SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy is hoping to snare his maiden WGC-HSBC Champions title on his sixth visit to the Sheshan International Golf Club this week as he builds toward the climax of his season in Dubai.
Northern Ireland’s world number three will face strong competition when the $9.5 million event, East Asia’s richest, tees off on Thursday, with all four reigning major champions and eight of the world’s top 10 in the field.
McIlroy has not finished outside the top 11 in his previous five visits to the course with three top-five finishes, so has some justification for feeling that a win is overdue.
“It’s my sixth time in Shanghai and I’ve played well here but not quite well enough to win. Hopefully I can change that this week,” he said.
“I feel like I’m playing well enough and that I’ve showed enough good form around this golf course in the past to be confident that I can give myself a chance this week.”
McIlroy has taken a rest from strokeplay golf since securing the FedEx Cup at the PGA Tour Championship in September and will be hoping success at Sheshan can act as a springboard to another triumph at the European Tour season-ender in Dubai.
Wins at the European Tour Championship have helped him claim two of the three Race to Dubai titles he has won in the last four years. He currently trails England’s U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson in the standings.
“I wanted to come into these last few weeks of the season feeling fresh and ready to play some good golf, to give myself a chance of winning another Race to Dubai,” added McIlroy.
British Open champion Stenson won back-to-back titles in Dubai in 2013 and 2014 and the Race to Dubai in 2013 but has had less luck at the HSBC Champions, where his best finish in 10 visits was a tie for fifth in 2008.
“I haven’t had super results here in the past, but I hope I can turn that around this week and be there on Sunday afternoon when it’s all going to be decided,” said the Swede.
World number two Dustin Johnson, the champion three years ago, Martin Kaymer, who won in 2011, plus Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Japan’s in-form Hideki Matsuyama will also be challenging to take the title off Scotland’s Russell Knox.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Singapore, editing by Ken Ferris)