Tiger Woods is running out of ways to shock us. The legend, fresh off a surgical procedure on his knee during his short offseason break, wowed us yet again last week in Japan by coming from seemingly nowhere to win the ZOZO Championship for his 82nd career victory on the PGA Tour. The win tied him with the great Sam Snead.
Yep, just when you count Tiger out he finds a way to remind us that he's the most unbelievable golfer that has ever played the game. Mr. Woods crushed the dreams of hometown boy Hideki Matsuyama, this article's 'Horse' last week. It was the second-straight week that we had a strong finish out of our top selection (we nailed JT at the CJ Cup a couple of weeks ago), which is a great feeling, but the rest of last week's highlighted players really struggled...which is maybe something we can chalk up to the ZOZO being a new event that was played on a golf course we hadn't seen before.
All that said, I'm gonna keep working hard to bring you guys the best info I can each and every week. This will be the last HFTC for a little while, as the PGA Tour takes a quick break after this week's WGC-HSBC Champions event. Don't worry, it's just for a week and then I'll be back for the Mayakoba Classic in November. We head to China this week for the last leg of the 'Asian Swing', let's close it out strong!Editor's Note: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!
WGC-HSBC Champions Overview
Over the last couple of weeks I've referred to the CJ Cup and the ZOZO as "WGC Lite" events. Well, we get the real deal this week in China. The WGC-HSBC Champions has been contested 10 previous times as a WGC event and will once again draw a star-studded field this week. Of course, there's no cut in this event (Man...I'll be glad to see cuts again!) and nice juicy paychecks for everyone teeing it up.
Young American star Xander Schauffele captured last year's HSBC and he heads back to Shanghai to defend his title this week. He'll have his work cut out for him, as a star-studded field that includes the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose (in his 2019-20 PGA Tour debut), Tommy Fleetwood, and Tony Finau will be in hot pursuit of this prestigious WGC crown.
Unlike last week's ZOZO Championship, we have plenty of course history to examine this week, as Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club has hosted every edition of this event other than in 2012. Let's tee it up!
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.
The Course: Sheshan International Golf Club
Par 72 - 7,261 Yards, Greens: Bent
When the Nelson and Haworth Design team started construction on the ultra-exclusive Sheshan International Golf Club, they might not have moved heaven, but they sure did move a lot of earth. Over 1 million cubic meters of earth actually. They used all this dirt to create tons of slopes and undulations. There are few flat spots on these greens and many have false fronts that will run balls back into a collection area. Players will be put to the test with the flatstick this week. The fairways average just over 25 yards in width and are tree lined. We are looking for ball strikers, capable scramblers, and solid putters this week. Players that are long and accurate off the tee can post low numbers on this layout (think Dustin Johnson). Perhaps the most important facet of the game on this golf course is greens in regulation, so I will be placing heavy emphasis on GIR % and Strokes Gained: Approach.
Tony Finau (DK - $9,700)
Notable Course History: 2nd ('19), T11 ('18),
Last week's 'Horse' was Hideki Matsuyama, who has the reputation of not winning enough tournaments. True to form, 'Deki logged a runner-up finish at the ZOZO. This week I'm going with another player that also has issues actually winning tournaments in Tony Finau. Finau came realllllyyyy close on this golf course last year, losing in a playoff to Xander Schauffele, and heads back to Sheshan International still in search of a "W" after a somewhat up and down 2018-19 season.
Finau wasn't as consistent in 2019 as he was in his breakout 2018 season, but the young star had some truly great outings that included top-five finishes at both the Masters and the Open Championship. He finished the season in strong form with a fourth and a seventh in the last two events of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and he's kept things going with two top-10s in four fall starts. He heads to China on the heels of a disappointing outing at the ZOZO Championship, but this Sheshan layout is a prime rebound spot for Finau. He's logged a solo second and a T11 in two HSBC starts and is tied for the highest average of birdies/eagles per round at Sheshan over the last five years at 5.13.
Finau's tremendous ability off the tee gives him a huge leg up this week and I expect yet another strong outing from him in the HSBC. It sounds redundant to say at this point (and I feel like I've been saying it for three years), but Finau is just too talented not to eventually get a big win. His sub-$10k price tag makes him a great place to start roster builds and he's viable in all formats.
