Farmers Insurance Open Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Donald Miralle/Getty Images. Pictured: Rory McIlroy.
It was a tale of two courses at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday. After 18 holes, only two of the top-21 on the leaderboard played South Course, as it checked in at nearly four strokes more difficult than the North.
Patrick Reed and Alex Noren set the pace on the North Course with matching 8-under 64s. Scottie Scheffler is one shot behind them with the lone 65 of the day, with 12 others coming in another shot back at 6-under. Two of those in a tie for fourth are Ryan Palmer and Peter Malnati, who had possibly the most impressive rounds of the day as they shot their 66s on the South Course.
The players will switch tracks on Friday, and the weather is set to make a big impact, which could make things quite interesting heading into the 36-hole cut. The rain and wind will make a difficult South Course even tougher, but is likely to make the North tougher as well.
I never like it when we only have data for one course, but it’s helpful that it comes from the players heading to the North Course on Friday, because those players are the ones down the leaderboard and should hold the most betting value. Let’s take a look at the data for the field that played the South today and see who stands out.
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
The easiest buy heading into Friday is on Rory McIlroy. He was in complete control of his game in Round 1, and really could’ve done multiple shots better than his opening-round 68.
After falling short in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, and making the long trip to the west coast, it was fair to wonder how McIlroy would come out on Friday. He quickly put that to rest with birdies in two of his first three holes. He would go out in four under and left a few shots out there on the way in, but finds himself just four shots back as he heads to the easier North Course.
McIlroy gained nearly four and a half strokes on the field ball striking, including a dominant three strokes off the tee. He made a 7,765-yard course play much smaller than anyone around him could do, and it’s that type of dominance that makes him still an attractive bet at +550 on BetMGM. Despite the wind, McIlroy should thrive in the second round on another Par 72 that plays more than 500 yards shorter than the South.
(I didn’t want to write them both up, but Jon Rahm is equally attractive at +650 on BetMGM heading to the North Course. He gained 2.29 strokes on approach with six approaches to within 10 feet in his 3-under 69 on Thursday.)
It appears I have an affinity for the guys who couldn’t close the deal last weekend, as my next buy is none other than Tony Finau. Again, it was fair to wonder how he would bounce back after falling short (again) at The American Express. Unlike McIlroy, Finau started slow with a bogey on his third hole and an even-par first nine. He would turn to the front, and turn it on with four birdies and a bogey on his way to a 3-under 69.
Overall, Finau was sharp, gaining 3.47 shots on the South Course field tee-to-green, with an impressive 2.58 of those gained on approach. He will start Friday four shots back, but he heads to the North Course, which averaged 3-under for the filed on Thursday. Finau is also known to be a good player in the wind, and I expect him to be able to position himself well for the rest of the weekend.
I’m willing to jump on board at +1600 on FanDuel, as I think the top of the board will come back to him in Round 2. He’s got a great history around Torrey Pines, and if he comes through with a solid round on the North Course, he will be in the conversation come Sunday afternoon.
I’ve given a couple who finished near the top of the South Course leaderboard, so let’s drop down a little further and look for some longshot value. The player who stands out the most to me is Corey Conners who sits at even par through one round.
Conners was sharp with his ball striking, as he traditionally is, gaining two strokes on the field in that category. He had a little bit of trouble taking advantage of that with his putter, as he lost strokes to the field on the greens, but these poa greens have a way of leveling that aspect of the game.
The +20000 on BetMGM is excessive for a player of his caliber, who is showing good form tee-to-green and heading to the easier course on Friday. I’ll take a stab at long odds on the Canadian to win, but I’ll be eagerly anticipating some place position value for him before they tee off for Round 2.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
While there were some good rounds to be had on the South Course on Thursday, there were plenty of really ugly ones, and from good players. I seemed to be all over the bad ones pre-tournament as my pick to win, Matthew Wolff, struggled all day, and it came out he was fighting his swing to the point of blisters on his hands. He would ultimately withdraw following the round and end my misery early.
One of the great stories of the fall has been the rise of Peter Malnati, who has found himself in contention in multiple events this season. He continued that success on Thursday, matching the best round on the South Course with a 6-under 66.
I’m not putting the fade in on Malnati for anything from a tee-to-green perspective, as he was solid most of the day despite only hitting eight of his 14 fairways. My fade is more on his putter — which gained 3.88 strokes in the first round — and his sustainability near the top of the leaderboard this weekend.
Malnati is not known for his length, ranking 88th in driving distance Thursday, and with him struggling to find the short grass, I think we will see him fall down the leaderboard.
If there is one player who finds his way around Torrey Pines regardless of his recent form, it’s Brandt Snedeker. He came into the week off of three consecutive missed cuts, and naturally shot a 3-under 69 on the brutal South Course.
Sneds clearly has some comfort around Torrey Pines that helps him to find his game, but Thursday it was almost entirely on the putter. He lost strokes in both ball-striking metrics, and hit just six fairways and 10 greens in regulation. The 3.47 stokes he gained putting in the first round was the third best in the field, but that will be difficult to sustain the rest of the way.
I’m putting the early fade in on Snedeker as with the winds picking up, that will only accentuate his ball striking issues, and I don’t think the putter can carry him the whole way.
Another player that fits the mold of Snedeker from today was Doug Ghim. He was able to get off the tee just fine, but struggled on approach losing strokes on the field with his irons.
Ghim would also make up for his ball-striking struggles on the greens, gaining a remarkable 3.87 strokes on the field with his putter. He’s a young player who is continuing to improve, but I think he will fall off this week as the weather and pressure increases and further tests his game.