Matt Griffin and Michael Hendry continue to reap the rewards of good play over the Australian summer as they are part of a nine strong Australasian assault on the WGC HSBC Champions event in China.
The pair earned their start at the no cut, US$9.75 million event courtesy of their 1-2 finish on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit.
The same qualifying criteria also saw Hendry and Griffin tee up in the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year, both tournaments representing significant opportunities for the Japan Tour regulars.
Griffin makes his first appearance at the Sheshan International Golf Club this week while Hendry teed up in the event in 2014 though found the going tough to finish well back.
Results aside, however, the opportunity to tee up in such an elite field, including World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, is an invaluable experience.
While Griffin and Hendry won’t be among the favourites this week some of the Australasian contingent will be with last week’s runner-up, Marc Leishman, heading the charge.
Leishman has risen to 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings on the back of a hugely successful 2017 and has started the new season in the same fashion.
His playoff loss to Justin Thomas at the PGA TOUR’s inaugural CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in Korea last week suggest his game is in a good place and his confidence is high a, formidable combination.
The laid back Victorian also has form on his side at the venue, two previous appearances reaping a T11 and ninth place finish in 2014 and 2016.
While Leishman will know what to expect from the Sheshan course Jason Day makes his debut at this venue but after an encouraging performance in Korea last week could easily be a contender this week.
Inconsistency has plagued the Queenslander much of the year and was in evidence again last week where Day made enough birdies to be among the leaders but wasted too much of the hard work with clumsy mistakes.
His best is still among the most impressive in the game and on any given week Day is capable of producing unbeatable golf.
While Day makes his debut fellow Queenslander Adam Scott heads to Sheshan International course for the fourth time, his best showing coming a year ago when T12.
Scott’s last two outings have been lacklustre, his play at both the Presidents Cup and again in Korea last week less than he is capable of though his weekend play improved.
Rounds of 70-71 on Saturday and Sunday saw him jump from 56th to 25th and perhaps suggest a turnaround in form for the 2013 Masters champion.
The last of the Australasians teeing up this week are Scott Hend, Ashley Hall, Andrew Dodt and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Fox is in the field courtesy of his top 30 position on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai while Hend’s position on the Asian Tour Order of Merit sees him qualify.
Fox makes his debut at the tournament and is fresh from a week off though three consecutive missed cuts prior to the break was hardly an ideal warm-up.
Hend, too, has been out of sorts in recent weeks and while this marks his fourth appearance at the tournament his best to date has been T19.
Andrew Dodt earns his second start at the tournament where he endured a roller coaster in 2016.
Rounds of 70-80-76-66 included a little bit of everything, his Sunday score suggesting he is more than capable of going low and he will be looking for a repeat of that come Thursday.
Hall makes his debut at the tournament after a decent showing at the WA Open, his 5-under total including 19 birdies suggesting most parts of his game are in good shape.
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