Charles Schwab Challenge Round 2 Betting Tips: Using Strokes Gained to Find an Edge

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Photo credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa

Man, was it great to have golf back. But now what?

One of the biggest questions I had going into this tournament — which was full of uncertainty due to the layoff and conditions — was what to do after Round 1, when we finally do have meaningful data.

To be fair, that’s a challenge any other week, too. How much is a one-round sample size really worth? If a guy is hot with his putter but was mediocre otherwise, is he due to regress or is he confident with that stick? How do you know when a guy just doesn’t have it that week all together?


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I don’t have an answer for that putting dilemma. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone does; I think it’s one of the black boxes of golf data right now, regardless of what people want to admit.

In general, I do think it’s still wise — like in a normal week — to focus on golfers who are striking the ball well. Putting, usually, will come and go, and it’s very susceptible to where the putts are in relation to the hole. A guy that’s consistently hitting second shots into good positions and setting : Those are the guys you want to bet on moving forward.

And my theory is that will be even more extreme this week.

Round-to-round, golf can be pretty volatile. A guy can shoot a 63 one day and a 74 the next. But this week, I’m skeptical we’ll see as many Friday comebacks into the cut line as we would a normal week given the layoff.

In terms of betting strategy — and who knows if this is correct — I’ll look to find ways to fade the guys who just aren’t hitting it well tee-to-green and especially with their approach shots. I’m not sure if that’s something you magically find in Day 2 off a long layoff, and especially not at Colonial with these tiny, fast greens.

Players to Buy, Players to Fade for Round 2

It might surprise you, but the three players who top the leaderboard in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green aren’t the co-leaders in Justin Rose and Harold Varner. Rather it’s Abraham Ancer (+4.51 strokes), Collin Morikawa (+4.45) and Jhonattan Vegas (+4.19).

I already really liked Morikawa and Ancer before the tournament — in fact, they were the two guys I wrote up as my favorite outright bets — so I obviously still believe in them in Round 2 and beyond.

There are limited bets for Round 2 compared to pre-tournament, but you can find both of those guys in 3-balls: Morikawa is -110 at DraftKings vs. Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson; Ancer is +130 vs. Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Streelman.

Interestingly enough, fourth on the list in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green is Jason Dufner, who shot just 2-under thanks to a miserable putting performance. Unfortunately, he’s not a great putter to begin with, so this just may be the norm for him this week, but if you believe putting is random he’s definitely a guy to buy moving forward.

Some notable golfers who lost a ton of strokes putting include Emiliano Grillo (-5.81) and Kevin Na (-3.28), the latter who was in a featured group in the morning and publicly seemed to miss everything on the green. Grillo actually gained 2.29 strokes tee-to-green, so he was likely much better than his +3 score on the day indicates.

A guy to fade, as sad as it makes me, is Rickie Fowler, who shot 3-over and deserved every bit of it. He actually gained strokes putting but that was the lone non-negative: He was among the worst in the field in tee-to-green play, losing a whopping 3.67 strokes. This may be a situation to where he just doesn’t have it off the break.

Justin Thomas (+120) and Jordan Spieth (+200) are in 3-balls against him for Round 2, and both looked excellent Thursday.

Matthew Fitzpatrick is another interesting name. He has an excellent short game in general, so perhaps it’s not surprising to see him gain so many strokes with his putter and around the green. But he was pretty dreadful off the tee and with his second shots, losing 1.94 strokes tee-to-green despite shooting a respectable -2 on the day. If the putting turns on him and his iron play doesn’t improve, expect him to fall below the cut line tomorrow.

Honestly I could write thousands of words — there are so many golfers in the field — but instead I’ll leave you with a data visual of each golfer’s performance Thursday in each Strokes Gained metric: Off-the-Tee, Approach, Around-the-Green and Putting.

Again, focus on approach the most; the players who have struggled there may not find it this week.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 1

(Note: The graph below is interactive. Click/hover to see data. You may need to zoom [control and + sign] to see better.)

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