Just four weeks into the 2015-16 PGA Tour season and the first World Golf Championships event is already upon us with this week's HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
The field is absolutely loaded with big names and there's extra incentive for the U.S.-born players to have a solid showing, as it's the final event of the calendar year that offers all-important Ryder Cup points.
Bubba Watson returns as the tournament's defending champion, but -- surprise -- he's not one of our favorites this week.
Here's a look at the five players you'll want to keep an eye on in China with a bonus "dark-horse" pick.
5. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T26 Frys.com Open
Reason to watch: This is McIlroy's second start of the season and he'll be playing hurt after an early-week bout with food poisoning. Because of that, you might be reluctant to call him a favorite this week. That's your prerogative. As far as I'm concerned, I say fear the sick golfer. We've seen it before -- guys playing under the weather shooting lights out, likely because they're preoccupied with getting their ailing body through the round instead of worrying about the shots. And, of course, the less shots you take, the quicker you play. You don't need a doctor to tell you that.
4. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Second at CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: The Aussie enters this week after a fine showing in Malaysia where he finished second in the CIMB Classic. Beautiful start to the season for the former Masters champ. You can always rely on Scott to be in the mix, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I expect to see him win more. In his last three starts at the HSBC Champions, Scott has finished no worse than T12. That, combined with the confidence gained from last week's high finish, lead me to believe he'll be a serious factor this week.
3. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Debut
Reason to watch: This will be Spieth's first PGA Tour start since winning the Tour Championship to cap off an incredible dream of a 2014-15 season. Expectations for Spieth are through the roof after a season in which he counted the first two majors of the year among his five victories. That's going to be hard (dear we say "impossible") to top. One thing is for sure, Spieth can't wait to get going after some well-earned rest.
2. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Debut
Reason to watch: Always one of the best, most consistent players throughout the course of a season, Johnson won this tournament in 2013, which was also the last time he played it. Every year it seems he's knocking on the door of a massive season, threatening to knock off that first major win. Though this week isn't a major, it is a big event and a huge opportunity for Johnson to get the mojo going in the right direction.
1. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T25 at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: Fowler finished T3 here at the HSBC a year ago and, while it may not have been as otherworldly as Spieth and Jason Day, he's also coming off an incredible PGA Tour season. That, coupled with last year's high finish at this venue, lead me to believe Fowler will be a big factor this time around as well.
DARK HORSE: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Reason to watch: This European Tour rookie notched his first victory at the British Masters in early October. That allowed him to reach this grand stage in a World Golf Championships event. Let's see if Fitzpatrick -- who left Northwestern early to pursue his professional career -- makes the most of the opportunity.
Here's how my five to watch fared last week at the CIMB Classic:
5. Sergio Garcia -- T24
4. Gary Woodland -- T56
3. Ryan Moore -- T10
2. Patrick Reed -- T10
1. Henrik Stenson -- T47
DARK HORSE: Anirban Lahiri -- T21
Perhaps you've seen the new rage on golf courses lately, the alternative to golf carts -- GolfBoards.
Shaped like a skateboard/surfboard/Segway hybrid, the GolfBoard is motorized and it turns depending on which way the person "riding" it leans.
Well, just like the skateboard, surfboard, golf cart and Segway before it, if you use a GolfBoard other than the way it's meant to be used, there are painful consequences...
Like this guy for instance, on a video that was posted to YouTube by user Calvin Lennberg on Monday:
Luckily, it looks like the man made it away relatively unscathed.
That wasn't the case for PGA Tour winner Jesper Parnevik on a Segway a while back if you remember:
A video posted by Jesper Parnevik (@jesperparnevik) on
Here's more on the GolfBoard:
Sometimes you've got to do weird things to make the sponsors happy.
Case in point: This video coming in from Shanghai before the start of the WGC-HSBC Champions that features Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler dressed in traditional Chinese garb while hammering away at the drums:
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 3, 2015
Stick to the day job, boys.
More fun photos here:
— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) November 3, 2015
— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) November 3, 2015
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