2021 Honda Classic Round 2 Buys & Fades: U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker is Resurgent
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Steve Stricker.
You know a round was lights-out when other TOUR players are referring to it as "the round of the year" and "one of the best rounds I've seen in my life." That is what Lee Westwood and Adam Hadwin had to say about the play of Matt Jones during the first round of The Honda Classic.
Jones shot a bogey-free 9-under 61, on a day the field averaged nearly a stroke and a half over par. The Australian was simply flawless — despite steady winds — as he gained more than five shots on the field with his irons and two and a half more with his putter. He will go into Friday with a three-shot advantage over Aaron Wise and Russell Henley, both of whom finished two-shots clear of the rest of the field.
As I always like to do after the first round, I will focus on the chasers, especially at a course where water is in play on many holes and big numbers lurk around every turn. Let's take a look at the strokes gained data from Round 1, to see who we can target heading into the rest of the weekend.
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 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
Any buys going into Friday not named Matt Jones will need some help from the leader who managed to post a round that would have won the tournament in two of the past three years. I won't bite on him at such low odds to get the win this early, but it has given us some solid odds on others further down the leaderboard.
We have seen a number of older players find their way back to the victory circle since the fall. Steve Stricker could be next with the way he played on Thursday, gaining 5.85 strokes on this field tee to green. He was absolutely dialed in, especially with his irons, which ranked only behind Jones on the day.
Stricker was able to fire a 4-under 66 to start the tournament despite the best club in his bag being a bit cold. We normally know the U.S. Ryder Cup captain because of his putter, but he left some shots out there as he lost strokes with the flat stick on Thursday. I expect that to turn around as he goes the rest of the way, and that sets him up to be a dangerous player over the next three days.
We saw Stricker flash a fourth-place finish at that Waste Management in February, and now he's showing up again. I'm willing to bite on the old guy narrative coming back this week at PGA National with a solid +4200 available on FanDuel.
If you want a dart throw on someone who posted a good round on Thursday and did it by being strong in every category of his game, look no further than Kevin Chappell. He shot a 4-under 66 in the opening round, mostly by benefit of hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
Chappell has struggled to return to form after back surgery near the end of 2018, a season where we saw him competing for majors. His best finish over the past 12 months is a 23rd at the Sanderson Farms in September, but his round Thursday was a great step in the right direction. He gained 3.55 shots on the field tee to green and gained strokes in every metric, including more than two and a half strokes ball striking. He's five shots back, but with only three players in front of him, the +8000 on DraftKings is worth a sprinkle on a player we know has top-level talent when he's at his best.
My final buy after Round 1 is another player getting a big number overnight on DraftKings, as Sepp Straka is listed a +9000 to win. He will start Friday's round seven shots back of the leader, but there is still plenty of golf to be played.
The aspect I like most about Straka from Thursday is how well he played throughout his bag. He gained more than a stroke on the field in every strokes-gained metric tee to green, which is the type of well-rounded effort it will take to win this event. Straka was able to be about field-average on the greens, which leaves some room for him to improve going into the second round. I'll dabble on the Austrian to post another solid round Friday and have himself ready to make a run into the weekend.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
The first fade of the day has to come near the top of the leaderboard with Russell Henley. He managed to shoot the second-best round of the day despite losing nearly a stroke to the field on approach.
Henley would make up for his iron play issues with the flat stick as he gained 6.21(!!) strokes on the greens. That is not a typo. The player who finished last season 138th in putting gained more than six strokes on the field on Thursday, which is obviously unsustainable and makes for an easy fade into the second round. The former Georgia Bulldog can still stay in contention if he turns things around with his irons, but he won't be able to rely on his putter to be anywhere near this hot the rest of the way.
Another player with ball striking issues on Thursday was Chase Seiffert. He also made up for it with his play on and around the green, where he gained more than four and a half strokes on the field. Seiffert was able to carve out a 3-under round on the day by leaning on his short game.
The issue with Seiffert is that he lost strokes to the field ball striking in the first round, and he isn't going to be able to sustain at PGA National without turning around that part of his game. I'll put in an early fade on him heading into the weekend as I think we see him lose ground on the field into Friday.
My final fade going into the second round is on a bigger name, as the defending champion Sungjae Im really struggled despite a solid score. I have had concerns for a while with the way that Im has had issues finding his approach game, and that continued on Thursday.
Sungjae was able to post a 2-under 68 despite hitting just eight greens in regulation and losing 2.74 strokes to the field with his irons. It was a bit reminiscent of the round he had on Saturday at The Players, which just killed his momentum, but he was able to salvage a score on Thursday. He may very well turn it right around Friday, but the way he has trended over the last several events, it's hard to see that he will put it all together the rest of the way to pay off just +1200 odds.