The American Express Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

The American Express Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data article feature image
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Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.Pictured: South Korean golfer Si Woo Kim.

Things at The American Express featured quite the cut sweat Friday, as seemingly all of the big names hovered around the number down the final holes of their second rounds.

Patrick Reed and Scottie Scheffler were the most notable players, especially from a DFS perspective, to miss the weekend. Patrick Cantlay would slide through on the number and looks to chase down the leader on Moving Day.

Sungjae Im stands alone at the top of the leaderboard, firing a bogey-free 65 on the Stadium Course to take a one-shot lead into Saturday’s round. Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer and first-round co-leader Brandon Hagy headline the group of five tied for second, just one shot behind Im.

In total, 17 players are within just three shots of the lead, which should make for an exciting weekend with low scores available on the host course.

As we look at the strokes gained data into Round 3, keep in mind that data is only available on the Stadium Course. Each of the charts below only includes play from the 18 holes on that course, whether it was on Thursday or Friday.

It will give us the best data, as that will be the course they play the rest of the way. Let’s take a look at who stands out and provides the best value to climb into contention.

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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 are a number of players who stand out at the top of the leaderboard, but for me Si Woo Kim appears to be the most consistent and best value. Kim followed up his bogey-free first round on the Stadium Course with a 4-under 68 on the Nicklaus.

He has hit 29 of 36 greens in regulation through two days, showing just how dialed in he is on approach to some of the smallest greens on TOUR. The South Korean is taking advantage of those opportunities, with just 1.5 putts per green included in the 1.87 strokes gained putting Thursday.

He’s a proven winner on TOUR, especially on Pete Dye courses, and those around him aren’t exactly known for closing. I love the +1000 odds available on DraftKings for him to pull it out this weekend, especially with some of the other options we have on the books from Thursday.

Brendan Steele is my next buy heading into Moving Day. He was dialed in on approach on the Stadium Course on Friday, gaining 3.04 strokes with his irons. His bogey-free 68 was solid, but far from the round it could have been since he lost strokes to the field putting.

Steele would miss six birdie opportunities from 16 feet and in, including three from inside of 10 feet, during his round.

We are in a second consecutive week with Steele heading into the weekend, just a couple of shots outside of the lead, and you know he will be focused to finish the job he couldn’t last week. He is listed at +3300 on BetMGM, and that provides more than enough value for the level of golf he has been playing.

Dropping even further down the board, you could do much worse than Ryan Armour. He is a player that shows up at events like this, where hitting fairways and greens are at a premium, and he often does it in a big way. Armour has optimized those categories thus far this week, missing just one fairway through 36 holes, and only missing two greens on the Stadium Course.

He’s a longshot to overcome a four shot deficit and the 24 others around and ahead of him heading to the weekend, but that’s why we are getting +12500 on DraftKings.

If he can keep the ball in the short grass like he did today in his 5-under round, he can stay steadily climbing the board while others find the big numbers that are all around the Stadium Course.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

The best story so far this week is Brandon Hagy, who became the last man in the field when Jon Rahm withdrew. Hagy has taken full advantage as the solo leader after Round 1, now heading to the weekend just one shot back of Im.

I love a good story, but I just don’t see this one holding up through the pressure of the weekend. Hagy struggled a bit Friday, losing shots to the field tee-to-green and hitting just 11 greens in regulation. He also finished with a nervy bogey on his final hole, where he seemed to be aware of being tied for the lead, and having the pressure get to him a bit.

Unfortunately for Hagy, that pressure is only set to get higher, and I think he will ultimately drop down the board with his ball striking fading.

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Max Homa has become more known for his personality and tweeting off the course than his play on it over the past year. He brought his game with him to PGA West this week, currently positioned just three shots off of the lead.

It was the definition of a crazy scorecard for Homa on Friday, as he had eight birdies, three bogeys and a triple. When he did hit greens, he was throwing darts in close, but the misses on the eight other holes were ugly.

My concern is around that lack of consistency with his ball striking, losing strokes to the field in both metrics. In total, he would lose 1.63 shots to the field on approach, and unless he can reign in the misses, he doesn’t have staying power in his current top-10 position.

I’m a little hesitant on this last fade, but Brian Harman hasn’t shown the consistency lately to have me buying back in. He was actually better Friday, which doesn’t take a ton after he hit just half of his greens in regulation on the Nicklaus Course in the first round.

Harman followed it up with 14 of 18 at the Stadium Course in the second round, but two of the missed shots were water balls on Par 3s. He would go 3 over par in those two holes, but make up for it with a 57-foot eagle on the fifth hole and four other birdies.

Harman would play his second round at just about field average from a strokes gained perspective, but similar to Homa, his Jekyll-and-Hyde style isn’t one I can trust on the weekend. I’ll plant my flag on the fade with Harman despite his strong course history, as I don’t see enough good to outweigh the bad.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players Through Round 2

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