2021 CJ CUP Round 3 Odds, Buys, Fades: Jump on Rickie Fowler, Tyrrell Hatton
David Berding/Getty Images. Pictured: Rickie Fowler.
If you see smoke over the Las Vegas skyline Friday, it’s most certainly coming from Keith Mitchell who has been on fire to start the week at the CJ Cup. Mitchell hit the ground running with a 10-under 62 on Thursday and backed it up with a 64 on Friday to take a commanding five-shot lead into the weekend.
He picked up right where he left off Friday with a birdie on the first hole, followed up by a 59-foot bomb for eagle on the third green. He would finally drop his first shot of the week on the 11th hole, but followed that with three birdies in his final seven holes to ensure the final pairing in Saturday’s round.
Mitchell is leading the field with 7.79 shots gained on the greens through two rounds, and is also second in Strokes Gained Off the Tee. Still, he will certainly be feeling the pressure as he tries to close out his second win on TOUR with the likes of Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott as half of the group five shots back.
We know there are plenty of low scores available at The Summit Club, and while the lead seems insurmountable at this point, there’s still a lot of golf to be played. I am planning to continue looking for value going into Moving Day as we evaluate the strokes gained data from the second round.
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 3
If I’m looking for odds at the top of the leaderboard, I think I have to start with Tyrrell Hatton. While the +1600 on DraftKings doesn’t feel great from six shots back, it is more indicative of the fact that there are very few players between him and the leader. Also, it’s a sign of the golf that the Englishman has played over the last month.
Hatton was one player who showed some form at times for the European squad at the Ryder Cup, and validated that with a runner up finish at the Alfred Dunhill two weeks ago. He has rolled that right into this week in Vegas where he has paired some good iron play with a hot putter.
I’d normally be wary of the hot putter, but he’s someone more likely to find form in the rest of his game before he loses the flat stick. I’ll take my shot up top with Hatton and hope he can get himself in position to contend Sunday.
I haven’t gone here in a long time, and no, I don’t project him to win, but Rickie Fowler deserves to be highlighted. He ranks as the second best player in this fairly stacked field through two rounds, and finds himself in the Top 6 to start the weekend.
It is a great sign to see Fowler put together back to back rounds of 66, and put his name near the top of the leaderboard. I think he will find some struggles here and there as the weekend pressure rises, but he certainly is showing the play to build momentum going forward.
The interesting aspect is that his normally sharp putter still isn’t quite there, meaning that he still has room to improve his play. I’m not putting big expectations out there for Rickie the rest of the way, though I am encouraged by the form he has shown across his last three rounds of tournament play.
If we are looking further down the leaderboard than the group at 12-under then we have to be expecting Mitchell to come back to the field. There is certainly a scenario for that, so I think we can just pick out our favorite of the lower end bunch with the knowledge that if he keeps rolling, all of these buys may be dead.
The place I am going to go is to Paul Casey. He has gained more than a stroke per round with his putter, which shows his comfort on these greens and it appears his ball striking is coming around. Casey gained 1.49 shots on the field with his irons on Friday, after gaining just short of a stroke in that metric in the opening round.
If he can continue to improve day after day on approach and keep his putter going, Casey could get in the hunt with a little bit of help from Mitchell. The number seems short at +2500 across most books, but he is certainly a buy in all other markets this weekend.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
Maybe it’s just stubbornness or wishful thinking, but I have to go back to the fade on Mitchell here. It doesn’t feel great after what he did to back up his low opening round, but looking at it from a greater perspective it doesn’t seem like he can keep up this pace.
Keith was the 120th-ranked putter on tour last season, and is even worse in a really short sample to start the new year. He hasn’t shown any signs of that this week though as he ranks first in the field in the category with nearly eight strokes gained through 36 holes.
He did it all Friday while losing strokes to the field on approach, but that worked in part because he has been so good off the tee. The way I see this going for a fade is the putter cools, which can put more pressure on the rest of his game and with the weight of the final pairing added in, that’s where I see the rest of the field having a chance to narrow the gap before Sunday.
One of the great quotes of the week thus far was from none other than Harry Higgs who referenced needing to stay away from the Vegas Strip to remain in contention. This fade may be as much of the big man’s ability to do that as it is on his play, but I’ll focus on the course.
Higgs hasn’t seen the top of the leaderboard since his surprise Top 5 finish at the PGA Championship in May, and he really backdoored that one without the pressure of contention. He will now start the weekend in one of the final tee times and need to rely on an iron game that has lost strokes in four of his last five tournaments. I love rooting for the guy, but from this perspective it’s hard to see him maintaining his position on the first page of the leaderboard.
A bigger name to fade Saturday is another of my favorites in Sergio Garcia. We expect him to have a balky putter as he did Friday, but what we don’t typically see is his ball striking failing him.
The Spaniard was still able to carve out a 2-under round Friday even while losing 1.51 shots on approach. I expect he bounces back in this category over the weekend, but if for any reason he can’t find it or it’s not enough to spark the putter, Sergio will struggle to stay in the hunt.