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Shanghai boom

Rob previews the final WGC event of the year

Rob Lee Posted 2nd November 2011 view comments

If they are to live up to their name then it's important for the World Golf Championship events to move away from America.

We've seen them occasionally go to places like Australia and England, but the Bridgestone, The CA Championship and the Accenture Match Play have consistently been held in the States, so it's nice to see an event becoming established in Shanghai on a course that the top players are used to.

McIlroy: will he be the man in Shanghai?

McIlroy: will he be the man in Shanghai?

Lee Westwood has raised the prospect of holding a fifth major in Asia, but that's not something I'd like to see. Those events have been set in stone since the 1950's and I feel it would cheapen them to add another.

But I think the WGC's should take the game to new territories. China is very keen to get on the map in terms of golf and to have many of the best players go over there to play in the HSBC Champions, as they have for a few years now, is a positive thing. It will inspire their youngsters and I think that's the point.

At Quail Hollow he got on a roll and was unstoppable - and it was the same when he won the US Open, but last week he had to get dirty to win.

Rob Lee
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For Americans and Europeans, it doesn't really matter where they are held, but it's a big thing for the emerging nations. That's why I think it would make sense to establish a WGC event in India at some point in the future.

Shanghai has given us a great course and I especially like the last few holes, which are very sporty indeed. The 15th is a difficult par four and then the 16th is driveable with a three wood for many players, but with very little latitude if you get things wrong.

The 17th is a straightforward par three and then there's a risk-and-reward par five 18th over water, which makes the finish very interesting. It's a hole that can be eagled and you can make up a couple of shots, but you can also drop a couple; I recall the likes of Ernie Els and Ross Fisher struggling there over the years. It's definitely exciting.

The temperatures can be variable and if it rains then the visibility will be very poor. If you've been to Shanghai you'll know that there's a hazy cloudy feel to the atmosphere, even on a nice day. However, bad weather won't take away from what is a really good event with a really good field.

Life

World number one Luke Donald won't be there as he wants to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to life and while some people don't like to admit it, there is a world beyond golf! You can forget bogeys and birdies, but you can never forget the birth of your child. It's absolutely the right decision.

Sergio Garcia, arguably the in-form player in world golf, has pulled out for different reasons; I think two wins in two weeks have just taken too much out of him. Those victories will have left him fairly frayed mentally and perhaps a long flight from Valderrama wasn't so appealing.

If he really needed to go there, I'm sure he would have done so, but he's back in the top 20 in the world rankings, very high in the Ryder Cup rankings and things are going well. He's worked hard to get back into that position and I would have loved to have seen him there, but I perfectly understand his need to rest.

The point was made this week that for the first time in golf history, there's a chance the season will end with all the major titles and World Golf Championships going to first-time winners. Luke Donald, Nick Watney, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley hadn't won a WGC or major before this year, but I think that's just a statistical quirk and you can't read too much into it.

I don't think that statistic particularly means anything, but a caveat to that is the fact that Tiger Woods lost his form during that period; he would often pick up a WGC or a major and would have ruined the run. It's a shame he's not in action this week because he always brought something extra to Shanghai, but there are enough top names in the field to make it be a high-quality event.

Watch

I think the group to watch will be the one featuring McIlroy, Watney and Schwartzel; three guys who can hit towering iron shots, which come down on the flags like raindrops down a well. That ability should give them all a wonderful chance.

And surely McIlroy must be top dog after winning the Shanghai Masters? That may have been a limited-field event, but I'm sure he classes that as a win in his mind - and what was particularly impressive was that it was different to some of his previous successes.

At Quail Hollow he got on a roll and was unstoppable and it was the same when he won the US Open, but last week he had to get dirty to win and that will be important for his development. He went behind to Anthony Kim with a few holes to play, but fought to get back on terms before winning the play-off.

To be a real world-class winner you have to win in all sorts of ways and that victory should set him up nicely for this week.

Rob's Sky Bet Tip

I can't see past Rory McIlroy this week at 5/1 with Sky Bet for all the reasons I have identified above. He's just won in Shanghai and he has the iron shots to do well on that course. There were plenty of pluses for him last week, he could carry his form over.

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