Memorial Tournament Round 2 Betting Tips: Using Strokes Gained to Find an Edge

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Photo credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Tiger Woods

If you were wondering how much tougher the Memorial at Muirfield would play versus last week’s Workday Charity at Muirfield, wonder no more.

The cut line currently sits at +3, and we have some huge names who really struggled to find any success at all in Thursday’s opening round.

Rickie Fowler finished 9-over. Dustin Johnson, who won his last time out, posted a +8 score. Sung-jae Im, Xander Schauffele and Bubba Watson shot 6-over. Collin Morikawa, who dominated this course just a couple days ago, shot 4-over, as did Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel and Matt Kuchar.

Talk about a blood bath.

But let’s get to the good: Tony Finau, one of golf’s most underrated players, shot 6-under for a solo share of first place. Ryan Palmer is in solo second behind him, and then it’s Brendan Steele and Gary Woodland. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay are all lurking as well.

Let’s dive deeper into Thursday’s stats and what they mean moving forward. But first, a quick explanation on Strokes Gained data and what it means for golf handicapping.

(Click here to skip to the analysis section.)

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 has, 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 handle them 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 more stable long-term, and often you can find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well but just not getting putts to drop, which is more random. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

Read more about Strokes Gained here.

4 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

Right away, I’ll say that both Rory McIlroy and Gary Woodland are worth buying at the right price. They’re obviously incredibly talented golfers, and I was very impressed by their rounds. Rory spoke before this week about being more motivated, and it showed: He’s the lurking giant. Jon Rahm, who was my favorite outright bet, is in the same boat.

But let’s move down the list a bit to make things more interesting since those guys I listed above are pretty obvious guys to buy moving forward.

I liked Ryan Moore a lot coming into the week given his course fit for Memorial, and he had a very solid opening round, gaining 3.82 strokes with his approach, second best in the field behind just Steele. He was fairly neutral with the rest of his game, but he’s solid enough and absolutely has the game if his irons are on to hang around for the weekend.

Joaquin Niemann is fairly far down the board, but I wanted to shout him out just because he could go quite overlooked in the betting and DFS markets. He was actually third on the day in Strokes Gained: Approach but wasn’t able to post a great score because of some exceptionally poor putting.

He’s about an average putter overall, so if the ball-striking is going to be there through the rest of the tournament, I feel fine buying him assuming he’ll regress a bit with the short stick. He’s 100/1 to win right now, but I think I prefer to buy him at 6/1 to top-10.

But let’s not bury the lede here: Tiger Woods sits five shots back of Finau’s lead at 1-under, but he’s absolutely in this thing. He posted one of the day’s best approach numbers at +2.95, which I think a lot of people were concerned about after the long COVID-19 layoff.

You’ll almost never get a good number in betting (Tiger is 16-1 at DraftKings after Round 1) or an ownership level in DFS on Tiger, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him given the ball-striking. The dude was in solid form and obviously has the upside to make a run over the weekend if he can post another solid outing tomorrow.

 

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

As usual, I like to target guys who really overperformed with their putter after a single round but I don’t really believe have the firepower or ball-striking to really hang around throughout the weekend.

Of the three guys I listed above — Charles Howell, Patrick Rodgers and Luke List — Rodgers is the best putter of the group and could keep the hot short stick going. But gaining over three strokes putting is rarely sustainable for anyone, and he was the only of the three to lose strokes ball-striking, which isn’t a great sign for tomorrow and onward.

Howell and List, meanwhile, were fairly neutral tee-to-green but still had nice putting outings — and the difference there is that they’re not amazing putters anyway, so if they regress to their mean, it’ll be average putting at best.

I didn’t list leader Tony Finau above mostly because I just really respect his game. But he’s someone to monitor: He usually gains strokes tee-to-green given his power, but he led the field with a stupid +4.42 SG: Putting mark on Thursday, which will absolutely come down.

That said, the rest of his game may not regress, so even with neutral putting he could still hang around the leaderboard throughout the weekend.

Alright, enough talk. Here’s the data for all players for Thursday.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 1

(Note: The graph below is interactive. Click/hover to see data.)

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