WGC-HSBC Champions Preview, Picks & Analysis
PATRICK CANTLAY is something of an enigma. He doesn’t have a great deal to say for himself, preferring to do his talking on the golf course. When talk turns to the twentysomethings who are likely to dominate the game in the years that lie ahead, names such as Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele are routinely mentioned.
Cantlay seldom features in such discussions. And that is a mystery. In the past two years he has enjoyed 19 top-10 finishes and two victories and this year he finished third behind Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship. And he is still only 27 years old. By anybody’s standards, that is impressive, and proof positive that he deserves his place in the world rankings and is highly likely to win a major before very much longer.
He had a stellar amateur career. Cantlay qualified for the 2011 US Open through sectional qualifying and was one of three amateurs to make the cut along with Russell Henley and Brad Benjamin. Rounds of 70 and 72 over the weekend ensured he was low amateur. His back nine 30 was the best in the tournament and he finished in a tie for 21st. The following week, Cantlay shot the lowest round in PGA Tour history by an amateur when he shot a course record 60 at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. In February 2016, his caddie, Chris Roth, died in a hit-and-run accident in Newport Beach, California while Roth and Cantlay were enjoying a night out. Roth had been a high school teammate of Cantlay's and his death had a huge impact on Cantlay.
In his second start of the 2018 season, Cantlay won his first PGA Tour title at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It’s clearly a tournament he loves - he finished second to Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 and lost in a playoff to Kevin Na this year.
He will be one of the leading contenders in the field for the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, where he will be joined by defending champion Schauffele, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose in Shanghai.
Schauffele has gone from strength to strength since last year’s victory, winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the PGA TOUR, tying second at the 2019 Masters Tournament and third at the US Open.
Schauffele, an American whose Chinese-speaking mother accompanied him to Shanghai last year, said: “Winning my first World Golf Championships at the HSBC Champions last year in front of my family was amazing! Coming through such a world class field definitely gave me the confidence to know that I can deliver in the big pressure moments so I am really looking forward to attempting my first successful title defence in Shanghai in a few months. It was an unbelievable field last year but I think this year sounds like it is going to be even stronger with the announcement that all of the world’s top four will be there.”
McIlroy has already won three time sin 2019 and having finished in the top five on three previous occasions, will be looking to finally add this prestigious trophy to his trophy cabinet while Rose added a 10th PGA Tour victory to his collection earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Open champion Shane Lowry, 2018 Open champion Francesco Molinari, 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2017 Masters champion, Sergio Garcia and multiple major winners Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are also in the field for a tournament that has become known as Asia’s Major. Other major winners include Danny Willett, fresh from his win at the BMW PGA Championship, Henrik Stenson and Louis Oosthuizen in a tournament boasting a prize fund of $10.25m.
Lowry won his first major at Royal Portrush earlier this summer, ensuring a fairy-tale ending to what was The Open’s first visit to Ireland since 1951. With his sights now set firmly on qualifying for the 2020 Ryder Cup, Lowry is eying the WGC-HSBC Champions as an important landmark to set him on his way. “I am looking forward to turning up in Shanghai as a Major Champion to compete for the final World Golf Championships title of the year,” said Lowry. “It has been a very special time for me since winning The Open and I have honestly enjoyed every minute of it. However, with the European Ryder Cup qualifying process kicking off last month, I am now looking to finish the season on a high and the WGC-HSBC Champions is where I have all my focus. Even although it is early days in the qualifying process, getting myself up the Ryder Cup standings will help me relax over the off season and enjoy Christmas all the more.”
Jonathan Castleman, HSBC’s Global Head of Brand Partnerships, said: “We are thrilled to announce the world’s current four top ranked golfers will join our defending champion Xander Schauffele at the WGC– HSBC Champions later this year. As our flagship event in global golf, such early announcement of the world’s best players is testament to this tournament which has earned the reputation of ‘Asia’s Major’. While Brooks Koepka heads the world golf rankings currently, the WGC-HSBC Champions is likely to play a crucial role in deciding who will finish the year at World No. 1. We look forward to welcoming golf fans and the world’s best players to Shanghai in October.”
Rory McIlroy. Looking for fourth win of 2019
Justin Rose. Back to his best after a quiet summer
Henrik Stenson. Still a magnificent ball striker
Rory McIlroy. Hoping to prove a point to Brooks Koepka
Justin Rose. Wants a big finish to the year
Henrik Stenson. Much depends on his putting
Xander Schauffele. Looking for successful title defence
Patrick Cantlay. A class act
Louis Oosthuizen. Why does he not win more?
Danny Willett. Oozing with confidence again
Patrick Reed. Playing some fine golf
Jordan Spieth. Whisper it, but he’s looking the part again
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