Golf Plus

Who's Hot Heading Into the WGC-HSBC Champions?

Confidential: What About the New Tour Season Excites You?
A new season is here (yes, already). From the Big Three, to Rickie on the rise, to golf in the Olympics, here's why 2015-16 has us jazzed.

1. Kevin Na – 344 points

Na broke his streak of runner-up finishes with a T-3rd at the CIMB Classic, just two shots back of winner Justin Thomas.  But despite the run of quality play, it was another frustrating Sunday for Na as he missed several short birdie putts down the stretch, posting eight straight pars to end the tournament. The week before at the Shriners, the 32-year old was also just one under on the final nine, leaving him a shot behind Smylie Kaufman. At the Frys.com Open to start the season, he shot a 37 on the front on Sunday, allowing rookie Emiliano Grillo to move into a tie for the lead and eventually win in a playoff. On the upside, he currently sits second on the money list and in the Fed Ex standings so if he is able to secure an early win, his season would be made. And he does have the game to compete at the Sheshan International GC this week, as the course rewards players who hit lots of greens and make a lot of birdies.  Na is T-8 so far this year in greens in regulation, 2nd in strokes gained tee-to-green and T-9 in birdie average. If he can maintain his stamina -- he’s played three straight weeks after ending last season playing six of the final seven events -- he just might find himself in a familiar spot again on Sunday.  

2. Justin Rose – 305.5 points

Rose will skip this week and get ready for next week’s BMW Masters, which is also in China. Currently ranked 5th in the Euro Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, he has a shot to catch leader Rory McIlroy, but will likely need wins at the BMW and the DP World Championships to pull that off.  

3. Chris Wood – 243.33 points

His fifth place finish at the Turkish Airlines Open last week runs his top-10 streak to four straight, but things could have been better for Wood if he could have avoided a costly 71 in the third round.  The good news is the 27-year old Englishman moved up nine spots in the World Rankings to 56th, giving him a solid shot to get into the Top-50 with three events to go. He’ll play in this week’s WGC-HSBC, where he finished T-39 in 2013. He ranks 79th in greens hit, but 15th in putts once he gets there, so if can improve his ball-striking he’ll have a puncher’s chance to contend.  

4. Justin Thomas – 240.5 points

It took just 39 starts for Thomas to accomplish what many predicted he would: win on the PGA Tour. His record setting 26-under performance at the CIMB Classic was good for a one shot win over Adam Scott, and at just 22, put him firmly in the pack of emerging youngsters likely to be a factor on the PGA Tour for years to come.  Thomas’s stats bode fairly well for Sheshan -- he is 13th in greens in regulation, 3rd in total putting and 1st in birdie average so far this season -- but he’s never played the course and might be due for a cool down after a win and a T-3 through the new season’s first three weeks.  

5. Lucas Bjerregaard – 232.33 points

As expected, Bjerregaard’s game just wasn’t right for the Maxx Royal course in Turkey last week as he finished T-26. Trouble came in the third round where he only hit 12 greens on route to a 75. He didn’t qualify for the WGC-HSBC but will head to China nonetheless to get ready for next week’s BMW Masters.  

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick – 232 points

Fitzpatrick also finished T-26th in Turkey, but thanks to his win at this year’s British Masters, the 21-year old will make his debut the WGC-HSBC this week. Of course, the long trip from Turkey to China doesn’t leave him with much time to prepare on a course he has never played. Plus, Fitzpatrick ranked dead-last in putting at the Turkish Airlines Open, so he’ll need to improve with the flat stick if he is going to contend at Sheshan.  

7. Patrick Reed – 204 points

With a T-10 at the CIMB and a T-3 at the Hong Kong Open, Reed has his first back-to-back top-10s since 2013 when he finished T-7 at the John Deere Classic and T-9 at the RBC Canadian Open. Guess what happen in his next start?  He won the Wyndham Championship. He finished T-22 at the HSBC last year -- despite ranking a dismal 141st in greens in regulation. But he was T-6 in that category at the CIMB, so look for him to play well again this week.  

8. Soren Kjeldsen – 188.01 points

After a week’s rest, Kjeldsen kicked-off his Race to Dubai with a T-11 in Turkey, his fourth top-11 finish in his last five starts. He’ll make his fourth trip to Sheshen for the WGC-HSBC where he finished T-10th in 2009, his last start. Kjeldsen was T-17 in greens hit and T-27 in putting in Turkey, and his final round 66 could give him some momentum heading into this week.  

9. Jason Bohn – 185 points

The long-time Tour vet is off to a great start with a T-3 at the Frys and T-2 at the Shriners. After a week off, he’ll head to Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship where he has to be counted among the favorites. He was T-2 last year, the first year it was played at the Country Club of Jackson, and also finished 2nd in 2012 and T-9 in 2013.   

10. Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 183.33 points

The 26-year old from Thailand couldn’t have picked a better time to finish 3rd.  With that result in Turkey, Aphibarnrat moved up to 41st in the World Rankings and ninth in the Race to Dubai, putting him in an ideal position to finish the year in the top-50 and earn a trip to the Masters and many other key events in 2016. But he will face an uphill battle this week, as he ranks 143rd in greens hit and is currently 20-over par in his 12 competitive rounds at Sheshan to date.  

Inside the rankings:

*Off the GOLFstats player rankings, we determine the hottest players based on the last nine weeks on the PGA Tour. Keys to the system:

*132 points for regular tour win. All finishers in top-50 get points via a declining scale.

*198 points for a win in WGC events and the Players Championship, 264 points for a major win.

*Points are lost for missed cuts, DQs or WDs: 10 for regular events, 15 for WGC and Players, 20 for majors

*All points get degraded 1/3 after weeks 4, 5 & 6, and by 2/3 for weeks 7, 8 & 9

More From the Web