2021 U.S. Open Round 3 Buys and Fades: Plenty of Value With Standouts Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa

2021 U.S. Open Round 3 Buys and Fades: Plenty of Value With Standouts Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa article feature image
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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas.

As expected, there was no reprieve for the players Friday at the U.S. Open, as Torrey Pines continued to beat up on them in the second round. The field averaged another 2.6 shots over par on the day, as the cut line stretched out to 4 over par.

Many of the big names will play the weekend, but the very top of the leaderboard lacks traditional star power, as Richard Bland took control in the second round with a 4-under 67. First round co-leader Russell Henley followed up his first day with another round under par to tie the lead in the afternoon, and join Bland in Saturday’s final pairing.

They will be chased by Louis Oosthuizen, and another great story in Matthew Wolff, who will tee off from the penultimate pairing just one shot back. Bubba Watson and Jon Rahm are the pairing just before them — another shot back — but certainly providing the name value and fear factor that will leave the leaders looking at the scoreboard this weekend.

There are still 35 players within six shots of Bland’s lead, making it a wide-open tournament. Let’s look at the stats from the second day at Torrey Pines to see who’s in position to make a move this weekend.

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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 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 3

I am still looking down the leaderboard, especially with some expected names leading the pack. My favorite play is with Justin Thomas, who struggled a bit in his opening round, but made both shots up on Friday.

Thomas will go into the weekend at even par, putting him just five shots back. He finally found his putter, gaining two shots on the field with the flat stick despite losing a bit on the field with his irons. He gained 2.81 shots on the field tee to green, and more than four shots on the field on and around the greens. If Thomas found anything sustainable with his short game, he will be a contender the rest of the way making him playable on FanDuel at +2700 odds to win the title.

One of just three others to match the round from Bland was Collin Morikawa. He followed up a disappointing opening round with an equally impressive second round to get himself inside the cut line. He’s now just five shots from the top of the leaderboard.

Morikawa, a California kid, is someone that should fit the mold to be reliable in hitting fairways and greens. He put it together in the second round, as he gained strokes across all metrics, including more than four shots tee to green. He becomes an interesting player, because if he can duplicate the 2.46 shots he gained on the greens Friday, he will be a factor come Sunday’s final round.

If you want a player quietly playing at Torrey Pines, it’s Joaquin Niemann. He shot a 2-under 69 on Friday and finally showed the ball striking we have come to expect from the Chilean. Niemann gained more than four shots with his ball striking in the second round, with more than two and a half shots gained on approach.

He made the weekend just a couple of shots inside the number after a disappointing opening round. However, if he found something Friday, he could be a factor in a number of markets this weekend. Niemann is one of the best ball strikers in the world when he’s on, and if this is a sign of things to come, he’s in play in finishing position, matchups and DFS this weekend.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

As phenomenal of a story as it would be for Bland to contend, much less win the U.S. Open, I just can’t buy it. He just won his first event on the European Tour after turning pro in 1996. His story is one for the ages, but I just simply can’t expect it to continue through the weekend.

Bland shot the best round of the day with a 67 on Friday, taking the solo lead in the morning before getting caught by Russell Henley in the afternoon. My biggest issue is how Bland got it done after he gained more than 4.5 strokes putting on the day. He was solid tee to green on the round, but I have to believe that as the pressure rises, the journeyman will begin to fade, possibly starting with Saturday’s final tee time.

As I write this, I realize I am just raining on the parade of all of the good stories. The resurgence and surprise performance that has been Matthew Wolff this weekend, is the next story I expect to fall apart this weekend.

He has been away from the game for months, personally acknowledging it as a mental break and assessment for himself. Wolff has surprised everyone with his play this week, as he has been dialed in with everything, but I have to imagine that might get more difficult as the pressure mounts.

Wolff has balanced a number of bogeys through the first two days with more birdies, but I expect the latter to dissipate this weekend. He has already done more than anyone could have expected following his break, leaving any result as a win for him the rest of the way.

I have been a big proponent of Scottie Scheffler this week, but the number paint a fairly ugly story. He’s lost strokes to the field tee to green on average through the first two rounds, and is almost entirely reliant on his putter.

Scheffler finds himself in a tie for 10th, but my concern is around his statistical profile. Scheffler improved across the bag Friday, but unless he does that further into Round 3, he will be dropping down the leaderboard on Moving Day.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

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