PGA Championship Round 2 Betting Tips Using Strokes Gained

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Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Day.

After Round 1 of the PGA Championship, the top of the leaderboard includes names like Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, Zach Johnson and Paul Casey. What year is it again?

Nevertheless, up-and-comers Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele are also squarely in the mix. They enter Round 2 in a very crowded tie for third place with other big names like Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose.

And, of course, we also have Brendon Todd, who ruined the evenings of bettors who were sweating a Day first-round leader bet.

What should we expect for the rest of the tournament? Let’s dive into Thursday’s data and take a look.

But first, a quick note on Strokes Gained, which I’ll mention frequently in this article.

(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 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

Let’s talk big picture before we dive into specific players.

It’s important to not overreact too much after any opening round. Golf can be quite random over the course of only 18 holes, so definitely still rely on pre-tournament data when handicapping moving forward.

That’s not to say Round 1 wasn’t important; it certainly adds more relevant data into the equation. As much as you may have liked Matthew Fitzpatrick or Rickie Fowler coming in, they’re unlikely to overcome an eight-shot deficit in such a crowded, talented field.

Similarly, Todd almost certainly won’t shoot 5-under over these next three rounds. Read the leaderboard, keep your priors and make small adjustments as necessary.

Anyway, let’s talk golfers. My four outright bets prior to the tournament were on Jason Day (great), Xander Schauffele (great), Collin Morikawa (fine) and Rory McIlroy (meh).

Jason Day

Day’s performance has given me no reason to waver from my pre-tournament position. The former world No. 1 has looked like his old self in recent weeks — not just in terms of his all-around game and ball-striking, but also his health. And when Day is right, he’s as talented as any golfer in the game.

Moreover, Day’s metrics were encouraging in Round 1: He gained 4.32 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, the third-best mark in the field behind only Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau. He was fourth in the field in SG: Approach, and if his putter gets hot — which is always a possibility given his skills there — he can absolutely go wire-to-wire and win this tournament.

Tony Finau

Many people won’t buy into Finau him due to biases: He can’t close. He’s never won a big event before. First, that’s silly thinking. Second, he’s absolutely talented enough to win, and his metrics after Round 1 are incredible. His ball-striking was as good as its ever been as Finau reported a field-best 4.02 strokes-gained.

Admittedly, he was pretty mediocre with the rest of his game, which I think can improve given his recent form and long-term talent. He should be able to gain strokes off-the-tee, and if the short game comes back … yahtzee.

Brooks Koepka

And one more player to buy entering Round 2: Brooks Koepka is in his usual major form. He’s been up-and-down over the past month, but he’s dialed-in and right in contention.

Koepka was solid but somewhat unremarkable in most areas but still closed the day tied for third on the leaderboard. His first-round 66 is especially encouraging, because his metrics suggest he still has ample room for improvement.

There are many other players worth buying, especially in DFS, but for brevity I limited it to three. Others include Justin Rose and Daniel Berger, but check out the full data below to spot some golfers yourself.

One final note: DraftKings is offering a 50% profit boost on all golf bets tomorrow, which means you can really get some nice +EV wagers in.

How that works: Say you bet a golfer at 10/1; if that bet wins, you’d get 50% more, essentially turning that +1000 bet into a +1500 one. Not bad.

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

In terms of golfers to fade, my notes above apply here as well: Don’t rely too much on a single round of data; largely keep your priors.

Still, I’ll continue to spot golfers who are running overly hot with the putter but whose approach and tee-to-green game don’t match. Three examples on Thursday include Scottie Scheffler, Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.

Scottie Scheffler

Scheffler is right at the top of the board after a great first round. And to be fair, Scottie was stellar off-the-tee, which he’s capable of replicating.

But I’m just not buying that he’s more than three strokes better than the field with the short stick; he’s historically been a fairly average putter.

The youngster is also an incredibly volatile golfer, and the stakes are now raised sitting at the top of a major. Look at the Rocket Mortgage a couple weeks ago: In his two rounds, he shot a 79 and a 65.

That’s the question with Scottie: Will one of those blow-ups happen?

Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner

ZJ and Kisner are a little more complicated. They led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Thursday, but that may continue. They’re both excellent putters every week — the dilemma is whether they’re “four strokes” good.

The real reason I’m skeptical, though, is that the greens were the only place they really excelled on Thursday. They each posted average SG: Tee-to-Green scores, and if that continues they won’t hang around long.

Think of it this way: Johnson and Kisner dominated the field on the greens and still are a shot or two back. They just have a lot more room for error if their games hold form.

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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