Johnson, Matsuyama highlight field at WGC-HSBC Champions (Oct 25, 2017)
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and England's Tommy Fleetwood, the leader in the European Tour's Race to Dubai standings, highlight a stellar roster of competitors this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The tournament begins play on Thursday at the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China.
Five of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 5 Jon Rahm of Spain, No. 8 Jason Day of Australia and ninth-ranked Henrik Stenson of Sweden, will compete this week as part of the select 78-player field on the par-72, 7,266-yard course.
The lineup boasts 18 of the top 25 in the world rankings and also features nine major championship winners, including Americans Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Justin Rose of England and Australian Adam Scott, as well as seven of the top 10 players from the final 2016-17 FedExCup standings.
Of the 78 players teeing it up at the HSBC Champions, 57 are from outside the United States. Twenty-three nations will be represented in the event. They will all be playing for a combined purse of $9.75 million, with the winner of the 72-hole, no-cut event capturing $1.66 million and 550 FedExCup points on the PGA Tour.
Matsuyama captured last year's event by seven shots, the largest margin of victory in HSBC Champions history. He began the final round with a three-shot lead over Russell Knox of Scotland and birdied six holes on Sunday against no bogeys to defeat runners-up Stenson and Daniel Berger by seven shots. Matsuyama played his final 45 holes without a bogey.
Matsuyama became the first Asian winner in 18 years of WGC competition and admits the pressure is on for a repeat performance in front of the Asian faithful.
"It is different coming back as defending champion," said Matsuyama, who is now ranked fourth in the world. "I don't want to put a lot of pressure or expectation on myself, I just want to let the tournament come to me, like it did last year.
"All I can do is try to play my best, and hopefully I will play well. One of my goals and one of the things that I'm working on now is to be able to stay on top of my game. I am still learning how to do that."
Fleetwood took last week off to spend with his newborn son. He was sixth in the Italian Open in his previous start and will have the advantage of contesting all four remaining events this season in his attempt to win the European Tour Order of Merit.
"It's difficult toward the end of the year to try and not look at the Order of Merit too much," the 26-year-old Fleetwood said. "You can't control what your rivals are doing, you've got so many good players up there you are kind of expecting them to win one.
"My goals and mindset are always the same -- I want to win the week that I'm playing, and this one would be a great one to win. I'll go out there and do my best and then there's three more events after this."
The HSBC Champions was created in November 2005 and became an official European Tour and Asian Tour event beginning in 2006. In 2009, the event was granted World Golf Championships status but was an unofficial event on the PGA Tour.
Beginning in 2010, the HSBC Champions counted as an official PGA Tour victory and offered a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour, provided the tournament was won by a PGA Tour member. Prize money, however, did not count toward the official PGA Tour money list, even if a PGA Tour member won the event.
In 2013 the event became a part of the PGA Tour's FedExCup schedule, awarding official money and FedExCup points.
The WGC-HSBC Champions is one in a series of four World Golf Championships events including the Mexico Championship (Mexico City), the Dell Technologies Match Play (Austin, Texas) and the Bridgestone Invitational (Akron, Ohio).