Though last weekend’s Ryder Cup was sort of a symbolic end to the 2016 golf year, there are still plenty of loose ends to tie up as the PGA calendar flips to 2017. Perhaps none is bigger than the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions at the Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai (Oct 27-30).
The Champions marks the fourth and final World Golf Championship of the year: tournaments designed to bring the best golfers from different tours together more frequently. With a field of 78 that includes players from PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour, and the PGA Tour of Australasia, it offers an opportunity for less-heralded golfers to make a name for themselves. But typically, it’s no surprise which tours the winners are coming from.
That doesn’t mean the tournament isn’t without its upsets, though. Last year, Scottish golfer Russell Knox notched his first-ever PGA win in the Champions, shooting a four-round -20 to hold off Kevin Kisner. Knox became the first Scotsman to win a World Golf Championship event.
While odds haven’t been released for this year’s tournament yet, the favorites remain the same names from every PGA event this year, minus Jason Day who will skip the event once again. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Phil Mickelson, and 2016 PGA Tour Player of the Year Dustin Johnson will all be playing China’s top golf course at the end of the month.
Two names worth watching closely, though, are a pair of players who earned a lot of attention at the Ryder Cup.
Thomas Pieters was the first European rookie to finish with four points at the Ryder, and also won an event in late August, so he’s coming in pretty hot. The 24-year-old didn’t even take any time off after the Ryder Cup, going right back to work and playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend.
Another star from Ryder weekend was Patrick Reed. His defeat of McIlroy in match play was the must-see moment of the weekend, and like Pieters, he’s coming off a late-August win, claiming the Barclays with a -9. Reed also won a WGC event back in 2014, defeating Bubba Watson by a stroke to claim the Cadillac Championship. So the experience factor is there.
In most PGA betting, but especially the vast field that is a WGC event, it’s all about casting a wide net. Pick a few favorites, like Johnson and McIlroy, but mix in some longer odds too. When it comes to those longer odds, I like Reed and Pieters this year.
Photo Credit: Craig ONeal (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/].