Xander Schauffele (DK - $10,800)
Notable Course History: Win ('19), T46 ('18)
You won't often see the defending champions of an event highlighted in this article, but I'm making an exception for Xander Schauffele this week. I wanted to take a 'wait and see' approach with Xander at the ZOZO, as it was the first time he'd teed it up in over a month. He responded with a T10 in Japan (and it could have been better) and heads to China for the type of event that he has repeatedly excelled in...high profile, small field, and no cut. In addition to this event, the 26-year-old already has wins at the TOUR Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which are both very similar to this week's WGC-HSBC structure.
I'm always trying to put my finger on how to describe Xander and his success, because there's not really one thing that you can point at and say, "Wow...he does that better than any player in the world." I guess the best thing I can come up with is that Schauffele is a 'the-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts' player...meaning he's not going to grade out statistically as the best off the tee, on approach, or putting; but he is very, very good in all facets of the game.
It seems as though Xander continues to grow in popularity in the PGA DFS community and we are increasingly seeing his ownership at elevated levels, but I don't know if that will be the case this week with his price tag up to $10.8k, and popular players both above and below him on the salary scale.
Bernd Wiesberger (DK - $9,200)
Notable Course History: T9 ('18), T35 ('17), T17 ('16)
These WGC events are a great chance to roster players that we don't get to see on the PGA Tour on a regular basis. Depending on how much you follow the Euro Tour, you may or may not know that Bernd Wiesberger has been perhaps the hottest player in the world over the last six months. The Austrian has recorded an unbelievable three wins since May, with his most recent victory coming at the Italian Open just a couple of weeks ago. In addition to his sharp form, we can grab Wiesberger on a Sheshan golf course where he's performed very well in prior starts. His name will probably pop up around the DFS industry a lot this week, but we can always hope that he flies under the radar with casual American DFS players this week.
Ian Poulter (DK - $7,700)
Notable Course History: 2nd ('14), T6 ('15), T30 ('16), T21 ('19)
Ian Poulter definitely doesn't fit the mold of a 'bomber', but we all know that there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to this beautiful game called golf. The Englishman gets things done with solid golf...fairways and greens, great scrambling, and timely putting. Poulter's style has been successful over the years in the HSBC (he won the event in 2012, but it wasn't held at Sheshan) with a solo second and a T6 on his Sheshan resume. The veteran is streaky and we're catching him trending in the right direction this week, as he's coming off back-to-back top-16 finishes at the CJ Cup and ZOZO. I love his price tag and he's a solid play in all formats.
Eric Van Rooyen (DK - $7,500)
Notable Course History: T22 ('19)
If you're a ball-striking junkie like me then you are probably familiar with the man we simply call 'EVR'. This dude hits it pure and is one of the best ball strikers on the planet right now. Unfortunately, we very rarely get to see Van Rooyen in the U.S., as he spends the vast majority of his time on the Euro Tour, where he picked up a win at the Scandinavian Invitation back in August. He heads to China in slightly inconsistent form - over his last three starts he's sandwhiched a top-10 at the Italian Open between missed cuts - but he's the type of player that is a high-upside GPP option. Full disclosure...EVR is a pretty horrendous putter, which leads to his consistency issues, but that volatility is part of what makes him a great large-field tournament play this week.
Xinjun Zhang (DK - $6,900)
Notable Course History: T50 ('19), T44 ('18), T21 ('17)
Over the last couple of week's we've discussed Sungjae Im at the CJ Cup and Hideki Matsuyama at the ZOZO. This week's 'hometown hero' is Xinjun Zhang. Zhang is a native of China and - while he's not performed especially well in his previous HSBC starts - is very familiar with this Sheshan International layout. While his history on this course doesn't scream "Must Play", Zhang is arguably playing the best golf of his career right now. He led the Korn Ferry Tour points list last season and earned his PGA Tour card. Zhang has been taking full advantage of his new status and has went T7-T16-T4 over his last three starts on the PGA Tour this fall, firing sub-70 rounds in nine of his last 12. It's a limited sample size, but Zhang has exhibited some explosive scoring ability in the fall season and he's an intriguing way to save salary this week.