2021 RSM Classic Round 3 Picks & Betting Preview: Mackenzie Hughes in the Hunt Again
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Mackenzie Hughes.
Friday at the RSM Classic seemed as though it was played at a totally different venue than the opening round on Thursday. There was more than a four-shot difference in scores on the host course at Seaside and nearly four shots on the plantation. The field averaged better than three shots under par in the first round but found it a struggle to break par on the second day as winds wreaked havoc throughout St. Simons Island.
A couple of players didn’t seem to take notice of the tougher conditions as Talor Gooch followed up his 8-under 64 with a 5-under 65 on the Seaside. He will take a one-shot advantage into the weekend over John Huh who also posted a 5-under round to get to 12-under on the week. Sebastian Munoz will be the third player in the final group on Saturday as he followed up his opening-round 60 with another under-par day to tie Huh in second. Five others are double-digits under par through two rounds, with everything clustering up from there as 29 players are within six shots of Gooch’s lead.
The early weather reports look similar for Saturday and even into Sunday, which will make for some interesting play across the final rounds of this tournament. I am going to go into the third round expecting play more similar to Friday than Thursday, as we look to find some players with betting value heading into the weekend.
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 you had me picking just one player to buy going into the weekend, it has to be Mackenzie Hughes. He is a former winner of this event and is typically someone I like to jump on board with when I see his ball-striking in form. He certainly showed that to be the case on Friday as he gained 4.22 strokes on the field tee to green, gaining strokes in every metric. Surprisingly, his issue was his normally reliable putter as he lost 1.25 strokes on the greens.
Hughes is a player I affectionately refer to as “Canadian Spieth” for his ability to hole chips and long putts at any given moment. He certainly didn’t have that going in the second round, but for a player that was the 15th-best putter on TOUR last season, we should expect him to bounce back. Hughes’ odds are short at just +900 on BetMGM heading to the weekend, but everything seems to be in line for him to contend for a second RSM title come Sunday afternoon.
One of the more consistent players on TOUR during this fall swing has been Irishman Seamus Power. He faltered a bit last week with a missed cut, but prior to that he had three straight top-25 finishes, with two of those falling in the top 15.
Power is positioned even better heading into the weekend in Georgia as he is just three shots short of the lead and has been sharp with his irons, missing just six greens through 36 holes. He has struggled a bit to find the short grass off the tee, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him on approach. I don’t mind the odds at +1400 for Power heading into the weekend as he showed this summer he can win at this level, and he is in position to contend once again.
When I was shopping for longshots, it was really down to Luke List and Aaron Rai at 7-under. They are both showing good ball-striking through the first two rounds, but the more known name of List has him at shorter odds than Rai.
I’ll go with Rai for that reason, but both are certainly in play. For those that aren’t as familiar with Rai, he is an Englishman that has been on the European Tour for a long time after turning pro at the ripe age of 17. He has two career wins on that TOUR and is now looking to find his way here in the states. The plus with Rai is all around the approach play he has shown the last two days and even going back to his top-20 finish in Houston where he gained 5.7 strokes with his irons. He is certainly a longshot to win, and may be better suited for a top 10 or in DFS, but at +8000 on DraftKings he is worth a little sprinkle for the improbable too.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
My first fade going into moving day is going to be with Scott Stallings who clawed out a 1-under round on Friday despite losing strokes to the field with his ball-striking. He came into the round off of a strong 9-under day on Thursday, but he struggled to stay in form.
Stallings came into the week with a wild up-and-down fall where he’s had two top-6 finishes and three missed cuts in six events. He was able to hang in there in the second round today to maintain position within the top 6, but with his ball-striking showing struggles, I’ll be fading his ability to stay in contention in the continued winds on Saturday.
There are some unfamiliar names within shouting distance of the lead going into the weekend, and one of those that stands out is Lee Hodges. I don’t know a lot about Hodges, as he has limited starts on the PGA TOUR, and this will be his first real exposure to the weekend pressure of the leaderboard.
Hodges struggled in a similar way to Stallings on Friday, losing strokes to the field in both ball-striking metrics. He was able to make up for it with a hot putter that gained 2.17 shots on the field, but as the pressure mounts he will need some help in other aspects of his game to remain in contention.
If you are looking further down the leaderboard for a more familiar name, you may be attracted to another Canadian in Adam Hadwin. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look good for Hadwin who has struggled finding both the fairways and the greens early this week. He has relied almost entirely on his short game to stay in the mix through the first two rounds, and as things turn entirely to the Seaside Course, he will need to find some better play, tee to green, to stay in the hunt for a top finish.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players Thru Round 2
*Data is only for player’s one round on the Seaside Course