The WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai last weekend featured a little bit of everything throughout the week and eventually ended in some drama with a playoff between two of the world’s best players. While Xander Schauffle eventually fell to Rory McIlroy in a playoff, we saw a lot of parity towards the top alongside them.
When you click on the leaderboard for this tournament, you immediately see the two familiar names that eventually headed to the playoff. This is something we typically see in WGC events because they are no-cut, invitational events that often feature all of the world’s best.
Since this tournament is in Asia in early November, it wasn’t as star-studded as other WGC events throughout the year, but it was still loaded with big names like McIlroy, Schauffle, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Justin Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, and more.
The number of surprise names on the top was a bit surprising to me, especially because a lot of these players are not even on the PGA Tour. It is not easy to compete with the best in the world unless you are also within that realm and players like Victor Perez, who posted a fourth-place performance just a few months after his first career win on the European Tour. While Perez had been playing well, this field is much stronger than Euro Tour events, and it brings a lot of attention to his game moving forward.
Another surprise in the top five was Matthias Schwab, a 24-year-old Austrian golfer who got his European Tour card after graduating Vanderbilt. Schwab and Perez may both be blips on the map, but this is a nice showing for two golfers trying to make it big time.
If they can continue to play well, this performance against other top-end golfers will go a long way towards proving that they have actually made a leap in their games.
While the top of the board also consisted of some big-time names, we cannot fail to notice that players like Fleetwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, and Sergio Garcia all failed to shoot below par for the week. While a four-day, no-cut event is a bit strange because there are often a lot of golfers that feel as if they have no chance after two days, it doesn’t mean that we can just write this off entirely.
For Garcia, in particular, all three of his starts in Asia recently have not gone as planned. He has posted finishes of 60th, 33rd, and 53rd in his last three events after playing well in the Netherlands and in his home country of Spain. Garcia had a rough year last season and will be looking to rebound on the PGA Tour this year.
McIlroy and Schauffle were common names at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon, and the most telling thing about this weekend for both golfers was their overall consistency. The worst McIlroy shot was -4 on a single day, and Schauffle was only one worse at -3.
Both golfers showed incredible consistency while also going low each day. It’s not as though either golfer was holding back to be more consistent, but that each one was dominant in each of the four days.
While Schauffle was two strokes better than McIlroy through 18 on Sunday, McIlroy made a statement by putting his second shot within eagle range on a par-5, and that really sealed the deal. McIlroy missed the putt but tapped in for birdie to beat Schauffle on the first playoff hole.