The final World Golf Championship event of the year tees off in China this week with a star-studded line-up to match the fanfare.
16 of the world’s top 20, including all four of 2016’s major winners, will be at the Sheshan International Golf Club for the 12th HSBC Champions tournament.
Most notably, world numbers two and three, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, will make their PGA Tour season debuts. World number one, Jason Day, however, is still out resting a back injury.
Johnson aims to become the only player, other than Tiger Woods, to win back to back WGC events, having won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational back in July.
Russell Knox returns to Shanghai with hope of equalling another of Woods’ accolades; if the Scot wins he will become only the second player, after Woods, to retain a WGC title.
Last year Knox surged to a two shot victory at 20-under-par after a four-way tie for the lead halfway through the final round.
Kevin Kisner was his closest rival at 18-under-par and it was Branden Grace and Ross Fisher who were level midway through the final day; all three will return this year.
The round of the week last year came from Danny Willett who posted a Sunday 62 to rise the leaderboard early on. The Masters champion eventually finished in third place.
As a winner on Asian soil already this season, Justin Thomas heads to Shanghai on the back of last week’s victory at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur. A WGC win would see him continue his rise up the world rankings after moving up to 21st from 35th following his win in Malaysia.
The HSBC Champions has been a WGC event since 2009 and has only run since 2005. WGC events are sanctioned by the European Tour, the PGA Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australia and the Southern Africa Tour. This means that the events count towards the money lists of all these major tours, including, perhaps most notably, the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai.
The Sheshan International Golf Club has hosted the tournament every year bar one, 2012, since it’s inception. The 7261 yard long course in lined with 1000-year-old Gingko trees. As a par 72 the course strikes a balance between scenic and testing.
The 78-strong field will battle it out for an elevated 550 FedExCup points and a winner’s cheque of $1.4 million.
The WGC-HSBC Champions makes up the first leg of the European Tour’s three-leg final series; so the Race to Dubai leaders Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy will all be hoping to make strong starts in their quest for European glory.