We were a whisker away from an 80/1 each way return courtesy of Scott Hend in Malaysia last week, and but for a bout of food poisoning on Thursday which saw him shoot an opening 74, who knows how higher the Aussie might have finished than his seventh spot.
This week we witness the fourth and final WGC event of the calendar year: The HSBC Champions from Sheshan International in Shanghai, China.
Russell Knox is the reigning champion after an outstanding week in which he ranked top five for Driving Accuracy, Greens in Regulation, Putts per GIR and Birdies Made. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
And what a field has assembled here to take on Knox. Last season’s four major winners (Willett, Stenson, D Johnson and Walker) are joined by the FedEx Cup winner (McIlroy) and a litany of other tour movers and shakers (Reed, Moore, Watson, Koepka, Scott, Matsuyama etc). It should be some ride.
There are, approximately, around 20 players who have legitimate shots at winning this title, and as such the outright markets hold no appeal. Let’s try some side bets instead:
WGC HSBC Champions – First Round Leader Tips
Our two First Round Leader tips are two players who finished last week’s CIMB Classic like runaway trains: both shooting 66 in their final round. It is a tactic that worked the previous week when Derek Fathauer and Keegan Bradley shot 66 in their final rounds at the Safeway Open before plundering opening salvos of 64 – and thus tying for the first round lead – the following week at the CIMB.Si-Woo Kim (66/1)
This young man keeps on going from strength to strength, and after winning his maiden tour title last season he has since followed up with five top 20 finishes in six starts, which includes two top-10s and a second. Kim is fast becoming Mr Consistent – not bad for a 21-year-old.
Young Han-Song (250/1 with Paddy Power, 150/1 elsewhere)
After an incredible run towards the tailend of last season the Web.com Tour where he recorded five consecutive top-10 finishes, Young has taken to the main tour with relish; making both cuts and finishing a career best 21st last time out in Malaysia. His putting is outstanding, and that makes him a fascinating prospect here.
WGC HSBC Champions – Top 10 Finish Tips
In this market we’ve gone for a talented German who is a former major winner, a former champion at Sheshan and in the midst of one of the most consistent runs of form in his career.
Martin Kaymer (7/2)
The wily old dog has a trio of top-10 finishes here including a triumph here in 2011, and we’re happy to have Kaymer onside here as he has been prolific for punters in this market of late with four top-10s in six starts.
He’s had time to get over the heartache of the Ryder Cup, where he played pretty well anyway incidentally, and returning to a tour event in rather more reserved surroundings in China where he loves it will surely help. Another strong Sheshan showing (try saying that after a few thimbles of Saki) is quite possible.
WGC HSBC Champions – Top 20 Finish Tips
The man we are backing in this market is establishing himself as something of a cult favourite on both sides of the Atlantic, and his methodical game and arrow-straight hitting should suit these Sheshan climes very nicely.
Andrew Johnston (4/1)
‘Beef’ is a fantastic GIR merchant whose sole career victory to date at Valderrama came at a similarly tight and testing track as Sheshan, where the rain lashed down too.
His most recent form reads 3-28-4-MC-MC-28, so clearly there is potential for a strong performance this week, and he appears to have become accustomed to life as one of golf’s happy-go-lucky characters. In the less raucous Chinese atmosphere, he should be able to focus on his game rather than the off-field circus.
WGC HSBC Champions – Top Rest of the World Tips
This Sheshan test demands a fine all-round game and excellent ball-striking, as proven by Knox last year. Few hit the ball more sweetly than the Argentine we have tipped in the Top Rest of the World market.
Emiliano Grillo (14/1)
This uber-talented young chap has finished in the top 20 of his last eight starts, and anything within that bracket may be enough to sneak us a winner in the ROTW stakes.
Thin, tree-lined fairways require premium accuracy, and with slow greens expected due to pre-tournament rain Grillo will have a huge advantage on his rivals here if he can get his ball within close proximity of the cup; which, given his GIR stats and outstanding iron play, we would expect him to do.
WGC HSBC Champions – Top American Tips
Okay, so this is a hugely competitive market with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas all vying for attention against a heap of others. But with each way wagers paying four places, we thought it was a chance taking on a player that has two top-10s to his name in the past fortnight.
Scott Piercy (20/1)
What a start to the 2017 campaign it has been for Piercy. Third at the Safeway Open in California (an event he probably should have won), he proved that good golf travels well by finishing tenth last week in Malaysia.
It is likely that he will need to finish inside the top three again to pay dividends in this market, but with some outstanding form behind on a course that will take no prisoners to some extent, Piercy is a smart play.