AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Stanley.
The withdrawal of Dustin Johnson at the start of the week left the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Patrick Cantlay as the highest-ranked player in the field. He certainly played like it on Thursday as the No. 11 player in the world shot a bogey-free, 10-under 62 at Pebble Beach to take a two-shot first-round lead.
This round comes on the heels of Cantlay’s 11-under closing round a few weeks back at The American Express, leaving him at 21 under over his last 36 holes on TOUR. He’s absolutely on fire with his game right now, but there are 54 holes to go and the weather will test all of the players the rest of the week.
Akshay Bhatia and Henrik Norlander did their best to keep pace with the lead on Thursday, but would ultimately fall a couple of shots short with 8-under rounds. They would be followed into the clubhouse by 7-under 65s from Jordan Spieth and Nate Lashley. All four of these players also played Pebble Beach in the first round. In total, 19 of the top 21 players on the leaderboard were on Pebble Beach on Thursday and will turn to the more difficult Spyglass Hill on Friday.
The biggest factor in Round 2 could come from Mother Nature, as winds are expected to be up throughout the round. It will be a heavy impact to the players that struggled on Spyglass today, and now have to go to the more coastal Pebble Beach and deal with the winds. It will be interesting to see if these players can play catch up on the easier course despite having the more difficult conditions.
Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from Round 1. It is only available for the players on Pebble Beach, so we only have it for half of the field through 18 holes.
Strokes Gained Explanation
Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly playing 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
As I look for buys and fades into the second round, I will be focusing almost entirely on ball-striking. It will be the better ball-strikers with the best chance to hold up throughout the round in the wind.
The best ball-striker on Thursday was Norlander, not Cantlay, though he was quite good, too. Norlander gained 3.47 strokes on the field in the first round with his ball-striking, led by 2.41 strokes gained on approach. He was really great throughout the bag during the round as he gained 4.46 strokes tee to green, gaining more than a stroke on the field in all three metrics.
Henrik would also get it done with his putter Thursday as he gained 1.79 strokes on the greens. If he keeps this up on Friday, he should be able to position himself for a late Saturday tee time, but most importantly this type of ball striking will hold up well in the winds the rest of the way.
The best player on approach in the first round at Pebble Beach was Brian Harman. The former Georgia Bulldog gained three strokes on the field with his irons on his way to a 5-under 67.
It could have been a much better round for Harman on Thursday had he done anything else in the bag a little better. He was mostly field average in every other metric in his first round, which left him five shots short of Cantlay’s lead at the end of the day. Still, the iron play will carry over nicely in the wind to the more difficult Spyglass and give him a chance to get in contention heading into the weekend with just a little help in some other categories.
I’m going to dig even deeper for my last buy going into Round 2 as it’s still early, and the winds could shake things up quite a bit. My favorite buy further down the board is with Kyle Stanley. I really liked Stanley coming into the week, and he really didn’t do anything to change that opinion on Thursday in his 2-under 70.
The issue with Stanley, other than being a Clemson guy, has always been with his putter. It was no different for him in the first round as he lost 1.66 strokes to the field on the greens. Despite this, I am still bullish on this ability to turn it around as we know that putting can vary widely from round to round, and his ball striking was elite on Thursday.
Stanley was sixth in the Pebble Beach field in strokes gained approach, and second off the tee in Round 1. He was right there with all of the players that finished the round at the top of the leaderboard, but he just simply couldn’t roll the ball in the cup. I’m willing to take a small shot on him at +32000 on FanDuel, but will really target him in finishing position markets and DFS on Friday.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
The first player to jump out for fade potential is Mark Hubbard. He had a great round on Pebble Beach with a 6-under 66, but he needed to gain an unsustainable 3.92 strokes on the greens to make it happen.
While I don’t think the putter can or will stay that hot on Friday for Hubbard, the iron play gives me greater concern. He lost more than a stroke to the field on approach on Thursday, hitting just over 55% of greens in regulation. That number becomes more staggering when you consider he hit every fairway throughout the round.
It won’t be easy to keep the ball in the short grass off the tee in Round 2 at Spyglass Hill, and if the irons were off from the fairway, it could get ugly for Hubbard from the rough.
Brian Stuard checks in with the next fade for Friday. He didn’t lose strokes in any categories in the first round, but wasn’t particularly great at anything either. He gained 1.57 strokes on the field tee to green on Thursday, but didn’t gain more than a stroke in any one category.
Stuard had to lean on the flat stick as he gained 2.68 strokes on the greens in his 6-under 66. He now heads to Spyglass, a course he has struggled with in recent years, and without elite ball striking to help hold him up, it’s hard to see him maintaining his spot near the top of the leaderboard. He could be popular at a cheap price in Showdown on Friday, and I will happily play that fade.
My last fade on Friday is pretty straightforward. Hunter Mahan had a nice round to start the tournament with a 5-under 67, which is a good sign for a player that has missed four straight cuts. Unfortunately, the way he did it doesn’t show much improvement as he lost strokes to the field in both ball striking categories.
Mahan would lose 1.62 strokes to the field on approach on Thursday, a fairly remarkable feat in a 5-under round on a second-shot golf course. It speaks mostly to how great his putter was, as he gained 3.66 shots on the greens to make up for that poor ball-striking. He sets up to be an easy fade in the winds on Friday.