While October is not the heart of golf season, an exciting event is about to get underway. The WGC-HSBC Champions event kicks off today in Shanghai. The Asian major event marks the return to stroke-play golf for Rory McIlroy for the first time since he secured the PGA Tour FedEx Cup championship. The WGC-HSBC Champions is the most lucrative golf event in Asia, handing out $9.5 million in prize money. McIlroy hopes to win the event for the first time and take home the $1.62 million awarded to the victor. Here is a look at McIlroy’s chances as well as his top competitors.
McIlroy Has Reason to Hope
McIlroy has rebounded in a major way this year from his disappointing, injury-plagued 2015 season. In addition to taking home the tour championship and the $10 million bonus, McIlroy won the Irish Open, Deutsche Bank Championship and 2016 Tour Championship. In his previous five appearances at the WGC-HSBC Champions, he has finished in the top 11 each time.
He has three top-five finishes in the WGC-HSBC Champions event and would love to finally win it.
The Competition Is Stiff
While McIlroy should be considered the favorite with his past success and current form, there are lots of other contenders who will give him a run for his money. All four major champions from the year will be at the event. In addition, 40 of the top 50 golfers in the world will be competing, including second-ranked Dustin Johnson.
Like McIlroy, Johnson has not competed since the Ryder Cup. Johnson finished tied for fifth at this event last year. With the top-two golfers in the world refreshed and ready to go, fans should expect some fireworks at this huge competition.
Defending champion Russell Knox will also be playing at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and he is fresh off a top-ten finish at last week’s CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Another golfer who will look to make some noise this week is Hideki Matsuyama. He finished runner-up last week at the CIMB Classic, and he also won the Japan Open on his home soil two weeks ago. These back-to-back stellar performances vaulted Matsuyama into the top ten in the rankings, and he has to be considered the hottest golfer on the planet right now.
Adam Scott is another golfer to watch this week. Scott bombed here last year, and he will be looking to make up for that performance. He has finished in the top five in five of his last six events.
Breaking in a New Driver
One factor that could halt McIlroy’s plans to win is the fact that he is breaking in a new driver at this event. He will be playing with the Taylormade M2 driver for the first time. His equipment sponsor Nike has decided to stop making clubs, and now McIlroy is free to choose clubs from any manufacturer he likes. For a player who already outdrives everyone on tour, this move to a driver that hits longer could be a very scary thing to watch for his opponents. It will be interesting to see how he hits with it this week in what should be a very thrilling competition.