The event could make history, as for the first time all the year's top titles could finish in the hands of first-time winners at the highest level. That explains the remarkably fresh feel to the 2011 HSBC Champions field, with the year's four Major Champions marking a changing of the guard by winning their first Major title.
Keegan Bradley, winner of the 2011 US PGA Championship, will join the three 2011 ‘rookie' Major winners already announced; Charl Schwartzel (The Masters), Rory McIlroy (US Open) and Darren Clarke (The Open Championship) in seeking to add the coveted HSBC Champions title, known as ‘Asia's Major,' to their résumé. America's Nick Watney and Australia's Adam Scott complete the line-up of the four reigning World Golf Championships winners with the defending HSBC Champion, Francesco Molinari, and Luke Donald.
There are still a few opportunities to qualify but already the confirmed field boasts over 500 international titles between them. Early entrants to this year's HSBC Champions include the in-form Justin Rose, winner of the recent US PGA BMW Championship, Webb Simpson, who finished in second place on the FedExCup, Lucas Glover, victor at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA TOUR, David Toms, winner at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the popular KJ Choi, winner of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Along with the array of 2011 US PGA winners will be every qualifying champion from the European Tour including three-time winner this year, Thomas Bjorn, world number four and winner of the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Martin Kaymer, and winner of the Volvo Golf Champions, Paul Casey.
England's Luke Donald, whose remarkably consistent season has included three wins and 15 top ten finishes, explained, "I've had a fantastic year reaching the pinnacle of the world rankings and now I am looking to end my season at the top.
The WGC-HSBC Champions will be pivotal as always with so many of the world's best players gathering in Asia to try and win one of the biggest tournaments of the year. It falls very close to the due date of my second child so I will be keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes to plan family-wise so that I can be in Shanghai challenging for this prestigious title."
Thomas Bjorn, whose three wins this year takes his career tally to 19 titles, added, "I have really noticed a changing of the guard this year with so many great young players coming through so I feel very proud to have won three times this season to ensure my qualification.
This is the only World Golf Championships played outside of the US and has the most international field so, in many ways, it is the most deserving of the WGC badge.
The unique qualification criteria of this tournament also ensures it features the world's most in-form players so it is a very special title to win.
HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship, Giles Morgan ,added, "What we're seeing is an extension of last year, when, as the players arrived in Shanghai, we had a new world number one for the first time in five years. Now we are seeing a whole new breed of winners. Given the number of surprise victories this year, it wouldn't be unexpected if our champion was a surprise too! Alternatively we could find a winner who signals the start of the next phase for golf: the emergence of a more dominant player.
That can only happen on the handful of occasions that the world's top players gather. The WGC-HSBC Champions is the last of those occasions in 2011 and it's exciting to contemplate which of the stars might be the one to rise above the rest. It seems that every year there's been a story of greater significance behind our winner - in 2006 YE Yang gave the first indication of what he was going to go on and do for Asian golf, Sergio moving to number two in the world in 2008 confirmed Asia's arrival on the global golf calendar and so on - and I can see that happening again this year."
Robbie Henchman, Co-Managing Director IMG Golf concluded, "HSBC is one of the most prolific sponsors in the world of golf and its commitment to golf in Asia is evident in the success of the WGC-HSBC Champions and its grass roots programme. We are eagerly anticipating a very successful seventh edition of this great event."
The WGC-HSBC Champions is one of four World Golf Championships sanctioned and organized by the operational committee of the International Federation of PGA Tours, which includes the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour. The other World Golf Championships include the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, WGC-Cadillac Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The 2011 WGC-HSBC Champions boasts a prize fund of $7,000,000. For ticket information, regular field updates, the full qualifying criteria and more information, please visit www.hsbcgolf.com.