2022 PGA Championship Round 3 Buys & Fades: Watson Rolling into the Weekend
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Bubba Watson.
The second round of the PGA Championship played out just as expected on Friday as the morning tee times were met with high winds and difficult conditions, while the winds laid down for the afternoon wave. It led to another full stroke advantage, resulting in a two-shot overall split in favor of the players who teed off Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.
This shot split makes what Justin Thomas has done through 36 holes all the more impressive as his consecutive 67s came from the more difficult position. Thomas was the leader through much of the day Friday until conditions became ideal for scoring and both Will Zalatoris and Mito Pereira took advantage. The two will tee off from the final pairing on Saturday as Zalatoris holds a one shot lead over Pereira, but is three beyond Thomas and the rest of the field.
Both players in final group will be seeking their first wins on TOUR, nevermind their first major. It will certainly be a stressful position for them to carry into the weekend, though Zalatoris has made it a habit to be in contention in major championships early in his career. We will also see the winds return Saturday afternoon, creating an added dynamic for this PGA Championship and ramping up the excitement over the weekend.
Strokes Gained Explanation
Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer has 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, SG: Ball-Striking and SG: 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 are 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 can’t go through this after the day Bubba Watson had on Friday and not highlight what he did. I don’t know if he can keep it going into Saturday or if he will even stay in the hunt, but his 8.99 SG: Tee-to-Green must be covered.
Watson was 3.87 shots better than the next best player in the field, Tyrrell Hatton, in that metric in the second round. Watson had everything working as he gained 6.42 shots ball striking, including four SG: Approach. When he did need to perform around the green, he also stepped up with his short game, gaining 2.56 shots on the field around the green. The 7-under 63 was certainly his best round of the year as he has struggled to get much going in 2022. This could certainly springboard him for the rest of the season and he’ll pair with Justin Thomas on Saturday as they each look to add another major to their trophy cases.
The other player who should be applauded for his play from the more difficult wave is Matthew Fitzpatrick. The Englishman is 3-under through the first two rounds despite playing in the most difficult conditions. He even posted an under-par round on Friday while losing 1.57 shots to the field on approach.
Fitzpatrick gained 2.11 shots on approach in the opening round, continuing the good play he has shown in recent weeks. It was strange to see him struggle with his irons in the second round, but I expect it to be just a blip on the radar and for him to bounce back Saturday. Fitzpatrick will be one player who I don’t worry about if the winds pick up and it may even play to his advantage. Still, it seems like a lot to expect him to get in the mix for the win from six shots back. However, he is a great play for me in all other markets this weekend.
Sam Burns has proven able to compete at an elite level any week he brings his full game with him. He has certainly done that through two rounds, especially on Friday as he gained more than four shots on the field with his ball striking. The key for Burns always seems to be his play off the tee and that is where I found the most encouragement as he gained 1.60 shots on the field and gained strokes on 11 of his 14 drives. He is seven shots back of the lead, which is a tall order at relatively short odds with many elite players in between. My target with him will be for placing markets and DFS.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
My first fade going into the weekend is Abraham Ancer. He has carved out a solid couple of rounds to start the tournament, but I’ve got concerns for his ability to stay in the mix.
Ancer was only able to hit 55% of his Greens-in-Regulation on Friday despite playing from the preferred wave. He hit less fairways and it resulted in less greens hit which is a recipe for trouble for a player who ranks 206th of 210 players in SG: Around-the-Green this season. In the past, Ancer would be a player we expect to quickly bounce back on approach, but even his iron play has been a struggle this season. He ranks 122nd on the year in SG: Approach as injuries have led to some added struggles and all of that, combined with the tough course, field and conditions have me expecting him to fall out of contention this weekend at Southern Hills.
We started to see Matt Kuchar stumble a bit on Friday at the PGA Championship and it seems he is more likely to continue in that direction rather than to return to the form that led to a 4-under opening round. Kuchar lost strokes to the field tee-to-green Friday and on approach — all from the easier side of the draw. He continues to lean heavily on a hot putter that has carried him to some solid finishes in recent tournaments, including nearly 96′ of putts made in Round 2. I’ll fade this form into the weekend as this course will require him to dial in the ball striking over the next two days and I’m not sure he can put that back together enough to remain on the first page of the leaderboard.
Speaking of players relying on their short game, that is certainly what Patrick Reed has done thus far. He lost strokes in both metrics of his ball striking on Friday and still managed an even-par round by gaining 3.5 shots on and around the greens.
I am sticking hard to the thought that players will not be able to just have their short game and survive to a top finish this weekend. Patrick Reed fits the category of players who I would expect to fall down the board over the final 36 holes as he continues to search for his ball striking.