Stat attack!: WGC-HSBC Champions preview

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With the WGC-HSBC Champions event taking place in China this week, there’s no better time to take a look the best traveling golfer on the pro tour. More then 20 countries are represented in the field at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, and although Americans have won five of the last seven WGC events, it’s an international star and an international tour that takes center stage this week. 

This is the fifth event of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season. More importantly it is the second event in the Final Series on the European Tour, as that circuit counts down toward its 2013-14 season finale in Dubai later this month. Eleven of the 12 players on Europe’s Ryder Cup team are present in China – all except Rory McIlroy, who’s taking time off to prepare for a lawsuit against his former management company – but one player is worth eyeing more than any other. Sergio Garcia (shown), now third on the Official World Golf Ranking, just might be the world’s best traveling golfer.

Garcia has four runner-up finishes in his last eight PGA Tour starts, and all have come in different parts of the world – Connecticut, England, Ohio* and Malaysia. In the last 12 months he has played in 10 different countries, with wins in Thailand and Qatar and runner-ups in four. For his career, he has five official victories in Asia, one less than Australian Adam Scott as the best total among players in this week’s field. (*-Granted Connecticut and Ohio aren’t that far apart, but try telling someone from New England that his climate is the same as that of the Great Lakes region.)

Sergio Garcia travels in the last 12 months (since the 2013 HSBC Champions)

 Country Events Best finish
 United States 13 2 WGC-Bridgestone, T-2 Travelers
 England 2 T-2 British Open
 China 1 4 WGC-HSBC Champions
 South Africa 1 T-2 Nedbank
 Thailand 1 Won Thailand Golf Championship
 Abu Dhabi 1 T-19 Abu Dhabi Championship
 Qatar 1 Won Commercialbank Qatar Masters
 Spain 1 T-38 Spanish Open
 Germany 1 T-12 BMW International Open
 Malaysia 1 T-2 CIMB Classic

Career wins in Asia for the top players in the WGC-HSBC Champions field

 Player World
rank
Asian
wins
Victories
 Adam
 Scott
2 6 2002 Qatar Masters, 2005 Johnnie Walker Classic (China), 2005 Singapore Open, 2006 Singapore Open, 2008 Qatar Masters, 2010 Singapore Open 
 Sergio
 Garcia
3 5 2002 Korean Open, 2008 HSBC Champions (China), 2012 Iskandar Johor Open (Malaysia), 2013 Thailand Golf Championship, 2014 Qatar Masters
 Henrik
 Stenson
5 2 2006 Qatar Masters, 2007 Dubai Desert Classic
 Justin
 Rose
6 1 2002 Chunichi Crowns (Japan)
 Billy
 Horschel
12 0  
 Martin
 Kaymer
13 4 2008 Abu Dhabi, 2010 Abu Dhabi, 2011 Abu Dhabi, 2011 HSBC Champions (China)
 Jordan
 Spieth
14 0  
 Graeme
 McDowell
17 1 2008 Ballantine’s Championship (South Korea)

Missing from the résumé

As good as Garcia has played around the world, there are a few things missing from his record. The 34-year-old Spaniard notably has not won a major championship, and because his HSBC Champions win came before the tournament came under the World Golf Championships umbrella, he also does not have a WGC victory. He’s one of two players in the world’s top 10 who have not won either type of championship.

Highest-ranked players without a major or a WGC victory

 Player World rank Best major Best WGC
 Sergio Garcia 3 2, four times 2, 2014 Bridgestone
 Rickie Fowler 10 2, two times T-2, 2011 Bridgestone
 Billy Horschel 12 T-4, 2013 U.S. T-17, 2014 Match Play
 Jordan Spieth 14 2, 2014 Masters T-5, 2014 Match Play
 Jimmy Walker 18 T-7, 2014 PGA T-17, 2014 Match Play
 Victor Dubuisson 19 T-7, 2014 PGA T-2, 2014 Match Play

International accounting

Garcia’s runner-up finish at the CIMB Classic pushed him past the $33 million mark in PGA Tour earnings for his career. He’s ninth on the Tour's the all-time money list, and he has made more money than any other European-born player. He’s the third-ranked international player, trailing Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.

Most PGA Tour earnings by an international player

 Player Rank Career earnings
 Vijay Singh  3 $68,591,424
 Ernie Els 5 47,744,740
 Sergio Garcia 9 38,295,986
 Adam Scott 10 37,297,653
 Luke Donald 14 32,242,519
 K.J. Choi 17 30,039,243
 Justin Rose 18 29,204,533
 Retief Goosen 19 28,976,691
 Stuart Appleby 20 28,844,685

Watch out for Poulter

Garcia has played the HSBC four times, making a return to the tournament with a fourth-place finish in 2013 after an absence of four years. He is one of just three past champions in this week’s field - with Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer – as Dustin Johnson, last year’s winner, is still on a leave of absence from professional golf. Two-time winner Phil Mickelson chose not to play, and as of Tuesday afternoon, 2010 champ Francesco Molinari was still on the alternate list. 

Poulter represents Garcia’s greatest challenge. The Englishman won in 2012 and was runner-up in 2013, having posted identical 21-under scores each year. He’s the only player to score 20-under or less two times in the HSBC Champions event.

Poulter is one of seven players who have won multiple WGC events. Tiger Woods (18) and Geoff Ogilvy (3) are the only players with more WGC titles than Poulter, who is tied with Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan at two wins. 

Poulter has seven top-five finishes in WGC events, one fewer than Garcia. Tiger Woods is the only player with more than 10 top-five finishes, his 25 easily outdistances runner-up Ernie Els, who has nine.

Lowest 72-hole scores in the HSBC Champions: 2005-2013

 Total Year Player Scores Finish
 -24 2013 Dustin Johnson 69-63-66-66—264 Won
 -21 2013 Ian Poulter 71-67-63-66—267 2
 -21 2012 Ian Poulter 69-68-65-65—267 Won
 -20 2013 Graeme McDowell 69-69-64-66—268 3
 -20 2011 Martin Kaymer 69-68-68-63—268 Won
 -20 2005 David Howell 65-67-68-68—268 Won

The most top-five finishes in World Golf Championships history

 Player Top-fives Wins
 Tiger Woods 25 18
 Ernie Els 9 2
 Phil Mickelson 8 2
 Rory McIlroy 8 1
 Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia 8 0
 Ian Poulter 7 2
 Justin Rose, Stewart Cink, Vijay Singh 7 1
 Retief Goosen 7 0

One final thought: Scott and Watson are among those players making their season debuts this week. Scott has had better luck in his career in season openers than Watson. Although neither player has ever won his first PGA Tour start of the season, Scott does have six top-10 finishes with a runner-up at the 2007 Tournament of Champions. Watson has only finished in the top 10 of his season debut two times in his career.

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