2022 Valspar Championship Round 3 Buys & Fades: Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas & Gary Woodland Among Best Bets Entering Saturday

2022 Valspar Championship Round 3 Buys & Fades: Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas & Gary Woodland Among Best Bets Entering Saturday article feature image

Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele.

The early part of Round 2 at Innisbrook Resort looked set to be taken over by Justin Thomas as he stormed out to 7-under par through his first fourteen holes. Unfortunately, his sixteenth hole of the day at the 7th derailed the round a bit as he struggled to a double bogey. Still, the No. 8 player in the world will go into the weekend just four shots behind the lead of Matthew NeSmith.

It was NeSmith who took the torch from the morning round that JT had going and never extinguished it. He shot a bogey-free 61, which included an eagle and eight birdies as the former South Carolina Gamecock took hold of the lead going into the weekend.

NeSmith passed two former champions to the top as he will play his third round alongside 2017 Champion Adam Hadwin, who is two shots back. Last year's champ, Sam Burns, will play in front of them with Scott Stallings, both of whom are at 11-under for the week and three shots behind.

NeSmith is seeking his first win on TOUR and really has limited experience in this position. He will also try to follow up a great round from the final pairing, and these factors should make for an exciting moving day at the Valspar Championship.

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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, 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

I am not one to take the shortest number on the board, especially with two rounds still to go, but I wanted to highlight Justin Thomas. He has been fantastic through two rounds this week, and he was in the mix heading into the weekend last week at THE PLAYERS. JT seems like he is on the verge of breaking through for his next win, and it would come as no surprise if he made it happen this week.

He is gaining better than three shots per round with his ball striking, and if it weren't for the big mistake on the 7th today, his numbers would be even better. Thomas lost .83 shots to the field on his approach shot that hole, which he sprayed into the woods. If he can clean up that type of mistake this weekend, he will be right there with a chance for the win until the end.

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I am one who believes that the next win on TOUR we see from Xander Schauffele is more likely to come from behind where he can play from a comfortable group behind the leaders on Sunday. This weekend may set up that way for the Olympic Gold Medalist as he will start his third round six shots back of the lead.

Schauffele is showing to have his form early in the week as he ranks in the top 10 in the field in both ball striking categories. He is moving the ball around the course the way he needs to, but the scoring is lacking just a bit at this stage. I expect to see him be in position to make a move on Saturday and maybe get himself in a good spot to try to be in contention down the back stretch in the final round.

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Gary Woodland struggled to find his game off the tee in the opening round on Thursday, but his irons and a hot putter bailed him out. He flipped the script on Friday as he had all aspects of his game going tee to green, but unfortunately he couldn't find anything on putting surfaces.

It was unfortunate for Woodland as his ball striking was a sight to see on Friday morning as he gained 3.75 shots on the field in that metric. However, his inability to capitalize on those chances was tough to watch. I wouldn't be surprised if he is able to find a way to combine those two days to some extent over the weekend and put everything together for a low round on Moving Day.

He is seven shots back of the lead, but in these scenarios, it's fair to focus on the players in second which are just five ahead of the 2019 U.S. Open Champion.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

We saw on Friday how hard it can be to follow up a great round with another good one for players who aren't the elites of the game. Jhonny Vegas struggled to do so in his second round as he shot even par, and I expect similar struggles for Matthew NeSmith on Saturday.

NeSmith has been on fire this week and has averaged four shots gained per round on approach. Those numbers don't come by accident, but when you change the scenario and put him in the final group on the weekend on the PGA TOUR, everything can feel different.

I like NeSmith and believe he may have the ability to win at some point, but he will likely need some seasoning in this spot to do it, and with players like Justin Thomas breathing down his neck, it's hard to see him putting another solid day together in Round 3.

Scott Stallings was a stripe show early in the morning on Friday. Every time Justin Thomas would post a birdie, Stallings was right there or already ahead of him with one of his own. He started to lose it though on his back nine as he lost strokes to the field on approach with seven of his final eight iron shots.

He would end his round losing better than a stroke to the field on approach and holding the end of his day together with his putter. He was fourth in the field with 3.77 shots gained on the greens, and he added another 1.77 around them. Stallings is playing some solid golf, but he will struggle to stay in position near the top of the leaderboard unless he finds that ball striking game again.

I mentioned one of the first round leaders who struggled in Round 2 as Vegas shot even par, and it was the same fate for David Lipsky. He was unable to get any momentum going to continue forward the way he started on Thursday.

Lipsky struggled especially on approach on Friday as he lost 1.55 shots to the field with his irons. He would lose strokes to the field in total tee to green on the day. He's another player whom I think will find it tough to climb up the leaderboard given his second round form.

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