Farmers Insurance Open Round 4 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Rory McIlroy.
Golf isn’t officially back until Patrick Reed gets involved in a rules controversy, so we can now say the 2021 TOUR season is in full swing.
Reed came out firing with a 5-under front nine before an interesting rules situation arose on the 10th hole. It was a questionable situation at best but in the end, the ruling went in his favor and he was able to save par from a difficult spot. He then bogeyed four of his next six holes as the situation seemed to shake his roll, but he would finish with a birdie on the last to remain in a tie for the lead.
Unfortunately, the Reed scenario overshadowed a fantastic 6-under round from Carlos Ortiz, which finished with three straight birdies over his final four holes. He would set the mark in the clubhouse at 10-under and that would only be matched by Reed. The rest of the field will start the final round two shots back, as five players are tied at 8-under.
Sam Burns will join Reed and Ortiz in the final group on Sunday, and they will have to fight off some big names to get the win. Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Adam Scott are part of the group two shots back, with Rory McIlroy also lurking at 7-under.
Sunday from Torrey Pines will be full of storylines and I expect the golf to be just as good down the stretch. The South Course played more than a shot and a half over par on Saturday, despite great weather conditions, setting up for a great finish in the final round.
We know Ortiz will stand out with his strokes gained numbers, hopefully we can find some others that had it dialed in on Saturday as well.
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 4
There may be no player on TOUR right now (ever?) that thrives more on everyone rooting against him than Reed. A controversy like what happened on Saturday would eat most players alive and lead them to an awful round on Sunday, but it seems to motivate Reed. It’s the reason Americans love him during the Ryder Cup, regardless of their feelings for him in every other event.
Reed will certainly see, hear and read all of the negative and questioning talk about him leading into the final round. I really think he will use it as motivation to come out with a me against the world attitude on Sunday, and will play a focused round to make sure he closes the deal.
It looks like the best number on Reed to win is +350 on BetMGM, which is fine, but I tend to think you may be able to get something better live tomorrow. He will obviously be the last one off and with so many players in shouting distance, a couple of birdies ahead of him or an early bogey could swing it into a better number.
There are a number of players looking to chase down the leaders that have had impressive strokes gained numbers in both of their rounds on the South Course. The first is Lanto Griffin.
If you’ve been following these articles for long enough, you know I have a soft spot for Griffin as he’s a grad of my hometown VCU Rams, but at some point I’ll take him and he’ll come through. Hopefully that time will be tomorrow, when he will start the day two shots back of the lead.
Griffin has been dialed in with his ball striking. Lanto gained 2.60 shots on the field ball striking, gaining more than a stroke in each metric on Saturday. He was even better in the category on Friday as he was on fire with his irons, gaining more than three strokes on the field with his approach play.
If he can find the hot putter that he had on Friday, Griffin can be in contention down the stretch on Sunday. With the bigger names around him, we are getting a solid +1800 on BetMGM.
The strokes gained darling of the week is Rory McIlroy, as he has been the best player on average tee to green for 36 holes on the South Course. In fact, he’s gained more than four shots on the field tee to green in both of those rounds. Rory shot a 2-under 70 on Saturday, which will raise his weekend average around the course but still keep it as one of the best in the field.
My worry with betting Rory on Sunday is around his issues in the final round. He has flat out struggled down the stretch of tournaments lately, including last weekend in Dubai. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (I know, really big of me on a four-time major winner) and hope that playing from behind may be to his advantage.
He’s listed at just +900 on DraftKings, but based on the way he’s played, if he can get some putts to drop that may be really good value by the turn on Sunday.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
Let me preface my first fade by saying I didn’t have Carlos Ortiz coming out on top in Houston over Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka either, but he got it done. I guess this is me doubling down against him, though the task tomorrow will be as much about the course as it is the other players.
Ortiz was outstanding on Saturday, he beat the rest of the field by two shots and managed to climb 20 spots up the leaderboard to end the day as the co-leader. He definitely found something after his Thursday round on the South Course, during which he lost 2.65 strokes to the field ball striking, to turn it around and gain 2.96 shots in the same category on Saturday.
None of what I have written so far adds up to a fade but as we saw from Hovland today, it can be really difficult to carry a great round into another one. Ortiz will have that task from the final group on Sunday, and for me it’s a gut play that he just doesn’t get it done this time around.
I spent the swing season chasing good results from “Bermuda Burns,” only to have Sam Burns finally show up on the poa annua at Torrey Pines. He certainly has the talent to be in the position he’s in, just two shots back of the leaders heading into Sunday, but it’s the course and greens that come as a surprise.
Burns has typically done well on shorter courses with Bermuda grass putting surfaces, and the South Course is far from either of those descriptions. Despite that, the LSU grad has himself in contention, though I am expecting it to be a difficult task in the final round.
In the two rounds he has played on the South Course, Burns has gained an average of 1.60 strokes putting, including 3.16 on Saturday. The putter was able to carry him to a 2-under round, but his issues with his irons have me fading him on Sunday.
He will go off in the final group, seeking his first win on TOUR alongside a major winner, while being chased by Rahm, Scott and Rory. Every club in the bag will feel a bit different down the stretch on Sunday, and this just isn’t the place I see Burns coming through with his first win.
It seems like I’ve been talking about Ryan Palmer in final rounds a lot lately, which speaks to just how well he has been playing. The issue is that it has been the same result each time — he falls short on Sundays.
Palmer started to show his problems on Saturday this week, losing 1.32 shots to the field tee to green. His putter held him together from dropping out of contention all together, as he gained 1.89 strokes on the greens in Round 3. I just don’t think he can hold it together on Sunday to remain in the top 10 as he seems to have lost some of the pieces that got him to this point. He is also coming in having the memory of some Sunday scoring issues as it is.