Genesis Invitational Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Francesco Molinari.
The elite field at the Genesis Invitational is in for a true test this week as Riviera Country Club is set up playing firm, fast and challenging. It’s a nice change from the low scoring we have seen to start the year, but Sam Burns was still able to post a number two strokes beyond the field with a 7-under 64.
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Max Homa put up 5-under rounds to start Friday just two shots back of the leader. Everything really bunches up from there as 46 players shot under par in the first round, shaping things up for a lot of movement heading to the weekend.
There were a few surprises, in a bad way, in Round 1, as Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, and Rory McIlroy shot a combined 12-over. It was JT who accounted for half of those strokes as he carded as many double bogeys as he did birdies. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson started slow but finished with three birdies on his final five holes to climb into a tie for 11th heading into Friday.
Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from the first round to see who stands out for some value as we head into Round 2.
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
I’m going to save you my diatribe on Patrick Cantlay again, as I have made it clear throughout the week that he was one of my favorite plays. Everything still checks out for him and I am really pumped about his opportunity to win this week (that’s code for get in now if you haven’t).
Instead, I will start my buys with Francesco Molinari. He’s a player who has historically struggled around Riviera, but he commented in an interview Wednesday that he moved his family just a few minutes from the course last year. They’ve become members and he has done a lot of work on his game at this course over the last few months.
I generally try not to buy in on narratives like this, but after Thursday it’s clear his ball striking is in form and he has figured out a few things at this track. Molinari shot a 3-under 68 to position himself just outside of the top 20 going into Friday. He did it in traditional fashion with elite ball striking, gaining more than two strokes in that category spread equally on approach and off the tee.
This is a small sign of him turning the corner at an event where he had missed the cut in four of six appearances. I am jumping in now with +5000 on BetMGM with the hope that sleeping in his bed just a few minutes down the road and playing on his new home course can help him find a win this week.
There is something about Riviera Country Club that fits the eye of Talor Gooch. He has consistently played well on this course in each appearance, and he did so again Thursday. His 3-under 68 puts him right in the mix, just outside of the Top 10 heading into his second round.
Gooch gained strokes in all four strokes-gained categories on Thursday, with his irons being the star of his game. He would gain nearly a stroke and a half on the field with his approach, and was able to pay if off with an above-average putting day. I am already in on Gooch for a Top 20, but what I saw Thursday makes me ready to jump in for a bit move up the placement board and even a sprinkle on him at +8000 on FanDuel to pull off his first victory on TOUR.
I was bullish on Jon Rahm coming in and his putting woes on Thursday have him positioned for a little better number heading into the second round. He was one of the best in the field on approach, gaining more than two strokes on the field with his irons, but he surprisingly struggled off the tee a bit. He would lose strokes to the field with his driver, which is generally the strength of his game and an area I expect to bounce back on Friday.
If you didn’t get in on him before the tournament, now is the time as he’s listed at +2000 on BetMGM. There may also be some merit to letting the morning players get going on Friday and betting him live, as he may peg it up on his first hole of the second round even further back than he is now.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
Many are likely expecting me to hit the fade on Adam Scott here, but I can’t do it. I actually see this as a round he got away with using his putter, rather than his elite ball striking. I would expect him to bounce back tee to green and even if the putter comes back to Earth, I think he can sustain or even improve upon his solid position into the weekend.
My first fades are in a similar mold but not in the same ball-striking class as Scott. The first is the player who set the pace on Thursday morning in Wyndham Clark. He was the first one in the clubhouse with a 4-under 67, and did it by holing putts and getting up and down after hitting just half of his greens in regulation.
Clark lost strokes to the field in both ball-striking categories in the first round, but we can’t expect him to bounce back in those metrics. I was on Clark as the first-round leader and he fell just short there, but I expect things to fall in the other direction for him on Friday.
It’s a similar story for another player at 4-under after the first 18 holes, as Matt Jones shot a 67 to put his name on the first page of the leaderboard. Similar to Clark, he relied on more than three strokes gained with the flat stick on Thursday while losing strokes to the field ball striking.
He would ultimately be just below field average in both ball-striking metrics in the first round, but in this field, that will have him losing spots if it continues. This fade is a little more shaky than Clark, as Jones is known for his short game prowess, but these are some of the toughest greens on TOUR and it will be a hard level for him to sustain even with his skillset.
When I was looking at things to start the week, I just decided that this was the week that Jordan Spieth came back to Earth a bit. He had a great two-week run, but those were on courses where he could (and did) spray it off the tee, where Riviera will punish you for those mistakes.
Spieth was still able to post another nice round on Thursday with a 68 to sit just outside of the Top 10 going into Friday. It’s another surprising result in my eyes, but I am going to trust my gut and the ball-striking numbers that show he will have some major struggles at times.
I am expecting those issues to come before Sunday this weekend, as Spieth was field-average ball striking in the first round and once again made it all happen on and around the greens. He picked up more than three strokes on the field with his short game, and I don’t necessarily expect that to stop. But I do expect him to run into more trouble around this course when he’s missing half of his fairways. Spieth’s misses off the tee often come as big misses, and this course will block you out from moving the ball toward the hole, unlike the past two weeks. He’s my fade and that’s my theory, but he could also just continue to do “Spieth” things.