2021 BMW Championship Round 2 Picks, Buys & Fades: Tony Finau Has Staying Power

2021 BMW Championship Round 2 Picks, Buys & Fades: Tony Finau Has Staying Power article feature image
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Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Finau.

The opening round of the BMW Championship got off to a fast start as the first five holes proved to be an exciting bunch. Two of the four par 5s are in that stretch, including the reachable par-4 fifth, which was introduced to the event by a drive to 2 1/2 feet by Charl Schwartzel. He kicked in that eagle putt and the day was off to the races.

Sam Burns was the first player to really separate himself from the field during the round, going through a stretch on the back nine with four consecutive birdies. Those four matched the four he posted on the front on his way to a bogey-free 64. Burns didn’t get much time to enjoy his lead since Jon Rahm chased him down just a few groups later and matched him in the clubhouse at 8-under.

It seemed that it would be two at the top going into Friday, but a rare strong opening round from Rory McIlroy shook things up even further. His signature shot of the day was an approach from 287 yards on the par-5 16th, which he knocked to 11 feet and rolled in for eagle. It was vintage Rory, which would be really fun to watch if he can keep it going into the weekend.

While there are big names at the top, there are also 28 players within just four shots of the lead heading into the second round. We know there are low scores available, and frankly I’d be surprised if 64 was the low round of the week.

The data from Round 1 should give us a good view of what value is available going into the second round.

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Strokes Gained Explanation

Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly played by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.

Using the millions of data points it collects, 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 perform 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 the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.

You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

Golf is a unique game, and oftentimes we find that winning breeds more winning.

As crazy as it sounds, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to me to see Tony Finau in the mix for another win this week in Baltimore. He came into Thursday undoubtedly still riding the high of his first win in five years at The Northern Trust and certainly had some ups and downs during the round.

Finau only had one par on his back nine on Thursday, and that came at 18. He sandwiched a back-to-back stretch of bogey-double bogey between six birdies, showing just how volatile his first round was.

On the stats side, Finau was the fifth best in the field with his irons and gained more than three shots Ball-Striking. His around the green game was where he left a lot to be desired, losing 1.31 shots to the field in that metric. I expect Finau will clean that up on Friday.

With his consistent prowess in scoring during the second round, I am making Finau a buy once again at +2500 on PointsBet and in all other markets for Round 2.

[Bet Tony Finau at PointsBet.]

I will start this one with the preface that I am already in on Joaquin Niemann, and I am likely biased since he was one of my favorite plays of the week, but he also fits for a great buy into Friday.

Niemann posted a solid 4-under 68 in the opening round and had his typical strong ball-striking. He ranked third in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, gaining more than three strokes on the field through the combination of Off-the-Tee and Approach.

Earlier in his career his biggest shortfall was his overall short game, and it certainly still is, but he’s become a really solid putter. The Chilean went from ranking 146th in Strokes Gained: Putting last year, to 22nd this season. I say all of that to highlight that the 1.65 shots he lost on the greens on Thursday is not indicative of his putting ability and makes him a great looking buy into the second round.

The +6600 available on BetMGM for Niemann is a touch better than his opening odds and still a strong buy into tomorrow. I will also be looking to him in matchups and DFS on Friday.

[Bet Joaquin Niemann at BetMGM.]

Cameron Smith is another player in the same spot as Niemann. He ended Thursday at 4-under, but it was more of a grind to get there for the Australian.

Smith hit his first two fairways off the tee, then didn’t see the short grass again until the back nine. He seemed to figure the driver out a bit down that side of the course, so I am willing to look past his -0.82 shots lost Off-the-Tee and hope he carries that momentum into the round tomorrow.

If Smith can put himself in better position from the tee box, his iron game is showing to be sharp as usual. He ranked second in the field on Thursday with 2.48 shots gained on Approach, but only capitalized on four birdies. His irons did get him out of bad spots time and again, which allowed him to come in bogey-free and keep himself in shouting distance of the leaders.

I expect we will see a more complete performance from Smith tomorrow, making him worth a look in all markets going into the second round, including +3700 to win on FanDuel.

[Bet Cameron Smith at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

The first fade for Friday has to come on Patrick Cantlay. He ranks 61st on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting, which honestly is better than I would’ve guessed, and that number is sure to improve just based on Thursday alone.

Cantlay gained a ridiculous 6.04 shots on the field with his putter in the opening round, having gone through a stretch of six birdies in seven holes on the back nine, sinking nearly 100 feet of putts during that run. Cantlay was more than 2.7 shots better than the next best putter in the field. It was an absurd day of putting for him, and one that he may never match.

The fade is easy on the surface because it’s unsustainable for him to stay that hot putting, and with him losing 2.82 shots Tee-to-Green, it looks like things could fall apart.

My only real concern is that it is also very viable to say that Cantlay is just as unlikely to lose 1.91 shots on approach again. I will proceed with a bit of caution, but for me he’s got a lot to find in his swing. If he doesn’t, it’ll be hard for him to keep up in this scoring fest.

My next fade is a little more comfortable, especially considering the form Phil Mickelson has shown since his win at the PGA Championship. He has just one top-20 finish in that stretch and despite his opening round of 4-under, I think we will see him drop down the board as the week continues.

Lefty was up to his typical magic around the greens on Thursday, gaining 1.41 shots on the field, ranking fifth in that metric on the day. He matched that up with a good putter, but neither aspect of his ball striking was there. He equally lost strokes Off-the-Tee and on Approach, leading to his need to scramble in order to score.

Mickelson simply won’t be able to keep up with the guys around him with his type of play the rest of the way.

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Phil Mickelson.

Brooks Koepka is my final fade since I actually got to see him play more today than most others. He simply didn’t look good. Koepka had a two-way miss going, and hit some really ugly shots.

The number bare out what my eyes were seeing, as Koepka lost three shots to the field Ball-Striking, with 2.94 of those strokes coming on Approach. I’d be willing to give it a bit of a pass for a player of his caliber, but that comes after he lost 3.8 shots on approach in the final round at the Northern Trust.

Koepka seems to be searching for his game right now, and that for me makes him a fade across the board.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

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