• The first elite event of the 2018-19 season happens this week, with the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Seven of the world's top 10 players are in the field. Here's everything you need to know.
By Daniel Rapaport
October 22, 2018

With all due respect to the Safeway Open, CIMB Classic and CJ Cup, the first elite event of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season is happening this week. 

It's the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China, and seven of the top 10 players in the world and 11 of the top 20 are teeing it up at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai. This marks the third and final tournament of the Tour's three-stop Asian Swing, following the CIMB Classic (Malaysia) and CJ Cup (Korea); it's also the first of four World Golf Championships, some of the most presitigous tournaments outside of the four major championships (the others being the WGC-Mexico Championship in February, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March and the new WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in August, which replaces the no-longer-existing WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in the WGC rotation beginning this year).

It's also the last time for the forseeable future that we'll have play begin on Wednesday night and wrap up in the wee hours of Sunday morning, as Shanghai is an even 12 hours ahead of EST. So if you're a fan of getting back late after a Saturday night out to watch the end of a PGA Tour event, savor this last opportunity to do exactly that. 

This will be the first time a number of world class players tee it up on the PGA Tour since the Tour Championship. One of those players is world No. 3 and this week's defending champion Justin Rose, who secured a two-shot victory with a final-round 67 at last year's event. The two players currently ranked higher than him, Dustin Johnson and newly minted No. 1 Brooks Koepka, joined Henrik Stenson in a tie for second last year. 

Here's everything you need to know about this world-class event on the other side of the globe. 

The Course

Sheshan International Golf Club was opened in 2004 and designed by Nelson & Haworth, a design firm whose courses are mostly in Asia or tropical locations. Located within the city limits of Shanghai, Sheshan is widely considered one of, if not the, best tracks in all of China and has hosted the HSBC Champions for 13 of the 14 years it's been played. 

The course is named after Sheshan Mountain—which is really more of a hill—and Nelson & Hawroth moved a wild amount of land to design a visually striking and dramatic golf course. It's filled with elevation changes, man-made water hazards, rolling hills and a rock quarry that guards some back-nine holes. It'll play around 7,250 yards this week and par is 72. 

Another interesting feature of Sheshan, which is a private club, is the Tuscan villa-style design of the clubhouse and houses that sit on the property. Truly a country club setting in a country that, historically, isn't friendly to golf. 

The course record is 63. Fans of the regrettably defunct Tiger Woods video game series will recognize Sheshan, which was a staple in the game's rotation of courses. 

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The Field

As mentioned prevoiusly, seven of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking have made the trip—Koepka, Johnson, Rose, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Jon Rahm and Jason Day. Two Ryder Cup stars in Tony Finau and Tommy Fleetwood are making their PGA Tour season debuts. Many eyes will surely be fixated on Patrick Reed, who is making his first start since calling out captain Jim Furyk and his teammates after a disapointing Ryder Cup showing. Some other notables teeing it up: Alex Noren, Xander Schauffele, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Eddie Pepperell and Ian Poulter. 

Fans who only follow the PGA Tour will see a number of names they're not familiar with this week. That's because this, as with all WGC's, is an event put on by the International Federation of PGA Tours, which encompasses six tours—the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the Asian Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia.  There are players in the field from all six tours as well as a number of players from China. 

Tee Times

Here are some tee times for marquee pairings. For a full list of starting times, click here. All times are eastern. 

Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren - 9:45 p.m.* Wednesday/10:40 p.m. Thursday
Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose 9:55 p.m.*/10:50 p.m.
Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton - 10:35 p.m.*/9:20 p.m.
Haotong Li, Tony Finau, Jason Day - 10:45 p.m./9:30 p.m.
Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy - 10:55 p.m.*/9:40 a.m.

* denotes 10th-tee start

Past Champions

2017- Justin Rose (-14)
2016- Hideki Matsuyama (-23)
2015- Russell Knox (-20)
2014- Bubba Watson (-11)
2013- Dustin Johnson (-24)
2012- Ian Poulter (-21)
2011- Martin Kaymer (-20)
2010- Francesco Molinari (-19)
2009- Phil MIckelson (-17)

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The Odds

Via Betway

Brooks Koepka +900 - First tournament as No. 1 player in the world
Dustin Johnson +900 - DJ has good history at this track— W in '13, T-2 in '17
Justin Rose +900 - Defending champ has six top 10s in last eight starts
Rory McIlroy +1100
Hideki Matsuyama +1700 - Winner of this event in '16 plays Asian courses well 
Jason Day +1700
Tony Finau +1700- Six top 15s in his last seven starts 
Tommy Fleetwood +1900 - Ryder Cup darling still searching for PGA Tour W. 
Francesco Molinari +2100 - Ryder Cup legend won at Sheshan in 2010
Jon Rahm +2100 - Rahm begins his season ranked No. 7 in the world
Paul Casey +2600
Tyrrell Hatton +2900
Alex Noren +3400
Patrick Cantlay +3400 - Consistent performer has made 11 straight cuts
Rafael Cabrera-Bello +3400
Cameron Smith +4100
Patrick Reed +4100 - Wouldn't it be so on-brand for him to win this week?
Adam Scott +5100
Ian Poulter +5100 - Poulter has a win, a second and a T-6 at this event
Matthew Fitzpatrick +5100
Xander Schauffele +5100

The Pick

Part of me wants to go with Matsuyama, who has quietly rounded into form in the past couple months after a disappointing first half of 2018. Another part of me thinks DJ, perhaps with a bit of extra motivation after watching his buddy Koepka take over his top spot, gets win No. 20. He's certainly worth a play at 9-1.

But neither of those parts are as big as the part that thinks Poulter picks up his third WGC title this week. At 51-1, no less!

Poulter didn't qualify for this event during his difficult 2016 and 2017 seasons, but take a gander at his results in this tournament from 2010-2015, starting with 2010: T-13, T-13, 1, 2, T-6, T-30. It's worth noting that his win came the one year the tournament was played at Mission Hills, sure, but he's clearly comfortable playing in this part of the world. He finished 10th last week despite coming into Sunday in a tie for second. He was impressive yet again in the Ryder Cup, holing putt after putt and pounding his chest time after time. And Poulter relishes the opportunity to prove himself against the game's best. He gets an opportunity to do exactly that this weekend, and he gets it done with a winning score of -18. 

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)