2022 Honda Classic Round 3 Buys and Fades: Buyer Beware of Berger Runaway at PGA National (Saturday, Feb. 26)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Daniel Berger.
- Daniel Berger holds a three-shot lead at the Honda Classic after 36 holes at PGA National.
- While there's still a smidge of betting value on the leader, it could evaporate quickly.
- Chris Murphy gives his tops buys and fades ahead of Round 3, below.
Daniel Berger picked up right where he left off in the second round of the Honda Classic as he backed up his Thursday 65 with another one on Friday. He has taken a stranglehold on this tournament heading into the weekend with a three-shot lead over Chris Kirk and Kurt Kitayama.
Kitayama posted another under-par round after he led the field following the first 18. He wasn’t able to get things going in the same way he was able to on Thursday, but any under-par round is proving to be valuable this week at PGA National. Kirk also put together another good round, and those two will provide the primary resistance to a potential runaway from Berger this weekend.
There are only seven players within five shots of Berger’s lead, but with so much trouble around this course, things can really flip in a hurry. The real issue is that the leaderboard behind the No. 21 player in the world is also lacking firepower, as Shane Lowry is the only player inside the top 100 in the world within the top 10 going into the weekend. We will have to have some conviction on some players that are new to this environment if they are going to chase down the lead over the next 36 holes.
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
This has always been a course where players can come from well back over the weekend and win. The difference this year is that we have an elite player on top of his game, with a group behind him that really lacks experience in this position. If I go back to how we evaluated what to do with Joaquin Niemann over the last weekend at the Genesis, and look to DataGolf to give us some numbers, we again have a win probability that says Daniel Berger is underpriced for the odds. He is projected at a 60% win probability on DataGolf which equates to -150, but FanDuel has him -105 implying a 51.2% win probability.
We can debate the value of a player at minus money with still half of the tournament to go, but the strokes-gained numbers show just how well he is playing throughout his bag. Berger’s worst category through two rounds is off the tee where he is gaining “just” 1.98 strokes on the field after Friday. Each of his other metrics show gains of three or more strokes through the first two days.
Even though we can’t necessarily expect him to continue to gain more than five shots with his putter across the next two days, the rest of his game has been so tidy that it’s difficult to see it all falling apart at once. As for my stance heading to the weekend I do expect him to stay at the top and likely win, but I just can’t pull the trigger at minus money on a course where one poor swing can be so costly.
The way I’ll limit my exposure as I look for someone to potentially make a move and get in the hunt going into Sunday is to skip the main contenders and look for long shots. I just can’t pay the short odds even for a guy like Svensson who is on fire with his ball-striking and approach play this week. I would much rather take the chance that someone like Gary Woodland puts together a low round on Saturday.
He is +9000 on FanDuel, so it won’t cost much to add him to the card, and he is certainly showing some form this week. Woodland gained more than two strokes ball-striking on Friday and missed just two greens in regulation. He hasn’t had his best on the greens this week, and if he can pair those aspects of his game together on Saturday he has the skill to go low and be in the mix if Berger stumbles.
My next buy is with a personal favorite of mine, Mito Pereira. He is a player I expect to break through and contend for a win sooner than later. He is just a putter away from being further up the leaderboard this week.
Mito gained almost four shots on the field with his ball-striking on Friday, but he gave three of them back with the flat stick. He missed just two greens on the round and got up and down on one of those. He three-putted two greens, resulting in bogey, and ranks 120th in the field in putts per green. If he really goes low on Saturday he could be in a similar position to Woodland as he’s just one shot back on the leaderboard, but my favorite bet for the Chilean is a top 10 at +333 on BetMGM who pays all ties in full.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
There were a ton of ejections on Friday where players that put together decent opening rounds found themselves battling or beyond the cutline on Day 2. I expect we will see some of that from the top of the leaderboard on Saturday too, and frankly the best way for any others to get in the mix is for some overall poor play from the entire final group.
Chris Kirk is the player that stands out as the most likely to fade from a strokes-gained perspective. The difficulty there is that he has the long-term experience and history for this spot, but he has been getting by without his best on approach. He was just below field average with his irons on Friday but gained 3.49 shots on and around the greens to keep his top standing. He will need to find his irons again over the weekend if he wants to stay in the mix for a win on Sunday.
Roger Sloan is the player within the top 10 that ranks lowest in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Day 2. It was understandable that he took a step back from a really strong first round, but the way his entire game drifted back to average is concerning for the rest of the week.
The Canadian will start Saturday from seven shots back and is looking for his second top-15 finish of the year. His best result was a T14 from the WM Phoenix Open, but that result is surrounded by three missed cuts. It’ll be interesting to see which direction he goes from here as he will need to be the player from Thursday if he wants to really get the most out of his week at PGA National.
Outside of the final group, Nick Watney sticks out as a player I am going to fade in matchups and DFS on Saturday. He hasn’t finished better than 55th this year, with three missed cuts across the five events. Watney made his climb up the leaderboard with a 3-under 67 in Round 2, but it’s hard to trust him staying within the top 20 based on the lack of consistency in his form.
Watney was able to put together his low round by flipping his approach play from Thursday to Friday and pairing it with a hot putter. He gained 3.86 shots on the greens in the second round. I just see his current standing as a brief blip on the radar as his form doesn’t give me anything to believe he can continue to do it at a high level this weekend.