By Andrew Both
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - World number two Adam Scott is ready to take advantage of the absence of Rory McIlroy at the $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions tournament starting here on Thursday.
Australian Scott is part of a stellar field that includes 40 of the top 50 players in the world at the only World Golf Championships event played outside the United States.
The 2013 Masters champion has only played once since the American season ended in mid-September, a jetlagged tie for 38th at the Japan Open last month which followed a surfing holiday in Costa Rica.
But after a week of dedicated practice back home in Queensland last week, Scott is raring to go again.
He acknowledges that McIlroy's late withdrawal -- to prepare for a court case over a dispute with his former management company -- is a blow to the event, but understands that every player has to deal with off-course issues from time to time.
After all, Scott himself skipped this event last year to recharge his batteries for a busy end-of-year campaign in Australia.
"I know HSBC and everyone involved understands that's the way this game is," Scott told reporters at Sheshan on Wednesday.
Scott, who was surpassed at the top of the world rankings by McIlroy in early August, acknowledges that his chances of victory are helped without the presence of the Northern Irishman.
"Selfishly, (his missing) opens up the field a little bit this week," he said.
U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer agreed.
"It's definitely a loss for the golf tournament, but it's still a very, very strong field to beat," said the German.
"One player, usually it doesn't make a difference, but when you talk about number one in the world, of course you think, OK, one player less to beat and a good one less to beat."
Kaymer has played only two competitive rounds since helping Europe win the Ryder Cup in late September, preferring instead to recharge his batteries for three consecutive tournaments to end the European Tour season.
McIlroy is not the only big name missing this week.
Tiger Woods is also absent as he continues to rehabilitate from back surgery, while fellow American Dustin Johnson will not defend his title as he deals with personal issues.
But the tournament, in its 10th year, appears firmly established to the point where it no longer relies on the presence of a single superstar.
"The golf course is beautiful, the atmosphere is great and the weather is perfect," Masters champion Bubba Watson said under a blue, cloudless sky.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)