2022 Valero Texas Open Round 3 Buys & Fades: MacIntyre, Vegas Lead the Best Buys into Saturday
Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Maverick McNealy
It was much of the same on Friday for the top names in the field at the Valero Texas Open. Hideki Matsuyama packed it in after nine holes, citing his prior injury as a reason to withdraw and presumably head to Augusta. Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy saw their rounds through but were left with the same fate as they missed the cut.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth and Corey Conners will play the weekend at TPC San Antonio, though it will be a steep hill for them to climb to get into contention as a mental gaff from Spieth caused a three-putt from three feet to put a halt to a good round.
The missteps from the top of the field will leave the door wide open for someone else to grab a late invite to The Masters next week. Ryan Palmer is in the driver’s seat through two rounds as he put together an impressive Friday from the more difficult afternoon wave to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.
Palmer’s six-under round was bested only by Kevin Chappell, who will join Palmer in the final pairing on Saturday. Chappell is tied alongside Matt Kuchar and Dylan Frittelli for second at 8-under, two shots back of the lead.
Only 12 players are within four shots of Palmer heading into moving day, but with 36-holes to play, things are still wide open. The winds should calm back down throughout the day on Saturday, and that will help to open up some more scoring. Let’s see who looks ready to take advantage of the nice conditions over the weekend.
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 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
Robert MacIntyre is one player who could play spoiler to the Masters qualifying hopes of others. He made a late charge up the leaderboard on Friday evening with another three-under day to get himself in a tie for 10th going into the third round.
It was surprising on Thursday to see MacIntyre’s struggles come off the tee as he is typically known for his long ball, and he certainly turned that around on Friday. He gained strokes on the field in all categories in the second round and will find himself in a good position just four shots short of the lead.
MacIntyre is a player with a win under his belt overseas and some budding talent. It would be no surprise to see him right there come Sunday afternoon. I will look to get in on the Scottman now as his odds will quickly shrink with a good start to this third round.
There is only one player who is gaining better than two strokes on the field in every metric tee to green, and that is Jhonnatan Vegas. He gained better than 1.3 shots on the field in all three categories on Friday as he put up a strong four-under round in the afternoon.
Vegas had one of the most volatile opening rounds I’ve seen in a long time on Thursday. He was either really good or poor with his approach play on every swing, and there was almost no in-between. He had seven shots on approach that gained more than a quarter of a shot on the field but also had seven others that lost more than a quarter stroke to the field. He settled that down a bit on Friday as he still had some poor swings, but they weren’t as frequent.
I often see volatility like this from an elite player as someone that is close to putting it all together. Vegas certainly didn’t do that to the full effect on Friday and if he does this weekend he will quickly be in the mix for this championship. He is someone that knows how to win and at +4000 on BetRivers, he is one of my favorite buys heading into the weekend.
If you’re looking for a player that can make a move up the leaderboard from well off the pace, my pick is Maverick McNealy. He’s had some pretty solid ball striking through the first two rounds by gaining more than three shots on the field with his approach. Most of that work came on Thursday, but outside of a really poor swing on the Par 5 second, hole he really hit it pretty well on Friday too.
McNealy is most well known for his putter at this stage of his career, and that has let him down fully through the first two days. I don’t expect it to stay down across an entire tournament, which makes him a solid candidate for a low round on Saturday. I’ll be targeting Mav in matchups, DFS, and for value in Top 20s heading into Round 3.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
In the tournaments following the pandemic, there was a rise back to prominence in the game of Brendon Todd. He was reeling off top-20 and top-10 finishes even in some of the elite fields in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Since then, he has fallen back in his game as he struggles to find the ball striking that led him in that play.
He has shown flashes of that iron play in particular at times as he did on Thursday, but the consistency is yet to be there. Friday was another example as he hovered around field average in each metric tee to green and relied solely on his putter to keep him in the mix. Todd could certainly go in either direction on Saturday, but I’ll take the side of his recent form that shows the ball striking not quite there to contend.
Scott Gutschewski is one of the great stories leading into the weekend. He was the last player into the field as he gained entry when Abraham Ancer withdrew on Wednesday evening. Gutschewski is the 706th-ranked player in the world with little TOUR experience, but he outplayed both Tony Finau and Brandt Snedeker in his first two rounds to put himself in the top 10 going into the weekend.
I really hope the cinderella story can continue as it is one of those things that makes golf so great, but it’s hard to see it playing out that way.
Gutschewski lost strokes to the field with his ball striking on Thursday and needed better than three shots gained on the greens to stay in the mix. As the pressure rises, and he finds himself in unfamiliar territory, I think he may find it hard to rely on the flat stick to carry him through. I’ll be rooting for him, but everything lines up for him to be a fade into Saturday.
It’s been an ugly start to the week from the tee for Troy Merritt. He’s lost 2.2 shots to the field in that category over his first two rounds and has hit just 11 of 28 fairways thus far. He is a player who isn’t long off the tee, so keeping it in the short grass is vital to his success, and he certainly wasn’t doing that the first two days.
Merritt saw his struggles off the tee carry over to the irons on Friday as he lost 1.3 shots on approach and hit just half of his greens in regulation. All of this is a formula for trouble around TPC San Antonio, and it sets him up as a fade for me in all formats on Saturday.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2
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