HSBC: Best bets

Mark Kendall looks at the leading contenders and top wagers for this week's WGC-HSBC Champions in China

By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK.   Last Updated: 31/10/12 2:17pm

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Justin Rose: Amongst the favourites to win in China this week

Justin Rose: Amongst the favourites to win in China this week

Sky Bet

With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both absent, it is Luke Donald who heads the betting for the final WGC event of the season - the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China.

Despite the absence of the two top-ranked players on the planet, a high-quality 78-man field has assembled in China, with seven of the eight remaining members of the world's top-10 amongst those battling it out for a $7million purse.

Having previously been staged at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai, this year the tournament will be hosted for the first time by Mission Hills GC on the Olazabal course - a lay-out designed by Europe's victorious Ryder Cup captain.

Although it will be a new track to the majority of the field, it was used for the Omega World Cup between 2007 and 2009.

The par 72 course is just over 7,320 yards and, while not a monster, is described as being long and challenging with protection coming by way of small greens and heavy bunkering - thus putting a premium on accurate iron-play.

However, it is also worth bearing in mind that there are five par-fives, as well as five par-threes, meaning there is likely to be a slight advantage for longer hitters.

The market leaders (Sky Bet odds):

Luke Donald (10/1): Consecutive top-3 finishes in his past two events mean that Donald heads to Mission Hills in good spirits and fine form. He has not quite the heights of 2011 when he won the money-list title on both sides of the Atlantic, but still has two tournament victories to his credit - although the second of those was back in May when he claimed the BMW PGA Championship. The Englishman was third on his last appearance in this event in 2010.
Latest strokeplay form: 3-3-28-26
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 64.96 (T99)
World ranking: 3

Justin Rose (13/1): A superbly consistent season has seen Rose climb to a career-high of fifth in the world rankings. He finished as runner-up behind Brandt Snedeker at the Tour Championship, played a crucial role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory and then won in Turkey. Has a decent record in China with top-10s in two of his last three visits and his exceptional 'Greens in Regulation' record should stand him in good stead this week.
Latest strokeplay form: 6-2-16-MC
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 70.34 (1)
World ranking: 5

Phil Mickelson (18/1): The American left-hander has an outstanding record in this event having walked away with the title in both 2007 and 2009, allbeit at a different venue. Mickelson ended the PGA Tour season in strong fashion in the play-offs, claiming a runner-up finish at the BWM Championship. However, he has not played competitively since America's deflating Ryder Cup loss at Medinah, although the fact he will get the chance to compete against a number of the victorious European side could inspire him this week.
Latest strokeplay form: 15-2-4-38
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 64.14 (118)
World ranking: 19

Louis Oosthuizen (18/1): Oosthuizen has enjoyed another very solid season as he continues to cement his reputation as one of the world's elite performers. The South African has been especially impressive in recent months with a string of good finishes seeing him crack the world's top-10 for the first time back in September. He has played twice in China in the past month, finishing fourth and sixth last week, and placed seventh at this event last year.
Latest strokeplay form: 6-4-MC-23
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 68.78 (15)
World ranking: 11

Dustin Johnson (18/1): Johnson ended the PGA Tour regular season in blistering fashion with top-10s at all four play-off events. That ensured he earned selection for the Ryder Cup where he was victorious in every one of his three matches, although his efforts would ultimately prove in vain. Finished 47th on his last outing at the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland, but his superb long game should stand him in good stead this week.
Latest strokeplay form: 47-10-6-4
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 65.75 (78)
World ranking: 15

Ian Poulter (18/1): European golf's man of the moment after his exploits at Medinah, Poulter made a successful return to individual competition at the BMW Masters in Shanghai last week when a final round of 65 saw him charge into a fourth-placed finish. With this week's test in mind, the Englishman will also be encouraged by the fact he led the field in greens in regulation last week. Poulter has a strong track record in Asia having won in Hong Kong in 2010 and has also finished in the top-15 of this event in three of the past four years.
Latest strokeplay form: 4-12-47-36
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 61.61 (165)
World ranking: 26

Lee Westwood (20/1): Although he has won the Ryder Cup, finished third at The Masters and posted a European Tour victory in Sweden, Westwood is still likely to finish this season somewhat disappointed with his efforts. His well-documented frailties on and around the green have frustrated his bid to land that elusive first major crown and appear to have rather knocked his confidence. But the Englishman remains a consummate ball-striker and undoubtedly still has the ability to challenge at an event in which he has twice finished as runner-up.
Latest strokeplay form: 14-30-2-13
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 69.75 (3)
World ranking: 4

Adam Scott (20/1): Scott's 2012 season will forever be remembered for his meltdown at Royal Lytham, although the Australian showed considerable character to end the season well with two top-10s in the FedEx Cup play-offs. However, he has not played since the Tour Championship and could be a little rusty heading in this week, although he will take heart from a solid record at the event where he has finished 11-25-6 in his last three appearances.
Latest strokeplay form: 19-6-7-62
Course form: n/a
2012 GIR %: 66.57 (49)
World ranking: 6

Best of the rest:

Jason Dufner (22/1): The 35-year-old American has enjoyed a breakthrough season this year and has been hugely consistent throughout. Tied second in Australia before finishing 16th last week in Malaysia - where he took an eight at a par-three in the second round - his superb iron-play could be rewarded at Mission Hills.

Martin Kaymer (30/1): The German posted four rounds in the 60s last week and ranked first in fairways hit and fifth in greens. Boosted by his starring role at the Ryder Cup, the German looks to be rediscovering his best form and will want to make a bold defence of the crown he won 12 months ago.

Francesco Molinari (30/1): The Italian will have great memories of this week's course having won the 2009 World Cup there with brother Edoardo. He also won this event two years ago and, interestingly, claimed the Open de Espana this year on the only other Olazabal-designed course on European Tour rotation.

Conclusion:

Given the make-up of their fields, it is unsurprising that WGC events are usually won by elite level players and it would take a brave man to back against that happening again this week. The absence of both McIlroy and Woods opens things up rather more and you can make cases for a number of players.

Rose makes plenty of appeal given his form and outstanding stats this season and produced four sub-70 rounds last week without ever quite threatening the leaders. If his putter heats up then his long game is in such good nick he must be fancied to contend once again.

It was a similar story for Louis Oosthuizen last time out as he finished alongside Rose in sixth in Shanghai. The South African has played twice in China in recent weeks finishing fourth and sixth and has the weapons to win at Mission Hills.

Tee to green Dufner is up there with the very best in this field and already has two wins to his credit in 2012. As he has done virtually all season, the laid-back American performed well in his last two outings in Australia and Malaysia and looks decent value to get in the mix again.

Best bets:

Justin Rose win at 13/1
Louis Oosthuizen each way at 18/1
Jason Dufner each way at 22/1

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WGC-HSBC Champions 2012

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