player to win the money crown on both tours in the same season. However, Donald is skipping this tournament to be with his wife, who is about to have a baby. Donald, who was third here last year, leads Rory McIlroy by more than 1.3 million Euros in the Race to Dubai.
Donald is expected to win PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, but it’s not out of the question if someone like Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship winner) or Charl Schwartzel (Masters champion) wins this week that he could make a late push. The Tour, to some criticism, moved back the date ballots would be sent out for that vote (and other postseason awards) until after this tournament.
Many other big-name players, including all four 2011 major winners and most every top European, are in the 78-man field. But the two most recognizable American names are not: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
This is the first time Tiger has not been eligible to play a WGC event – he has won 15 of the WGC tournaments overall (this is the only one not played in America). Woods has only two tournaments left this year, then as many as two events next year to make sure he doesn't miss another WGC. Lefty, meanwhile, just chose not to travel so far. Another key guy missing is Sergio Garcia, who has won back-to-back European Tour events.
Overall the HSBC Champions has the fewest percentage of PGA Tour players of the four WGC events: 44 percent compared with about 70 percent for the other WGCs.
PGA Tour Odds: WGC-HSBC Champions Favorites
McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, opened as the 5/1 favorite at Bodog. And why not? He won the unofficial but strong-field Shanghai Masters last week, but the $2 million prize doesn’t count toward the Race to Dubai. To convert to American currency for you, McIlroy is about $1.8 million behind Donald on the Euro Tour money list and the winner here gets $1.2 million. The Northern Irishman clearly has his game back. Prior to his playoff win last week he had put together four consecutive top-three finishes. And McIlroy was fifth here last year. He is No. 3 in the world and has a chance to pass Lee Westwood at No. 2. Donald, who has racked up 500 world ranking points this year, is out of reach for everyone for now.
Westwood is the second-favorite at 8/1. A year ago on Halloween Westwood took the world No. 1 ranking from Tiger (remember when that was big news?) and then a few days later arrived at this tournament and dueled Francesco Molinari through the weekend, with the Italian winning by one over Westwood, but that duo essentially destroyed the rest of the field (Donald was nine shots back of Westwood in third). Westwood has fared well in Asia this year, winning twice. And he was a strong fifth at last week’s Shanghai Masters.
McIlroy and Westwood are the only two players under +1600 to win this week. Molinari, incidentally, is 28/1 to repeat, but hasn’t won since. However, he was T10 here in 2009.
PGA Tour Odds: WGC-HSBC Champions Interesting Longer Shots
A lot of the “experts” really like K.J. Choi this week, and he is solid value at 28/1. Including last week's T7 in Shanghai, he has five consecutive Top 10s worldwide since a T10 at the BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He also won his own tournament on the Asian Tour. Choi has only one Top 10 in five visits here and was T30 a year ago.
Geoff Ogilvy at 30/1 is worth a look. The Aussie came on at the end of the PGA Tour season with finishes of third at the BMW Championship and T11 at the Players Championship. He was T10 and T3 in his past two visits here.
But I think Bradley is the best value at 40/1. A win here should at least get him into the Player of the Year conversation (Donald will still win it) considering that as a rookie – Rookie of Year is a lock – he won the Byron Nelson Championship in a playoff, then rallied from a five-shot deficit with three holes to play to win the PGA Championship in a playoff. He also recently won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and was 11th at the Shanghai Masters. And Bradley really wants to show that Fred Couples made a mistake by not choosing him for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, although if someone bows out injured (Steve Stricker?), then Couples has said Bradley would be his first alternate. This, of course, is Bradley’s first time at this tournament. Why not end a storybook rookie season in style?