Farmers Insurance Open Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Viktor Hovland.
The second round at the Farmers Insurance Open had it all Friday, as there was wind, rain and even some hail. We saw some players completely eject from the tournament and others withdraw, but also some really good play.
Viktor Hovland was undoubtedly the standout Friday at Torrey Pines, as he had the bad draw on the South Course in the weather, but still shot 65. Hovland bested the rest of the field by four shot, beating the field average on that course by nearly 10 shots, and will go into the weekend as the leader.
Once again, the players on the North Course had the advantage as Jon Rahm, Ryan Palmer and Tony Finau were able to climb the leaderboard from the easier course to position themselves at 8 under, just one shot off the lead.
After a wild opening 36 holes, which saw players like Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith go from the top five after round one to missing the cut, it has left us with 21 players just four shots behind the leader.
Everyone playing the weekend will be on the difficult South Course, but the weather should also be nice the rest of the way. We only have 18 holes of strokes gained data to lean on, but there’s value to be had in the betting markets going into Moving Day.
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 3
There’s a lot to untangle when you put the field together from two very different days on the South Course. However, the player that sticks out the most is clearly Hovland.
The Norwegian was head and shoulders above the field, gaining 6.21 shots tee to green, including 4.71 shots gained with his irons.
Hovland has eight birdies on a 7,765-yard sopping, wet track. He was nothing short of remarkable in Round 2, certainly aided by a putter that gained 3.56 strokes on the field, but it’s impossible for me to start a strokes-gained article with anyone other than him.
Hovland certainly looks like a buy heading to the weekend, but I won’t exactly be running to bet Hovland on DraftKings at +550 to win with all the firepower around him.
I only wrote a little blurb on Jon Rahm yesterday, so I’ll make him an official play now, though it comes at nearly half the odds with +350 available on DraftKings and BetMGM. Rahm is listed with the lowest odds across the books, and rightfully so with his track record and recent play.
I watched a good bit of the Spaniard’s round Friday, as he was part of the featured group coverage on PGATourLive. Quite possibly the most impressive part of his 5-under effort on the North Course was that he really hit it quite poorly for the first 11 holes, needing to make long putts for birdie and par to turn at 1 under.
Rahm would find his stride over the final seven holes, with four birdies that included three in his final four holes.
It’s scary to think that Rahm is one shot back without his best stuff for most of the first two days, and now has momentum going into the weekend. If you made me pick one player the rest of the way, it’s Rahm and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to pull away from the field.
My third buy will be in a look for value down the board. I don’t expect Wyndham Clark to necessarily make a run for the win, but he should be at better odds than the +12500 listed on BetMGM at the moment.
Clark shot a 1-over par 73 on Friday on the South Course, which was more than a shot-and-a-half better than the field. He really struck it well, gaining 3.13 shots on the field tee-to-green and nearly four shots ball striking.
Clark hit it great in tough conditions, and that is something that he can carry into the weekend. It was the putter that let him down in the second round, as he lost 1.36 shots on the greens.
Wyndham was the 16th best putter last season, and his splits show a preference for the poa greens he will play on the South Course. I might sprinkle a tad on the off chance he runs all the way to the top, but I’ll be really targeting Clark in Showdown and for placement odds heading into third round.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
I’m a bit hesitant with my first fade, as it will go one of two ways with Adam Scott. He will either find his elite ball striking and have a chance to win through the 72nd hole or will lose his shaky putting stroke and fade off the first page of the leaderboard.
I’ll take a shot it’s the latter, in part because of some comments he made after the second round. Scott admitted he felt a little underprepared for where he wants to be at this point and still fighting some loose swings each round.
The Australian was able to overcome some of those loose swings that cost him strokes on approach in his round by gaining 3.75 strokes with the putter.
One thing we know about Scott is that it’s been the flatstick, long and short (both at times), that has held him back more often than not and we certainly won’t expect those types of results on the greens over the next 36 holes.
I’ve got my fade on Scott, but I won’t be going out of my way to target it as I know he could end up in Sunday’s buy section.
Will Gordon is a good young player who burst onto the scene and found himself in contention in June at The Travelers before finishing third. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to put anything together since, as he only has one top-30 and seven missed cuts in 13 events after that tournament.
This week, he finds himself in a tie for eighth at Torrey Pines where he coupled a great day on the North Course on Thursday with a solid 2-under Friday on the South Course. My concern with Gordon is his inexperience and the way that he achieved his results in the second round.
Gordon played to a little better than field average tee-to-green, but lost .83 strokes with his irons. He was able to make up for it by gaining an extraordinary 4.75 strokes on the field via his putting.
Gordon holed just about everything he needed to and then some, but those putts are going to feel quite different as he plays in a late afternoon grouping Saturday at Torrey Pines.
I expect some of that former poor play to flash back in at times this weekend as the pressure of the situation rises, and I think he will ultimately drop down the leaderboard.
Another young player that made a charge through the first 36 holes is Robby Shelton. He had the best round of all players, with an 8-under 64, and even with it on the easier North Course, it was quite impressive.
We don’t have strokes-gained data to tell us how he made it happen, but the traditional stats show 10 of 14 fairways hit and 14 of 18 greens in regulation. The putting also stands out, as he leads the field with 1.48 putter per green-in-regulation.
These stats reflect a player that took advantage of an easier course with a hot putter and good play tee-to-green, but similar to Gordon, the South Course and rising pressure of the weekend on TOUR will be a bear for Shelton.