It took all of two events for Justin Thomas to get in the win column in the new campaign. But the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year finally took his foot off the gas just a little by deciding to skip this week's WGC-HSBC Champions. That's good news for the 78 other golfers teeing it up in the first of the season's four World Championship Events. We are taking a small breather as well, at least when it comes to this week's podcast, because I'm basically the only person not at Golf Digest Hot List testing and I didn't want to put you through a half hour of my rambling. Instead, I'll just write out the foursome I'm going with in Shanghai.
Hideki Matsuyama: After a rough finish to last season, Matsuyama looked good with a T-5 at the CIMB Classic to start his 2017-18 campaign. He returns to Sheshan International Golf Club, which he tore apart last year with a 23 under total and a seven-shot victory. After Brendan Steele kicked off the new season with a successful title defense, there's no reason to think the fourth-ranked Matsuyama can't do the same. Provided he survived the crazy pre-tournament photo shoot:
Marc Leishman: The Aussie became the latest victim of the Justin Thomas buzzsaw at last week's CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, but the good news is that Thomas is sitting this week out -- and Leishman has still had a heckuva year with wins at Bay Hill and Conway Farms. And he's a good bet to add to that in Shanghai, where he's finished solo ninth and T-11 the past two years.
Pat Perez: Following his win at the CIMB Classic, Perez snuck into that T-5 logjam at the CJ Cup with a Sunday 68. It's been eight years since he teed it up last in Shanghai and produced a T-10, but Perez is a better golfer now (He's a career-best 18th in the Official World Golf Ranking). And he's never been on a better run.
Tyrrell Hatton: Speaking of great runs, Hatton has rocketed back up the Official World Golf Ranking (He's currently No. 17) thanks to winning his last two starts on the European Tour at the British Masters and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. In his two starts in this event, he's been undone by second-round 76s and only produced finishes of T-54 and T-23. But we're riding recent form over course history this week.
Just missed: Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger.
And for those of you playing other fantasy golf formats:
Yahoo! lineup: There is no Yahoo! fantasy golf in the fall. Apparently, Yahoo! isn't a big fan of the PGA Tour's wrap-around schedule.
Knockout/One-and-done pick: Tyrrell Hatton.