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Author: Bryan Mears
Round 2 isn’t quite finished, as the field was halted in the afternoon for inclement weather, which pushed things back enough to the point they weren’t able to finish before dark.
Still, it was close enough where we can talk about the field, which is being dominated currently by youngster Collin Morikawa, who owns a three-stroke lead entering Saturday. Following his first ever missed cut two weeks ago, he’s apparently come in ready to rebound.
Behind him, though, lurks some big dogs in Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Viktor Hovland and others. Are they worth plays? Let’s break it down.
But first, a quick explanation on Strokes Gained data and what it means for golf handicapping.
Strokes Gained Explanation
Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly playing by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.
Using the millions of data points it has, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.
Every situation in golf is different — Strokes Gained measures how players handle them relative to the situation.
In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics…
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
- Strokes Gained: Putting
- Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)
In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are more stable long-term, and often you can find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well but just not getting putts to drop, which is more random. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.
3 Golfers to Buy in Round 3
To answer my question posed above, yes, although it definitely depends on where you’re at with your bets at this point.
For full transparency, I already have a bet on Morikawa at 33/1, and I think he’s rightfully a fairly strong favorite to win this tournament. Muirfield always and especially this week sets up for ball-strikers, and Collin might be the best in the world at that right now. He’s a scary fade if you don’t have him and you’re not willing to buy his less than 2/1 price.
But JT and Matsuyama are definitely in contention, and they’ve been playing really well this week so far. They’re also right there among the best ball-strikers in the world, and so far this week they’re actually above Morikawa in terms of overall Strokes Gained: Approach.
Morikawa has just been better on the greens — typically his weakness, although the greens are slower this week and they’ll likely be soft tomorrow as well after the storms — whereas they’ve been about neutral. JT is an excellent putter, whereas Hideki struggles at times like Morikawa and just hasn’t gotten the same luck the youngster has.
Among the two, Hideki is a shot behind but offers a much better price at +650 on DraftKings, which is definitely intriguing.
And finally, I’ll finally buy into Brendan Steele, who just has absolutely crushed with his ball-striking game for several rounds now. I’m still skeptical he has the game to really hang with the top-three guys in terms of actually winning this thing, but I also don’t think he’ll implode. He’s a worthy DFS buy.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
Well, my fades for Friday didn’t exactly pan out, as the guys who got hot with the putter on Thursday remained hot today. One round of golf has a high level of variance, and while you should still make smart decisions with data about what is most predictive long-term, remember that golf can be very random.
Still, I’ll take the same approach and isolate a couple guys who look like they’ll hang around for the weekend despite pretty uninspiring ball-striking play.
And ball-striking is definitely the name of the game this week. I mean, look at the leaderboard: Morikawa, JT, Hideki, Kevin Streelman, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar … it’s a who’s who of ball-strikers this week.
So yeah, I’m going to be skeptical on the guys who haven’t struck it particularly well through two rounds, and Austin Cook, Zach Johnson and Denny McCarthy all apply.
ZJ impressively looks like he’ll make the cut despite losing 4.14 strokes on his approach game to the field on Friday. He lost 3.38 strokes tee-to-green, which is pretty atrocious.
Alright, enough talk. Here’s the data for all players for Thursday.
Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 2
(Note: The graph below is interactive. Click/hover to see data.)
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Author: Bryan Mears