Headlining the field is the well-rested and world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who is back on the course after a month layoff from tournament action. Woods, who took some heat for bypassing the TOUR Championship at East Lake, played in the inaugural event last year and believes with the additional rest he can improve on his second-place showing to David Howell.
'You can't play 'em all, and the ones which you don't play, people are going to wish you were there to play. That's just the way it's going to be,' said Woods on Tuesday in Shanghai. 'It was actually nice to get away from the game for a little bit.'
That could be bad news for the world-class field that has been assembled in Shanghai, a field that boasts 10 of the top-20 players in the world rankings, including defending champ Howell, newly minted Order of Merit winner Padraig Harrington and fellow American and world No. 2 Jim Furyk.
Howell, whose win here last season vaulted him to his best season ever and to a third-place finish on the Order of Merit, is looking forward to the challenge of repeating.
Winning the HSBC Champions last year kick-started my best season on Tour, said Howell. To finish top in an event with so many of the worlds best players ' and especially holding off Tigers challenge at the weekend - gave me a real boost and I am looking forward to my title defense.
While Howell is hoping for back-to-back HSBC titles, so to is England's Paul Casey, although not in this particular event but instead in regards to the title sponsor. Casey won the HSBC World Match Play Championship in September, his third win of the season. That victory helped Casey leapfrog Howell in the race for the Order of Merit, a position he held until Sergio Garcia bogeyed the final hole on the last day of the season at the Volvo Masters.
Also set to tee it up in Shanghai is Retief Goosen and Luke Donald, both coming off solid top-5 finishes at the TOUR Championship. Rounding out the star-studded field is Colin Montgomerie, American Chris DiMarco, rising PGA TOUR star Camilo Villegas and the Swedish pair of Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson.
The event is jointly sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine (Southern Africa) Tour, and the China Golf Association. It is the richest event in Asia with a $5 million purse.
The Golf Channel will air all four rounds live beginning Wednesday evening at 11 p.m. ET.