2021 CJ Cup Final Round Buys Fades: Stick With Rickie Fowler to Top Rory McIlroy

2021 CJ Cup Final Round Buys Fades: Stick With Rickie Fowler to Top Rory McIlroy article feature image

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images. Pictured: Rickie Fowler.

The five-shot lead for Keith Mitchell going into the weekend at the CJ Cup disappeared before he made the turn on Saturday. He posted back-to-back double bogeys on his final two holes of the front nine, which lost him the lead to a group of players led by Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

Rory shot a Saturday-best 10-under par alongside Abraham Ancer who shot a 9-under 63 to position themselves going into the final round on Sunday. Fowler, went through a stretch of five birdies in six holes on the front nine and would add four more for a bogey-free 63 of his own to take a two-shot lead into Sunday at The Summit Club.

We couldn't ask for a better Sunday pairing than Rory and Rickie, making for must-see TV, even during the midst of an NFL slate. They have each had documented struggles closing out events at times, certainly Rickie more than Rory, but it will be interesting to see the dynamic of the pairing, especially if someone starts slow. I am going to stick with my buys from this week that have this championship surrounded, but I wouldn't be shocked to see someone post a number and steal it.

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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 4

We've had a good run this week of buys, so I am going to stick with them in the hopes we can bring one home. The first is with Rickie Fowler, who I was clearly pretty tepid about buying for a win after the second round, but now we might as well stick with him.

He has been the best player in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green this week, and it's not even close. Fowler has gained nearly two shots more than the next best player in the field in that category, boosted by an incredible Saturday where he gained 4.13 strokes on the field. We haven't seen this kind of consistent play from Fowler in a long, long time, and now he is in the driver's seat for the win. This buy is with my heart, even as my head is remembering the Sunday's where things have gone wrong for the man in orange.

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Tyrrell Hatton was another third-round buy for us in this spot that played quite well on Saturday. He fired a 5-under 67 and will go into the final round four shots back of Fowler. He's just two shots short of Rory, and that is where I set the target in these scenarios, as any way you cut it, we will need some help from Rickie for Hatton to get there.

The Englishman has gained strokes on approach across each round this week, and his irons have kept him in the mix throughout the event. He will need to sharpen up the driver and putter to really go low on Sunday, but outside of Saturday, the flat stick has been there for him. He was recently in a similar position at the Alfred Dunhill, and it is unlikely he will be affected by much of the moment in the final round, which can give him a leg up on some of his competitors down the stretch.

My pre-tournament pick to win was Cam Smith, and he has been steadily near the top of the leaderboard from the start. He will go into Sunday in a tie for eighth at six shots back of the lead.

The thing I see in the stats for Smith to really make a move in the final round is that he really hasn't put it all together for a round this week. He struggled putting on Thursday and Saturday while his irons were sharp, but when he found the flat stick on Friday his approach play was off. If he can find just the right mix in the bag on Sunday, he could be the one that posts a nine- or 10-under round to win this tournament from behind.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4

Sunday Rory has been a real thing for quite some time, and while he won this past season at the Wells Fargo Championship, I'm still not sure he's fully comfortably in final rounds while in contention. We have seen him struggle to put up rounds in the 60s on Sunday, and we know he will have to do that at minimum to win the CJ Cup.

McIlroy was second to only Fowler in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Saturday, as his game was led as usual by his driver. He gained 2.51 shots off the tee in the third round, which put him in position to convert birdie opportunities. He will need to do that again in the final round and keep the irons going, which has been an issue, as he's losing strokes in that metric this week. While I know it is in there for the former No. 1 player in the world, I'll let him show it to me before giving him the "buy" tag, especially at just +250.

Abraham Ancer played alongside Rory on Saturday, and the two of them were trading birdies left and right. Abe fell one shot short of McIlroy, though I am sure he is quite happy with his 63. My concern for the Mexican in the final round is that while he posted a fantastic number, he really didn't have his full game tee to green. He was simply field average with his ball-striking and made up for it by draining every putt he looked at. Ancer gained 4.73 strokes on the greens on moving day, and if he doesn't find his ball-striking, I have concerns he can keep the putter hot enough to stay in contention.

I don't want to kick a guy while he's down, but I have trouble seeing Keith Mitchell bounce back from his Saturday struggles. His back-to-back double-bogey stretch to close the outward nine really put him behind the eight ball for the rest of the round. He was able to close the day with a couple of birdies across his final four holes, and maybe that will be enough to give him some momentum into Sunday.

He's got to be mentally drained and beating himself up a bit for what happened in the third round. Hopefully Mitchell can come back and play like he did the first two days, but I am going to bet against it, as I think it will be a long night for him going into the final round.

StrokesGained Data for All Players in Round 3

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