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Houston Open Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Sam Burns.

There was a lot of unknown around Memorial Park Golf Course heading into Round 1 at the Vivint Houston Open, as it hadn’t hosted a TOUR event in decades. We found that the updated Par 70 setup provided some teeth for the course and left a large majority of the field struggling to break par. Overall, only 28 players would break par, with an outlier 5-under 65 from Brandt Snedeker, who leads the way by two shots.

It looked like Scottie Scheffler was shaping up to have the best opening round, as he went bogey-free before stumbling on the 18th hole to drop back to 3 under. He and Jason Day lead a group of six golfers in the second position.

If the cut were today, World No. 1 Dustin Johnson would slide in on the number after a 2-over par opening round, but he will turn into Friday just seven shots behind the leader. That speaks to how jam-packed the leaderboard is after the first round at the Houston Open, and it will create plenty of value available going into Round 2.

Let’s take a look at the strokes gained stats from the opening round to find our buys and sells heading into tomorrow.

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.

Read more about Strokes Gained here.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

While there aren’t as many players under par this week, we certainly aren’t short on good-looking strokes gained statistics through Thursday’s round. The players up top really did well across the board and aren’t showing many holes in their game, which is telling for what we should look for the rest of the weekend as every aspect tee-to-green is being tested.

My first buy going into Friday is Sam Burns. He had a solid 2-under 68 on Thursday and still has a nice looking +4000 available on him to win on Bet365. “Bermuda Burns” as many like to refer to him, did what he does on Bermuda Grass, playing well in all aspects of his game. He gained 3.5 strokes tee-to-green with nearly three strokes of that gained ball striking.

Burns was solid as usual on the greens, but it wasn’t anything abnormal for a player that finished 30th in that category last season. I’ll be buying him in all markets going into Friday as I could see him making an early move tomorrow, and some of those good numbers being gone the rest of the way.

Scott Piercy has always been a player known for his ball-striking, and he showed off that skill set on Thursday on his way to a 2-under 68. He was the best player in the field tee-to-green, gaining more than five and a half strokes, including more than two and a half strokes on approach.

The putter is the part of the game that holds Piercy back, ranking 140th on TOUR in strokes gained putting last season. It was the same story in Round 1, as he lost over two strokes to the field with the flat stick, but still managed to carve out a Top-10 round on the day.

I’m buying Piercy into Friday, as the four-time TOUR winner clearly has his ball-striking game with him this week and if he can just roll in enough putts, this can be a place for him to contend throughout the weekend. I’ll put most of my focus on Piercy for DFS purposes and matchups, but he’s worth a sprinkle at +6600 on BetMGM too.

I am going to dip down a little further for my next buy, as Aaron Wise finished even par on Thursday, and in a tie for 29th. He still finds himself just five strokes behind the leader and only a couple shots outside of the Top 10.

Wise gained 3.71 strokes tee-to-green on Thursday, a total that was carried by 1.83 strokes gained with his irons. He was simply solid across his entire game leading up to the surface, but couldn’t get the ball in the hole. The former Oregon Duck lost 1.41 strokes putting in the first round, which stalled him back to that even par 70.

I was a believer in the trends Wise’s game was showing coming into this week, and I feel even better about it after the first round. It may be a stretch to see him win, but the +12500 available on BetMGM is simply too much for how he played and his proximity to the top. I’ll also be on him for DFS, matchups, and looking for good numbers for a Top 20 or Top 10.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

As I mentioned earlier, there truly isn’t much that sticks out for fades at the top of the leaderboard after Thursday’s round. That is often times the tell of a course that requires a complete game to compete. I’ll still put a play in up top, but it is a bit of splitting hairs.

The player within the Top 15 that gained the least strokes tee-to-green on Thursday was Michael Thompson. He still finds himself at 3 under and just two shots back of the leader, but he wasn’t exactly dialed in, especially in the ball-striking categories.

Thompson gained 2.36 strokes tee-to-green in the first round, with just over a stroke of that coming on the ball-striking side. He had a hot putter and really played well around the greens, gaining nearly three strokes on them. He’s my first fade up top as he will have to play better both off-the-tee and on approach to maintain his current second place position.

Russell Knox is a clear fade for me heading into the second round, as he lost strokes to the field in both ball-striking categories, including 1.43 strokes on approach. When he is in contention, it’s usually due to good tee-to-green play, and his short game holds him back. That script was flipped for him today, as he gained 2 strokes on the field both on and around the greens on his way to a 1-under 69.

Knox was 161st on TOUR in strokes gained putting last season, so his 2.54 strokes gained on the greens Thursday certainly doesn’t appear sustainable. I’m going to be eyeing the fade of this Scot in matchups on Friday, as I think he will fall from his current 16th-place position.

I have been big on Viktor Hovland over his last few tournaments, as I think a win in a bigger TOUR event is coming soon. Unfortunately, I am not seeing it this week, and he sticks out as a fade for me into Friday.

Hovland has been carried through his young career with fantastic ball-striking, but has often come up short on and around the greens. The problem I have with Vik through one round is that his approach game simply wasn’t there on Thursday and he had to rely on his short game to save an even-par round. The 115th-ranked putter last season gained 2.62 strokes putting on the field in his round Thursday, which isn’t sustainable for him this weekend.

Hovland is typically a great approach player and maybe he finds it, but he lost 2.77 strokes with his irons in Round 1, and he simply doesn’t have a reliable enough short game for that to continue over the next three rounds. I’ll put my fade in on Hovland that if he doesn’t find his ball-striking, his shaky short game will show up and have him dropping down the leaderboard into the weekend.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

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