With the WGC-HSBC Champions now becoming a PGA TOUR sanctioned event, offering official earnings and FedExCup points, one-and-done players and other gamers have to treat this event with the same respect at the other WGCs. The purse is huge, there isn't a cut, and most of the game’s elite are represented.
As we highlighted in yesterday’s preview, International players have enjoyed plenty of success in this event. One reason we didn't explore in depth, but very well could be a factor, is that this is traditionally a time where Americans have slipped into Silly Season mode with the Euros are racing to Dubai. Perhaps the Fall Series’ increased prominence and the CIMB Classic will bring the Americans more into the picture.
I could see two potential schools of thought for the one-and-done. The first is to burn a Euro that you know likely won’t be used later. The immediate two that fit that profile are Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer. I’m not going to try and talk anyone out of that, and if I had correctly pegged a winner earlier in the year that may have been my lean.
With an $8.5 million pot and just over $1.5 million to the winner, I see this as a tournament to burn a stud. Go big. I narrowed my focus to Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. I could make a very strong case for all three, and would sleep just fine tonight turning any of the three in to my commish.
- Bradley looked like the winner at the half-way point last week, but faded on the weekend. It has to be a plus that he played some good golf in Malaysia. He also has a nice history in no-cut events and WGCs in general.
- Garcia is intriguing because he’s a blend of the two philosophies. There isn't a place that is a “must use” for Garcia, so there likely wouldn't be any real regret associated with burning him. He tied for 11th last week but, similar to Bradley, cooled after opening with a 66. Again, form seems steady and his ball-striking should play out well at Sheshan.
- McIlroy is a huge wildcard, and will be until he wins. The common thought is that he seems “close.” His problem late in the 2013 season was his inability to piece four rounds together. I like that he topped Tiger in an exhibition on Monday, and it was reported that he played very well. The takeaway from his last couple of tournaments leading up to this week is that he’s driving and striking the ball very well. Rory’s long game has always been what’s distanced him from the field in big events, so that’s a trend I prefer with him over putting. Throw in that he’s never finished outside the top five in three tries at this stop, and he’s my one-and-done this week.
Perhaps from a strategy standpoint, this is a risky move, but I’m ready to take a little bit of a chance where the reward is high. Bryce Molder, Nick Watney and Hideki Matsuyama have done little more than cash checks for us, and it’s time to go for the jugular.
Not many people played Tiger at Doral last year, but those that did took a leg up on their competition. That’s another reason I’m going Rory. I’d like to draw some early blood and catch my competition waiting to save him for a Quail Hollow or a time when his trend suggests a play.
Let’s go, Rors!
Best of luck!