PGA Tour Picks: World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions Odds and Predictions
At this rate I'll predict about 16 winners on the PGA Tour's 2017-18 season!
I'm 1-for-3 on the campaign after reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedExCup champion Justin Thomas proved those honors were well-deserved with a victory at the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea on Sunday. Both he and Aussie Marc Leishman finished 72 holes at 9-under, and Thomas beat Leishman on the second playoff hole with a birdie. Thomas had to birdie his 72nd hole to join Leishman in the playoff. It was the 24-year-old's sixth victory worldwide in his past 25 starts, and he's up to No. 3 in the world behind fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. For a point of comparison, Thomas ended 2016 at 22nd in the world. He is now 5-for-7 in his career when it comes to converting 54-hole leads in his career (Thomas and Scott Brown were tied entering Sunday).
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Bovada offered a prop on Thomas and Paul Casey at +400 vs. the field, and since they were clearly the two best players in the field that was my choice. More often than not, I will use a prop like that (when available) instead of just singling out a player. I'm surprised that Thomas is skipping this week's big-money World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai as it's the only major event on the fall schedule and has a mammoth purse. But it's not like Thomas is hurting for money after winning the $10 million FedExCup. Plus, he plans to attend next week's big SEC game between Alabama and his alma mater LSU. You will see Thomas before the year is out, though, as he is among the 16 confirmed entrants for the Hero World Challenge in December. That's Tiger Woods' event and when we might see him return too.
This week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the last time you see many big names until Tiger's pseudo-official event or the 2018 opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. You have to qualify for any WGC tournaments and it's a limited field of 78 (18 of world's Top 25 entered), so there's also a PGA Tour opposite-field event in Mississippi this week, the Sanderson Farms Championship, full of largely no-names and rookies. Sheshan International's West Course hosts the HSBC Champions for the 12th time in its 13 years and is a par 72 measuring 7,266 yards. This was a European Tour event only from 2005-08. In 2013, it became an official PGA Tour event.
The defending champion is Japan's Hideki Matsuyama. He shot a final-round 66 to finish seven ahead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson and American Daniel Berger. Matsuyama's 29 birdies were three short of the PGA Tour record, and he became the first Asian winner of a WGC event. The 23-under mark was one shy of the tournament record set in 2013 when Johnson won. The seven-shot win was the largest in a WGC since Tiger won by seven in the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Johnson is the +800 favorite at Bovada. He won the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs but then didn't have a Top 10 in the other three. In addition to his victory four years ago in this tournament, he was fifth in 2015.
Matsyuama is +1000 to join Phil Mickelson as the only two-time winners of the event. Lefty did so in 2007 & '09. Matsuyama last played a couple of weeks ago at the CIMB Classic and was T5. He was 41st in 2014 at this event in his only other trip.
Jason Day (+1600), Jon Rahm (+1600) and Leishman (+1600) round out the favorites. It's Day's first trip here and he comes off a T11 last week. It's also Rahm's debut. Leishman was 11th in 2015 and ninth in 2014.
Golf Odds: WGC-HSBC Champions Picks
For a Top-10 finish, I like DJ (-150), Henrik Stenson (+200) and Daniel Berger (+300). Take Ross Fisher at +450 as top Englishman, Leishman (+185) as top Aussie, Stenson (+1000) as top European and Berger (+1200) as top American. In addition to his runner-up last year, Berger was 11 th in 2015.
Head-to-head, I like Matt Kuchar (-110) over Tommy Fleetwood (-120), Fisher (-115) over Pat Perez (-115), Francesco Molinari (-115) over Mickelson (-115), Stenson (-115) over Tyrell Hatton (-115), and Leishman (-120) over Justin Rose (-110).
All but two of the previous 11 HSBC Champions winners were no worse than 30th in the world rankings. I'm probably making two bets here: Johnson and Matsuyama at +350 vs. the field (-550) and some longer-shot value on Fisher at +2500. He was sixth here last year and third in 2015. Fisher has finished second in back-to-back European Tour events entering this.
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