BMW Championship: Round 3 Strokes Gained Buys and Fades

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Kisner.

We’ve officially gotten into U.S. Open territory at the BMW Championship as two players, Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy, sit atop the leaderboard at just 1-under par. Cantlay had the best round of the day with a 2-under 68, which was matched only by Brendon Todd, who is currently tied for fifth. Rory led a group of six that shot 1-under 69 on Friday. Thursday’s leader, Hideki Matsuyama, fell back in Round 2 with a 3-over 73, but remains in contention just one shot behind the leaders in a tie for third with last week’s winner, Dustin Johnson.

Olympia Fields is testing every aspect of the players’ game, with strokes gained tee-to-green being the key statistic supporting those at the top of the leaderboard. I will continue to target these players in Round 3 and look to fade those that may be leaning a little too heavily on their short game.

Low scores have been hard to come by through two rounds, and with 22 players within four shots of the lead, there is plenty of value available in the betting markets.

Let’s take a look at the strokes gained statistics from Round 2 and see who stands out.

(Click here to skip to the analysis section.)

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.

Read more about Strokes Gained here.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 3

The long rough and firm greens have leveled the playing field driving the ball this week, as hitting fairways has been put to a premium over distance. Kevin Kisner has taken advantage — ranking 10th in fairways hit — and is positioned just three shots back of the lead.

Kisner is one of the best putters on TOUR, but has had some costly mistakes on the greens at the BMW Championship so far this week. He had a painful miss for par on No. 17 today from just over five feet, which snowballed into another lost stroke on the 18th hole. The good news for bettors is that his bogey-bogey finish on Friday drops him from the spotlight a bit and may lead to a little better value this weekend.

This type of event, where par is valued, really suits Kisner’s game. He’s one that contends when it’s a grind, and he certainly has shown to have his game through two rounds. If he can clean up some of the costly mistakes that held him back the first two rounds, he will find himself in one of the final groups after moving day.

Matthew Wolff has put himself in contention in a number of tournaments over the last month, including a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship. He comes into Saturday in 13th position, just four shots back of the leaders after a 1-over 71 on Friday.

His score in Round 2 wasn’t reflective of his overall play, as he gained strokes in all three tee-to-green metrics, and gained more than three strokes on the field ball-striking (SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach). Wolff was able to find his irons today after losing strokes on approach on Thursday, which is a really positive sign that it is all coming together for him. The putter has been his shortfall in the tournament this week, but he has the skill-set to turn it around and make a run up the leaderboard this weekend.

When he is on, Corey Conners is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. The Canadian showed that ability on Friday as he lapped the field by nearly two strokes tee-to-green. He gained more than five strokes ball-striking on his way to a 1-under 69 despite losing more than a stroke and a half putting.

Conners is 188th on TOUR in putting this season, making it difficult to expect him to even match the field on the greens in a given round. But with the course demanding so much tee-to-green, he can put up Friday’s numbers and still be a great play in betting matchups and Showdown or Weekend DFS.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

While he is still one of the top players in the game, Cantlay just hasn’t been right since the break. He’s typically a ball-striking machine, especially known for his approach play, and just above average around and on the greens.

He’s had success this week at the BMW Championship, but my concern is with where he is finding that success. His stats are flipped. He’s lost strokes both days on approach, ranking 54th in the field, while he’s leading the field in strokes gained around-the-green and is third in putting. On Friday, he holed out from 48 yards on No. 11 for eagle, and made a 43-foot putt on the 18th for birdie.

These numbers tell me that Cantlay’s current standing is a bit of smoke and mirrors that I think will catch up with him on the weekend in these tough conditions. I’d expect his odds and DFS ownership to reflect his standings more his play on Saturday, and it looks like a risk worth considering.

Todd tops our fade list after Friday’s round. He led the field in putting by nearly two and a half strokes, while losing more than a half stroke tee-to-green. It was a great round for Todd as he matched Rory for the score on the day at 68, but he matches up very similarly our fade of Brian Harman yesterday.

He’s losing strokes on approach and around the green, which is a tough combination if his putter starts to falter. Add to it that Todd is now in contention and has shown a lot of nerves the last few events that he’s been up the leaderboard. He looks like a great fade in any matchups you can find him in on Saturday.

Russell Henley had a strong bounce-back round on Friday with a 1-under 69 following his sluggish 74 on Thursday. He was able to go in the right direction while many around him fell, but my concern is that he did it all around the green.

Henley has been a player making waves with his ball-striking in recent events, but he lost strokes in both categories in Round 2. He only found 50% of the greens on Friday, and got bailed out with a 34-yard chip-in on No. 6 today. He has been a popular play in recent weeks for good reason, but it seems that form is slipping and this looks like the time to fade against the Georgia Bulldog.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 2

 

 

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