Thursday, September 30, 2010

WGC-HSBC Champions – Caddies share how to finish strong at Sheshan

WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan – One of the most exciting finishes in golf?

Ernie Els, Sheshan 18th hole
Ernie Els teeing off on the 18th hole at Sheshan International Golf Club

The WGC-HSBC Champions, which takes place this month (Nov), has rapidly built itself a global reputation, not just as one of the world’s leading events, but for both the quality of the Sheshan International Golf Club course and the thrills and drama of the closing holes.

Reigning HSBC Caddie of the Year Billy “Foz” Foster, who has guided Lee Westwood through his rise to superstar status sat down with Tim Maitland to explain how to plot your way through the closing holes of the Shanghai course, including the rollercoaster 16th, which Phil Mickelson called “one of the coolest holes” in world golf. Foster was joined by fellow-Yorkshireman Phil “Wobbly” Morbey, Ross Fisher’s caddie whose 30 years on tour include long spells with legends Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Sheshan International Golf Club - an overview
The 7,266 yard (6,6643 metre) Nelson & Haworth designed layout is becoming famous for producing some of the best greens the players see anywhere in the world all year and some of the most spectacular, nail-chewing, rollercoaster-ride drama in the closing holes.
Wobbly: It’s a course that makes the caddies think a bit more, because you’ve got options on how to play it. You’ve got to suss out how your player is playing and how he’s swinging it and what the situation is in the tournament because it changes whether you’re winning or losing, especially the last few holes. There’s a few ways of playing the course; depending on where they stick the flags and where they stick the tees, your strategy can change. You can only lose it the first two days so you have to play it a bit more sensibly.
I think it’s a very good course and you’ve got to hit a lot of good shots.
Foz: It does give you a lot of options off the tee. You can be more defensive or if you want to attack it you can get some better lines into the greens.

Hole 14 Par 5 594 yards 543 metres

Foz: You’re trying to thread your driver up the right hand side, but it’s very easy to hit it into the big bunker on the left. If there’s not much wind you can get home in two, but again you’re coming on over the water and across the angle of the green. It’s easy to hit it over the back on the left side of the green. You can also hit it to finish just short left of the green, but most guys at this level, if they’ve got a chance to “flag” a three wood or five wood, they’re going to go straight at it and try and make eagle.

Wobbly: If you’re on the fairway you’d have to go for it. If you just overcut you’re second shot though, it will take the bank and go back into the water, so it needs a good shot to get it on the green.

Hole 15 Par 4 487 yards 445 metres

Foz: It’s a horrible hole.

Wobbly: The green is really tough here.

Foz: Most guys will go straight over the bunker on the left side of the fairway and try and get it right to the bottom of the hill, leaving a seven or eight iron. The green is a minefield. If you don’t hit this fairway you ain’t hitting this green in two. There are three or four different levels to this green and it’s very important to be on the right level. It’s probably the toughest hole on the golf course.

Wobbly: If you don’t get in the right position on the green with your second shot it’s a definite three putt… unless you hole a 10-footer for par.

Hole 16 Par 4 288 yards 263 metres

Foz: This is a great hole… a great hole! Death or glory! This is where you’ve got to (take a deep breath), stand up and hit your shot. You can take the chicken’s way out; a four or five iron down the left side, leaving yourself a little wedge into the green and you’d probably make two birdies out of four. You’d probably score better than what you’d do with a three wood or a driver, but you just can’t help yourself! You see a chance to make a two and an easy three. It’s always a little cutty driver or a massive strong three wood and if you miss the green two yards right you’re in trouble and you’re making bogey.

Wobbly: And the pot bunker on the left of the green… you’re dead there as well. Usually they have the pin pushed front left towards that bunker and if you miss it left you’ve got no shot.

Foz: It’s a fantastic golf hole and it goes to show that length isn’t everything. Some of the best par fours in the world are short par fours. This hole it’s quite easy to make eagle and it’s quite easy to make double-bogey. That’s the beauty of the hole!

Wobbly: They’re great finishing holes. You can win it or lose it on these last three or four holes.

Hole 17 Par 3 212 yards 194 metres
Foz: It’s normally a seven iron off the tee, maybe more this year. It’s a pretty funky green. You’re looking to get it on the right level and if you’re not on the right level it’s a tough two putt. It’s a fairly straight-forward par three although it can run away from you at the back of the green.
Wobbly: It’s a middle of the green shot. You can’t be too fancy here. Just take your par. 

Hole 18 Par 5 538 yards 492 metres

Foz: You’re hitting across the fairway a little bit and there’s a big down slope right where most guys will finish so they’re either right on the top of the hill or they’re on the down slope, which makes the second shot very, very difficult.

It’s a very subtle hazard. You’re hitting off a down slope, but you’re trying to get the ball up because you want the ball to be coming in from as high as possible because the green, which has water on three sides, runs away from you and it’s pretty firm. If you’re on that down slope, you’re better off laying up.

Wobbly: We were there one day last year… with a four iron and it still wasn’t even worth it. That’s where Ernie screwed up last year, playing off that down slope he went in the water.

Foz: If you don’t have a flat lie for your second shot you are just asking for trouble. You could do worse than hit it into the left greenside bunker, but even that’s a difficult shot because the green’s rock hard and runs away from you.

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