CJ Cup Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

Credit:

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele

  • Should you roll the dice on Justin Thomas? Fade Jason Kokrak?
  • Chris Murphy dives into the strokes gained data from Round 2 at the CJ Cup, finding players in the best form to try to chase down leader Xander Schauffele this weekend at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.
  • Read Murphy's full list of Round 3 buys and fades below.

Xander Schauffele stole the show at Shadow Creek Golf Course on Friday, going out with a sizzling, bogey-free 29 to set the early pace that led the way to an 8-under 64 that gave him a three-shot lead into Saturday’s round.

The impressive 18 holes moved Schauffele into a clear favorite position, which has him listed at minus-125 to win the CJ Cup on BetMGM.

Tyrrell Hatton, the first-round leader,  was the only player able to stay within a few of shots of Schauffele, finishing with a 4-under 68. Russell Henley is the only other player double digits under par through two rounds, sitting four back at 10 under par.

Schauffele’s round has spread out the leaderboard, as players within the current Top 8 are eight shots back of his lead. It’ll need to be a good Moving Day for the chasers and they’ll likely need Schauffele to falter a bit in order for things to tighten up going into Sunday’s final round.

Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from Round 2 to see if we can find the chasers that may be ready to make the biggest move Saturday:

(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

While it was certainly the Schauffele show Friday, several other big names started to play well, including Justin Thomas. He was the best ball striking Friday, leading the field on approach and second in strokes gained off the tee. Somehow, Thomas managed to salvage a field average round on the greens, which I was surprised by as when I was watching throughout the day, he was missing absolutely everything.

Even with 36 holes still to play, it’s hard to recommend buying a player to win eight shots behind when the leader has looked so good, but you could certainly do worse than +2000 on Justin Thomas after the numbers he posted in the second round

Some players are just more fun to root for, and no one has fit that category lately more than Harry Higgs. He’s the latest charismatic big man to take the golf world by storm, doing it with a pretty solid game on the course.

Higgs shot a 5-under 67 on Friday to move into a tie for 13th place. He gained more than 4.5 strokes on the field tee to green, gaining right around 1.5 strokes in each metric that make up that statistic. Higgs had it all working until he got to the greens, where he lost nearly a stroke putting.

I’m buying a bounce-back with his putting stroke in Round 3 and I’ll be eyeing Higgs in matchups and odds for Top 5 or Top 10 on BetMGM when they’re released Saturday morning.

I thought about doubling down on Jason Day with my final buy, as we got exactly what we were looking for from him Friday (the same can’t be said for others…). Day gained strokes in both ball striking categories and was fourth in the field on approach. His putter was abysmal, losing 1.7 strokes on the greens. He’s 10 shots back now, but I still like him to climb the leaderboard this weekend in Las Vegas.

Instead of going with a full highlight there, I’ll turn to Joaquin Niemann who is also at 4 under through his first 36 holes. He was stellar with his ball striking Friday, leading the field off the tee and ranking third in strokes gained approach. The Chilean would put the ball striking to work for a 67, but it could’ve been so much more, as he lost 1.47 strokes putting.

Niemann can be volatile on the greens, but as he showed today, he can still salvage really strong rounds with his tee-to-green play. I’m putting in the buy to see him make a move this weekend. Things could get really interesting if he can find the putter.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

One of the surprises to close out last season was Jason Kokrak, who had Top-15 finishes in each of his last three events and followed it up with a 17th at the U.S. Open. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the first page of the leaderboard, but there’s only one thing to do when you see the 151st ranked putter gain 4.71 strokes on the greens in one round.

I have to put in the fade on Kokrak, as two thirds of his tee-to-green game stumbled Friday, but got picked up by good approach play and ridiculous putting. I’ll target the putting variance against the Xavier alum Saturday, with a fade in DFS and betting matchups.

Another fade that sticks out in the current Top 10 is with Tyler Duncan. He salvaged a 1-under, despite losing 2.74 strokes with his irons. That was the fifth-worst number in the field Friday, be he remains tied for eighth place.

Duncan was able to make it happen by gaining more than a stroke off the tee and nearly two strokes with his putter. He ranked 132nd in putting last season and is unlikely to be able to keep the flat stick hot this weekend. I’ll fade his ability to stay near the top.

It’s time to fade a big name, and even though he’s just inside of the Top 30, it has to be Rory McIlroy. Many were projecting this to be the week where we saw McIlroy break out and maybe even come away with a long-awaited victory. Instead, through 36 holes, we have seen him be the worst player in the field on approach.

McIlroy has lost more than 2.5 strokes on approach in each of his first two rounds at Shadow Creek. Despite his struggles with the irons and wedges, he still managed to post a 3-under 69 on Friday by gaining more than a stroke on the field in every other statistic. It will be tough to click, but this could be an advantageous spot to fade Rory as his was nearly 20% owned in Showdown today, and will surely still have strong odds in the betting markets for Saturday.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

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