2021 Houston Open Round 3 Betting Preview: Lookout for Jason Kokrak to Separate From the Pack

2021 Houston Open Round 3 Betting Preview: Lookout for Jason Kokrak to Separate From the Pack article feature image

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Kokrak.

Players were in position to continue their first round early on Friday morning and then rolled right into their second-round tee times. Many were able to build momentum and carry it into their next 18, but they weren't the names we were all expecting to start the week.

Martin Trainer is the name that sits atop the leaderboard heading into Saturday in Houston as he shot a 5-under 65 to take a one-shot lead. Trainer is quite possibly the player that would have been the biggest surprise to see anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, as he has made just one cut in his last 16 tournaments on TOUR.

He hasn't had a top-35 finish since the start of 2020, and frankly, I could go on about the dismal stats for Trainer, but this is why we love golf. Trainer is joined near the top by another inconsistent name, Kevin Tway, who was actually one shot better with a 64 in the second round. They're both in good position to be a part of the final group on Saturday, but they will certainly be looking over their shoulder a bit as names like Jason Kokrak and Scottie Scheffler moved into striking distance.

Kokrak will be one of the many to finish their second round on Saturday morning, as he plays the back nine from just two shots back. Scheffler is done with his first 36 holes and had the round of the tournament so far on Friday. He shot an 8-under 62 to move into a tie for fifth heading into the weekend.

The leaderboard is still tight overall, and with a couple of names that haven't been in this position much in recent years, there is still a lot of betting value available going into the weekend. Jason Kokrak is likely the biggest threat to put some players out of contention, but he has the tough back nine to play. Let's take a look at who stands out going into Saturday.

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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 3

Jason Kokrak is being priced as the favorite heading into the weekend in Houston and the numbers show us why. He is back to his usual strong ball-striking this week, gaining strokes on the field in both categories, including nearly three strokes gained through eleven holes of his second round.

It's hard to suggest him for an outright bet at +450 with a guy like Scottie Scheffler lurking just behind, but when we get Round 3 markets for DFS and matchups, he is my favorite guy across the board.

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I was hoping we may be able to get a little sneaky and take some longer odds for a couple of players that still had an easier portion of the course to finish in Round 2 on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the books are pretty sharp so we aren't getting much of a discount on Marc Leishman.

He had a disappointing par to close the day at the Par 5 third hole, but he will play a stretch with four of the easiest holes on the course to close out his round on Saturday morning. I was hoping we would get something north of +2000 going into Saturday, but it looks like we will have to settle for +1800 as he is listed on FanDuel and DraftKings. I do like the play he has put together this week, gaining strokes in all metrics tee to green, and hopefully the break in play will allow him to bounce back with his putter in the morning.

Bet Marc Keishman at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.

The furthest down I am willing to go at this point is going to be with pre-tournament favorite, Sam Burns. He is done with his second round and at 3-under for the tournament. There is certainly risk that he could be further than seven shots back as he eventually starts his third round on Saturday.

Burns had a sluggish start on Thursday, but he certainly found his game on the second day. He shot a 67 to put himself inside the top 20 at this stage and still within shouting distance of the leaders. Burns gained 2.67 shots on the field tee to green on Friday, and 1.79 of that was on approach. If he can keep that going over the final 36 holes, he will be a name to watch before this is over on Sunday.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

I don't want to be a wet blanket on the story of the week, but the reality is that it is nearly impossible to trust Martin Trainer to keep playing this way this weekend. He just hasn't done anything on TOUR in years, and even with a win to his record from Puerto Rico in 2019, I just see him struggling this weekend.

Leaderboard gravity is a real thing, and when it comes with a likely final tee time on the weekend for a player that hasn't been there in a long, long time, I generally will fade them in that moment. That is solely my angle and my play on Trainer going into Saturday as the numbers look good, and the story would be even better if he can keep it up.

The flashes of success have been more frequent for Kevin Tway, but it isn't a ton better than Trainer. I am making the same fade on Tway that I am on Martin as he is likely to also be in the final group on Saturday afternoon, and it's been even longer for him as his last win was back 2018.

Tway does have a top-15 finish to his name from this calendar year, however, back before that was a similar run of missed cut after missed cut. There is going to be a sense from this pair that is happy to see the weekend, and maybe that will take the pressure off a bit, but overall they just seem more likely to tumble down the board than to maintain their top spots.

If I am being fair to my process, the fade we should be making into the third round is on one of my buys from yesterday, Adam Long. He really lost his ball-striking as he played his second round on Friday, losing strokes to the field off the tee and playing to field average on approach.

Long actually hit more greens in regulation than he did in his opening round, but he hit less than half of his fairways, leaving long putts for birdie. He has shown a liking for this course with five of his six tournament rounds here coming in under par and none of them over par, but if he doesn't find his game again on approach, he will have trouble keeping that up. His more than four strokes gained with the putter on Friday are not sustainable the rest of the way, and for that reason he looks like a fade into Round 3.

StrokesGained Data for All Players in Round 2

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