WGC-HSBC Champions First Round Leader Tips: Count on Casey

England's Paul Casey
England's Paul Casey can hit the ground running

Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early in China this week...

"The Englishman has ended day one in the top 10 on six occasions here so it's rare to look at page one of the leaderboard after Thursday's play and not find Casey's name."

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 6 Places

Weather forecast for Thursday: Lots of sunshine and winds are light at 4-6mph during tournament play. Temperatures rise from the 70s to the early 80s so conditions are good for scoring.

FRL history at Sheshan International GC

2018 - 64 Patrick Reed
2017 - 64 Brooks Koepka
2016 - 64 Rikard Karlberg
2015 - 63 Branden Grace
2014 - 67 Graeme McDowell
2013 - 65 Rory McIlroy

Strategy: Tee-times run from 08:45 local until 10:50, the two-tee start meaning the 78-man field all head out within a narrow time frame of just over two hours. That means there's no obvious morning/afternoon advantage so I'll pick freely.

Casey can get off to a flyer

Paul Casey has lots of positive history at Sheshan International GC, racking up five top 10s and a further six top 25s in 12 appearances.

In terms of his first-round numbers, the Englishman has ended day one in the top 10 on six occasions here so it's rare to look at page one of the leaderboard after Thursday's play and not find Casey's name.

More recently, Casey had a piece of the lead after day one of last month's BMW International Open which he won, also shot a 66 to sit second after the opening lap of the Tour Championship and was fifth after 18 holes of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

While he didn't get involved at last week's ZOZO Championship, the Ryder Cup star still managed four rounds in the 60s and ended the week with his low round of 67.

The mix of good form along with fast starts both currently and historically makes him a strong play at 25/1.

Mickelson can shine again

Phil Mickelson is a two-time winner of this event although those victories were back in 2007 and 2009.

He's played here just twice since 2010 but it remains a course on which he thrives. Lefty closed with a 65 for T14 in 2013 and added T15 two years ago.

The five-time major winner has been second and fourth after day one in his six visits so fast starts have been part of the deal.

While his 2019 form has been extremely patchy, he's still managed some low first rounds and, notably, they've come on courses where he's played well previously.

Mickelson opened with a 60 to lead the Desert Classic and was third after day one at Bay Hill, Augusta National and TPC Summerlin, the latter just two starts ago when he posted a Thursday 65.

I'm not convinced he can do it for 72 at the moment but the mercurial American could certainly beat any field over 18.

Bank on Bradley

It was a toss up between Keegan Bradley and Andrew Putnam (tied fourth here last year) for the final place. Price couldn't decide it as both are 60/1.

But I'll just give the nod to Bradley given that he has more recent evidence of a low 18.

That came via a second-round 63 in Japan last week, a round which helped him finish tied 13th.

Bradley shot a Thursday 65 on his first ever appearance at the course in 2011, finishing tied 16th and he's since added tied 11th in 1013 and tied sixth when returning to the tournament last year after a four-year gap.

A first-round leader twice in 2019 - at the Players Championship and Canadian Open - I'm hoping the big-hitting American can make it a hat-trick.

Bradley heads out at 09:10 from the 10th while Casey sets off from the same tee at 09:40 and Mickelson, also from 10, at 10:40.

Dave's 2019 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £1230
Returned: £1067.59
P/L: -£162.41

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