HSBC Champions - Six to watch

Watch all four rounds of the HSBC Champions event live on Sky Sports. Coverage starts on Thursday at 4am on SS2

Last Updated: 03/11/08 11:00pm

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Mickelson: defending champion

Mickelson: defending champion

Sky Bet

Less than a week after Robert Karlsson was crowned the new European number one, the 2009 season kicks off in Shanghai.

European Tour stats package

Karlsson became the first Swede to secure the coveted Order of Merit title when none of his nearest rivals were able to overtake his money haul at last week's Volvo Masters in southern Spain.

Yet, within five days of his momentous coronation at Valderrama, the 39-year-old returns to action in China to begin the defence of his crown.

And for the fourth year in a row, the lucrative HSBC Champions event is being played at Sheshan International Golf Club.

Opened in 2004, this tree-lined venue is reasonably flat although the greens are quick and undulating with water hazards coming into play on 11 holes.

So who are this week's major players?

Paul Casey: A man with excellent Sheshan form. In three previous visits has not finished outside the top-ten - 7th-6th-9th.

Ross Fisher: Lost a play-off in this tournament 12 months ago since when he has climbed into the world's top-40.

Robert Karlsson: Still on a high following his Costa del Sol success on Sunday. However, he may struggle to focus on his golf with the dust hardly settled on his prestigious achievement.

Anthony Kim: America's new young star will be one of the main attractions in Shanghai this weekend. During 2008 has collected a brace of titles, while posting four other top-three finishes.

Phil Mickelson: The world No 2 and defending champion has played no competitive golf since contesting the Tour Championship in September.

Camilo Villegas: His back-to-back victories on the PGA Tour during September lifted the Colombian into the world's top 10. Villegas won two of the four Fed-Ex Cup play-off events that included the end-of-season Tour Championship.

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