2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Round 2 Buys and Fades: Collin Morikawa Highlights 3 Players to Target

2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Round 2 Buys and Fades: Collin Morikawa Highlights 3 Players to Target article feature image
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Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa.

The opening round of the final WGC of the season got off to a fast start as players were rolling in birdies left and right to open play at TPC Southwind. While the course would eventually bite back at some players, Harris English never really slowed down.

English went out in 28 to open his day and even though his 59 watch ended with a couple of bogeys just after the turn, he still got in the best round of the day. His 8-under 62 bested the rest of this elite field by two shots as he seeks his third victory of the year.

It wasn’t the names you may expect at 6-under as the likes of Jim Herman, Carlos Ortiz, Matthew Wolff and Ian Poulter tied for the second-best rounds on Thursday. In all, 45 of the 66 player field got in the house under par thanks to perfect playing conditions that allowed for lower-than-normal scoring to start the week in Memphis.

Even with English two shots clear of everyone else, there is a long way to go for everyone on the leaderboard since this is a no-cut event that will allow players to work their way back into contention across four guaranteed rounds.

Similarly to last week at the Olympics, many of the top names got off to a slow start to the event, creating value in the betting markets for some top players down the board. Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from the opening round of WGC-FedEx St. Jude to see who may be set to make a move on Friday.

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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 2

I was really hopeful we would get a little better number on Collin Morikawa heading into the second round, but when he drained a 17-footer for birdie on his final hole, his odds were cut in half. Still, The Open champion is listed at longer odds than he was pre-tournament at +1400 to win another WGC this year.

Morikawa was one of my favorite buys heading into the week after he closed his week at the Olympics with an 8-under round to get into the playoff for the bronze medal. He fell short in that venture, but it was a good trend heading into this week.

Things started slow on Thursday for Morikawa, as he bogeyed his second hole and dropped another shot on the back nine. He finally put it together down the stretch with four birdies in his last six holes. The most encouraging part was how he showed comfort on the greens on Thursday.

While his irons weren’t what we expect, I have no doubt they will bounce back in a big way this weekend. I’ve seen enough from the Champion Golfer of the Year to buy in now on his chance to get another win this week in Memphis.

[Bet Collin Morikawa at BetMGM.]

One longshot that stands out above the rest going into the second round is Kevin Na, who opened with a 3-under 67 to start his week, despite not having anything with the best club in his bag — the putter.

Na had a great first round tee to green, gaining more than three shots on the field, with more than two of those coming on approach. He’s a player I like to buy in on when I see some form with the ball striking since he can be inconsistent on that front week to week. Na seems to have it at Southwind and if his flat stick turns around, he has true winning upside at +10000 heading into the weekend on PointsBet.

[Bet Kevin Na at PointsBet.]

Sometimes the numbers are unable to tell the whole story of a round, and that was certainly the case for Kevin Kisner on Thursday. He started the day with a bogey, then a double on his third hole to quickly get to 3-over. Kisner then had to scramble for par on his fourth hole before settling in and hitting the rest of his greens in regulation.

The former Georgia Bulldog would play those final 14 holes at 6-under, including an eagle at the par-5 16th. He’s a player who will be able to pepper the fairways and greens throughout the rest of the week, while not really losing much to the field in distance around this course.

Kisner’s quick turnaround in the opening 18 has me bullish on his prospects the rest of the way, making him an interesting play in all place position markers, even up to a winner at +8000 on DraftKings.

[Bet Kevin Kisner at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

As we’ve seen in the buys today, it requires some digging to understand the strokes gained numbers due to the 11 holes with water hazards in play. One errant, wet shot can be really costly off the tee or on approach, and generally the top of the leaderboard avoided that on Thursday. I say all of that because I am going to use some other areas to really dial in my fades for Round 2.

The first of those will be Bryson DeChambeau. Even DeChambeau seemed surprised by his round on Thursday in his post-round interview, acknowledging that this course really doesn’t suit his game.

Despite that, the 2020 U.S. Open champion fired a bogey-free 5-under opening round, but I’m putting the early fade in on him keeping that form going the rest of the way this week. There really isn’t anything in the stat line that will jump out at us to see the fade coming, but his comments are enough to confirm that it may be a battle for him to stay in contention across the next 54 holes.

Will Zalatoris is one that stands out a bit more from a strokes-gained perspective for a fade into Round 2. He is known for his ball striking and is typically held back by a balky putter, but all of that was backwards on Thursday at TPC Southwind.

Zalatoris gained more than two strokes on the greens with his putter, despite losing strokes to the field in both ball-striking metrics. He hit just half of his fairways off the tee and missed six greens in regulation, but the putter saved him time and again. While I expect we may see better ball-striking numbers from the former Demon Deacon this weekend, he hasn’t shown the ability to sustain a hot putter for me to believe he can contend the rest of the way.

Fading Brad Kennedy isn’t exactly an earth-shattering decision, even though the Australian posted a solid 3-under 67 in the opening round. He hit just 55% of his greens in regulation on Thursday, and benefitted from a big time eagle down the back nine.

Kennedy will go into the second day with slightly inflated odds following his opening round and make for a good matchup on Friday. While it would make a great story to see him stay within shouting distance of the leaders, it’d be really difficult to see a scenario where he can contend the rest of the way.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

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