2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions Round 2 Picks, Buys & Fades: Target Sungjae Im & Kevin Na
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Sungjae Im
- After one round in Maui, the top of the Sentry Tournament of Champions leaderboard is stacked.
- Cameron Smith leads the way, with Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay one stroke back.
- Chris Murphy breaks down which players he's targeting after an eventful first day in Kapalua.
After a seemingly never-ending layoff, golf is finally back as 38 of the most recent winners on TOUR made their 2022 debut at Kapalua in Hawaii. While it’s a new year, not much changed at the top as Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay charged their way toward the top of the leaderboard on Thursday to close the day within one shot of the lead.
They were bested in the opening round by Australian Cameron Smith, who posted an 8-under opening round, which included two eagles and five birdies following a second-hole bogey. He will go into the second round being chased by three of the top players in the world as the aforementioned Rahm and Cantlay were matched by World No. 19 Daniel Berger. Sungjae Im, Kevin Na and Erik van Rooyen are just one shot further behind them, putting eight players within the all-important Top 5 after the first day.
Kapalua has historically been a place where you need to be within the Top 5 to have a chance to win. That has been the case in 10 of the last 12 years. That makes it tough on us odds shopping between round, but I think there is a valid argument that with the soft conditions and light winds, a comeback by virtue of a really low round could be in play this year.
Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from the first round in Maui to see who stands out as value heading into Friday.
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
The names at the top of the leaderboard really make we want to tread lightly, because they are the best players in the world and they are now at odds that just don’t present any value with 54 holes left to play. The stab I will take is with Sungjae Im, who is two shots back of the lead in a tie for fifth.
Im was dialed-in with his ball striking in the opening round as he gained more than two shots in that metric. It led to 2.25 shots gained Tee to Green, which was the fifth best in the field on the day. When Im has struggled in the past, it was immediately apparent, especially on approach, but he really picked up where he left off from his fall swing that included a win at the Shriners. I’d love a couple more points here, but at +1400 he presents the best win value to me at the top.
If you want some “long shot” value, the longest you’ll get to make some sense in the top-five sweet spot is with Kevin Na. I always like to get in on Na when I see he is playing well with his ball striking, which he certainly did on Thursday.
Na was second in the field on approach to start the week and played to field average off the tee, which is a plus for a short hitter like him. He was able to put together a 6-under opening round despite not having anything great with the best club in his bag, the putter.
I expect we will see that flatstick heat up at times this weekend, and if he can maintain the ball striking he is a player who knows how to win. We get an added bonus that his entry to this field came by virtue of another win in Hawaii, and at +2900 on FanDuel heading into the second round, he becomes an interesting option.
The player who was the best in the field on approach to start the week at the TOC was not someone you would usually expect. Branden Grace outpaced the rest of this elite field, gaining 3.56 shots on approach, which was a full shot better than every other player. He had seven birdie putts inside of 10 feet on the day, but his issue was an inability to convert on those opportunities.
Grace lost 1.89 strokes to the field with his putter, which was the third worst of the day. Still, he is 4-under going into Friday, and just four shots back of the lead and one shot from the top 10. I am not expecting him to be able to pull off a win in this type of field, though it wouldn’t cost you much to sprinkle the +13000 currently available on DraftKings and he has contended at times on the weekend in Major Championships. Instead, my target will be for him to move into the top 10 at +500 on BetMGM.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
The first player that jumps off the page for a fade is the first round leader, Cameron Smith. He put together a great round, which included dropping two eagle putts of 44 and 37 feet, respectively. Those putts were a big reason for his 3.43 strokes gained on the greens on Thursday, which was the best in the field and will be tough to sustain the rest of the way.
While the Australian was the best of the 38 players in putting, he ranked just 22nd in strokes gained approach, losing strokes to the field in that metric. The Plantation Course at Kapalua is one where you can hit a high percentage of greens, but if players are not hitting the right sections of the putting surface it will leave them with tough putts the rest of the way.
Smith found a way to roll in some of those putts on Thursday, but it’s clear he didn’t have his best ball striking game. He mentioned after the round being unsure of what to expect because of all of his time off, and I think the data shows that it may catch up him the rest of the way.
One of my favorite guys to chase, especially in DFS, the past two years is Erik van Rooyen. I have followed him quite a bit and experienced the many highs and lows that he typically has during a given round. EVR was able to keep it all on the good side on Thursday as he posted a bogey-free round of 6-under 67. It may be that he has turned the corner for consistency, but I am going to let him prove it to me on Friday.
The South African was the third-best player in the field both on approach and in Strokes Gained Tee to Green in the first round, so this fade isn’t one based on numbers. I am taking him as a fade on my gut feel for him as a player and the expectation that his odds and DFS ownership may be inflated due to the first 18 holes.
Much of the lead-up into the week was talking about a new focus and approach to preparation for Brooks Koepka. While his 4-under round looks good on the scoreboard, his statistics tell a very different story.
Koepka did nearly all of his good work on and around the greens. He lost more than two strokes to the small field with his ball striking, including 1.55 shots lost off the tee. He coupled his driving struggles with additional issues on approach. I am going to stay away from Koepka until I have some tangible data that shows me anything heading in the right direction, especially on a course where he has historically struggled.