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2021 TOUR Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades: Cam Smith, Justin Thomas Set to Make a Move at Patrick Cantlay

2021 TOUR Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades: Cam Smith, Justin Thomas Set to Make a Move at Patrick Cantlay article feature image

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas.

It’s an interesting week for buys and fades as the leaderboard has a lot of players that are getting an artificial boost from their pre-tournament adjusted scores. We will have a number of guys that will look like fades as they are near the top of the leaderboard but really struggled on the opening round.

The buys will be stronger than normal as well, but the gap is large with Patrick Cantlay maintaining his two-shot edge into the second round, this time over Jon Rahm. The 3-under round he posted allowed him to separate himself by five shots beyond the rest of the field going into Friday, making others really go into chase mode early in this tournament.

Rahm matched the best round of the day with a 5-under 65, which was only equaled by Billy Horschel. He will now pair with Cantlay in the final tee time on Friday and get an early chance to put some pressure on the leader.

The group at 8-under and four shots back of the lead includes Bryson DeChambeau who struggled early on Thursday and Harris English who kickstarted his day with an ace at the Par 3 15th. Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas, and Cameron Smith are at 7-under to start the second round and are certainly still in the hunt.

There is a long way to go for this year’s TOUR Championship, and as expected, the top names in the game are all in the mix. Let’s take a look at the Strokes Gained data from Thursday’s round to find the players with the best value heading into the second round.

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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 2

Week after week, we continue to see Cam Smith‘s name in the mix at the top of the leaderboard. This week, he gets the benefit of his recent play, putting him within shouting distance of the lead, and he built off of that on Thursday.

Smith posted a 2-under opening round despite not having the best part of his game dialed in: his irons. He lost 1.27 shots to the field in that metric but made it up with a hot putter. I expect we will see the Australian find his form on approach, and he is a player that can stay hot on the greens throughout the week and get his name in contention this weekend. I am in on Smith in DFS and matchups tomorrow, but I’m also interested across the board in betting markets including +2800 to win on DraftKings.

My favorite play coming into the week was with Justin Thomas as he simply loves East Lake and seems to be starting to find some form. He didn’t disappoint on Thursday with a solid 3-under round to keep pace with Cantlay at six shots back. If you are going to make a play on anyone this far down the board, your mindset has to be looking at getting into position to battle for second before worrying about the leader.

Taking this view puts JT just four shots back of Rahm, which can certainly be made up by him in even one round with his ability to go low as he did to charge up the leaderboard in his win at The Players earlier this year. He showed much better play on the greens gaining a full stroke on the field in that category, and his 67 was posted despite not having his best day with his irons. I’m still interested in JT at +1600 on FanDuel, and +175 to Top 5 on DraftKings, as I think he has the upside to really get into the mix this weekend.

In order to get within shouting distance of the leaders, it will require a really low round. Viktor Hovland is another player similar to JT that can put together a 6- or 7-under day to make up some serious ground.

It looked like the Norwegian was headed towards that type of day after a hole-out eagle on the 5th that helped propel him to a 31 on his outward nine. Unfortunately, things stalled from there as his putting woes continued, with his longest putt made being from just under nine feet on the back nine. He was in position, missing just two greens in that stretc, but simply couldn’t get the ball to drop. Hovland is a traditional fit for a buy, ranking second in the field tee to green, but he had the fifth worst day putting. If he can find the flat stick, he has value at +2200 on DraftKings.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

I wish I could tell you I was excited to come fade the top, but frankly, I’m pretty encouraged by Cantlay’s round. He and Rahm will be tough to chase down, and while I’m hoping they bring more players into the mix, I’m not looking to bet against them.

Instead, my first fade will come from with Bryson DeChambeau who really struggled for 15 holes on Thursday. He nearly played himself when he rinsed his tee shot at the Par 3 15th. Instead, he showed a ton of resilience as he birdied the final three holes to climb his way back to 1-under on the round.

While the finish is certainly encouraging, East Lake just doesn’t appear to be a course to suit his game. He is unable to get away with errant shots in the penal rough this week, and his weakness on approach will get exposed especially as the week goes and the greens get firmer. He is an easy fade at short odds heading into the second round.

It’s been a really strange year for Dustin Johnson, and it doesn’t seem set to change this week at East Lake. He started the week at 3-under and was able to build upon that, but it was entirely reliant on his putter. The flat stick is not DJ’s game, which has me concerned as he lost strokes to the field in both ball-striking categories. I’m out on the defending FedEx Cup Champion heading towards the weekend, as he just doesn’t seem to have it right now.

Speaking of not having it, Jordan Spieth seems to have lost his game a bit since The Open. He hasn’t been the same player and the most glaring concern is on approach where he is typically so sharp.

Spieth’s numbers are definitely amplified by a poor tee shot at the 15th, which left him with double bogey, but he was also one of the worst in the field finding fairways. The combination of finding the rough and having some big misses on approach is a big concern that will be hard to overcome the rest of the way.

StrokesGained Data for All Players in Round 1

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