Jon Rahm has arrived in Shanghai for his maiden appearance at the WGC-HSBC Champions in buoyant mood, as he aims to further enhance a stunning first year in professional golf, which has brought titles on both sides of the Atlantic.
The World Number Five tees it up at Sheshan International Golf Club this week looking to make up ground on current Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, who is also in the field.
Rahm is currently third in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, behind the Englishman and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia. He has an impressive record in World Golf Championship events in 2017, finishing in second place in the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay and tied third in the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Europe’s highest ranked player is confident of bouncing back from the disappointment of a missed cut in front of his home support last week at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
Also teeing it up at the final WGC of the year is Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. The 2016 Open Champion finished in tied second place last year behind World Number Four Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who returns to defend his title.
The field also includes World Number One Dustin Johnson and home favourite and European Tour winner Li Haotong, whose impressive season includes a third place finish in his debut appearance at The Open.
Jon Rahm: “Not many players get to say this, but I accomplished a lot more than I set my mind to at the beginning of the year. It’s very special and I’m blessed to be in the position that I am in today.
“I accomplished a lot of goals that weren’t in my mind at the beginning of the year, such as top 10 in the world, European Tour Member, winning on The European Tour. There are many things that I set my mind to that I ended up doing.
“I didn’t have my best stuff last week. I was sad not to make the cut in my home country and my home event but I come here hopeful. The game feels good. Last week for me was a special week, a lot was going on, a lot more than I expected so that’s probably why maybe I didn’t perform my best, you never know, but the game feels good.”
“I’m just excited to be here in China. It’s a great country. Shanghai is a beautiful city. I’m glad I got to go downtown to see what they have done. It really is beautiful, and I can’t wait for the tournament to get started.
“The course is in great shape. It’s a beautiful course. I think it suits my game well, so hopefully I can play good.”
Henrik Stenson: “We had a good week here at the HSBC Champions last year, and of course we hope we can be putting ourselves in the mix come Sunday. That’s what you want to do and that’s where you need to be if you want to win golf tournaments, even though last year was maybe a slightly different mission.
“I was in good position to win my second Race to Dubai, and needed a strong tournament in the last couple of weeks, and I managed to get that here. I wasn’t really in the mix for winning the tournament. Hideki was playing outstanding and left everyone in the dust. So it was more of a race for second and I managed to get to that one.
“You know, still pretty pleased with the year but it’s certainly a bit of a hangover from last year, I would say. Looking ahead, I managed to get that win at The Open in 2016 and that was obviously a big dream of mine to win a Major, to win The Open Championship, and at this point, I hope I can give myself another couple of good shots at winning another few Majors, so that’s really in the back of my mind.
“And also, it’s a Ryder Cup year. I’ve had some of my best memories on the golf course playing on the European Ryder Cup Team, and I’m motivated to try and be there in Paris and win the Cup back in the fall.”
Li Haotong: “No matter how soft or how hard the greens are, you have to be really precise on this course. As long as you hit the right way to the fairway, you will always have a chance to win this tournament.
“This is one of the tournaments that I felt that I can win, and so I’m looking forward to not only winning this tournament, but improve on my record in the tournament. Everybody here wants to win, and especially me.
“I feel that the Asian players now are getting stronger and stronger. As you can see now Hideki is not only playing well in one tournament but being able to stay near the top of the World Rankings.
“Obviously Chinese players are getting stronger and stronger as well and I do look forward to really being one of the Chinese players, the first player to win here or to witness one.”