CJ Cup Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

Credit:

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrrell Hatton.

The CJ Cup kicked off on Thursday for the first time stateside as the typical Korean-based event moved to Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. The course certainly didn’t disappoint on Day 1, providing players with seemingly equal opportunities for eagles and birdies as bogeys (and worse).

Tyrrell Hatton picked up where he left off after his victory last week on the European Tour by going 5 under in his first four holes before cooling down a bit on his way to a leading 65. Xander Schauffele and Russell Henley will start their rounds on Friday one shot back after they both shot 6-under 66s. Jon Rahm and Tyler Duncan round out the top five at two shots back of the leader.

It was great to see the TOUR embracing sports gambling this week, as in partnership with BetMGM, they listed live to win odds on the leaderboard throughout the first round. As we look through some of the buys and fades based on the strokes gained data from Round 1, I will use their odds to show where I see some value.

(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 2

Rahm was my favorite pick this week on the DFS side, and certainly didn’t disappoint on Thursday. He shot a solid 5-under 67 in Round 1, but also left some shots out there.

Rahm was the best player in the field off-the-tee on Thursday, gaining nearly two strokes in that category, and backed it up gaining another 2.82 strokes on approach. He had a fantastic day ball-striking, but lost strokes to the field on the greens, and only played the four Par 5s in 1 under.

He turns into Friday just behind Xander as the tournament favorite, with BetMGM listing Rahm at just +400 to win. I personally am not one to play odds that short with 54 holes left, but I will buy him in all matchups and DFS for Round 2.

It’s really hard to know which Jason Day you will get from week to week. He has well-documented back issues, and has been working through swing and coaching changes. The Australian flashed some good form towards the end of the season with four straight top-seven finishes, including a fourth at the PGA Championship. Unfortunately, he struggled his last four events, where he gained strokes on approach in exactly one round of his final 12.

I say all of that to clarify why I am a bit intrigued by a round where he gained just a half a stroke on the field on approach, as added with a strong off-the-tee round it made for a solid 2-under 70. Day is known to have one of the best short games around, and I’ll expect his putting numbers to improve throughout the weekend. He is someone I will jump in on at +6000 to win this event as he goes into Friday just five shots behind and showing good ball-striking trends on Day 1.

Mark Hubbard is another good putter who showed positive signs ball-striking on Thursday. Last season’s 29th-ranked player in strokes gained putting also shot a 2-under 70 to start his week at Shadow Creek.

He did this while ranking seventh in the field in strokes gained tee-to-green as he gained strokes in all three metrics. Hubbard fell short on Thursday with his usually reliable flat stick, as he lost nearly a full stroke on the greens to the field. This has the 31-year-old looking like a good buy for matchups and DFS heading into Round 2 on Friday.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

There’s been an interesting transformation in Abraham Ancer’s game over the last two seasons. He went from outside of the Top 100 putters and iron players on TOUR in 2019 to the Top 50 in each category in 2020. He’s reverted back to the start of the new season on approach, which is concerning for a guy that needs to be a good ball-striker.

Thursday at the CJ Cup Ancer shot a 3-under 69, but did it while losing strokes tee-to-green. He made up for that shortfall on the putting surface, where he gained nearly four strokes on the field. I would normally expect Ancer to bounce back with his ball-striking and keep a decent putter, but his trends recently have had him too inconsistent to rely on that heading into the weekend. I’m putting in my fade that as his putter regresses, his lack of ball-striking will have him tumbling down the leaderboard.

I liked Ian Poulter coming into the week as he came off of back-to-back top-six finishes on the European Tour. I thought his short game would play well at Shadow Creek for the CJ Cup, and that certainly held true on Thursday. The issue I have going into Friday is that he lost nearly two strokes on the field with his irons.

My fade for Poulter, who is listed at +6000 to win going into Round 2, revolves almost entirely around that approach play, as I don’t think he can sustain in this field relying on nearly three and a half strokes gained around the greens and another 1.29 strokes on them.

Talor Gooch is the player that sticks out the most on the first couple pages of the leaderboard. He shot a solid 2-under 70 on Thursday, but lost over two strokes ball-striking. It was the short game that carried Gooch through his first round, as he gained more than three strokes around the green, and nearly a stroke and a half putting.

It was clear today that players are going to need a strong all-around game to play well at Shadow Creek this week, and while his short game numbers were impressive, his ball-striking was equally poor. I don’t think Gooch can sustain his place in the Top 15 of the leaderboard when he’s losing strokes both off-the-tee and on approach.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

 

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