PGA Championship Round 3 Buys and Fades: Is Bryson DeChambeau a Better Value Than Phil Mickelson at Kiawah Island?

PGA Championship Round 3 Buys and Fades: Is Bryson DeChambeau a Better Value Than Phil Mickelson at Kiawah Island? article feature image
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau.

Friday at The Ocean Course was even more difficult of a day than the opening round, as the majority of the field saw their scores balloon to an average of more than three-and-a-half strokes over par. It wasn’t all bad though, as many players were able to put together solid rounds and position themselves well going into the weekend.

No player did it better than Louis Oosthuizen who made it through 17 holes on Friday before dropping a shot. He would post one of the best rounds of the day at 4-under 68, to put himself in a tie for the lead heading into the weekend. While his round was great, the story of the day was unquestionably the 3-under round posted in the morning by 50-year-old Phil Mickelson who finds himself in the final pairing on the weekend at another major championship.

If you want more storylines, how about Brooks Koepka who got himself in the mix with another strong round despite having knee surgery just a couple months ago. Then, there’s the Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama who has shaken off any rust that might be left after more than a month away from the course and has himself in the mix as well after tying for the low round of the day at 4-under 68.

There is no shortage of headlines going into moving day, which makes for an intriguing odds market. We may also see a bit of a reprieve from the wind, which could allow the tournament officials to use more back tees and to see the length of the course come more into play. I’ll be eyeing more guys that are birdie makers going into Saturday, as I think there will be opportunity to see lower scores.

Let’s see who stands out in the strokes gained categories and may be ready to make a move for a late tee time heading into the final round.

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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

I am still looking at the chasers going into the weekend, but I think we need to focus more on the guys that will go out and post a number rather than the grinders of the first two rounds.

One of my favorite buys going into the weekend is with Sungjae Im. He has really been up and down this year, but when he’s on, he puts his name in contention. This week on Kiawah Island has been no different as he’s 2-under and in a tie for seventh going into the weekend.

The South Korean has shown great consistency in his ball striking through two rounds, and for him, it’s been most important with his iron play. He has gained more than four strokes on approach through 36 holes, and with the wind calming on Saturday, that should position him for scoring opportunities. Sungjae can be one of the best players in the world when he is dialed in, and it appears this can be one of those weeks for him.

He also has more to gain than any player in the field, as a Major Championship would allow him to avoid mandatory military service. I think he will be dialed in as much as anyone this weekend, and at +2800 on DraftKings going into Saturday, he’s a strong buy.

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I wanted nothing to do with Bryson DeChambeau coming into this week as I thought the way he has a tendency to spray it a bit off the tee would bite him on this course. After two rounds, I am reversing course, and I’m even happier after he flubbed a chip on the 18th to drop another shot.

The dropped shot at the last hole left us with a little better odds, as BetMGM posted +1400 for Bryson going into moving day. I love what I saw from the U.S. Open Champion in the second round today, and with lighter winds, he could be ready to make a charge on Saturday.

DeChambeau shot a 1-under 71 on Friday, despite losing strokes to the field off the tee. He is the best player in the world in that category typically, so for him to put together a solid round despite those issues, it’s a great sign. He made up for it with more than three strokes gained on approach, which is another strong sign. We are only through two rounds, but if you’re asking me to pick a winner today, it’s Bryson, and at +1400 I am getting him at near pre-tournament odds with the knowledge he’s playing well.

If I am looking even further down the leaderboard, I don’t mind going to the 1-over range for Will Zalatoris. We saw Willy Z put his name in contention at the Masters, and with a low round on Saturday, he could be in the mix again.

Zalatoris played a better round on Friday than his score indicates. He gained nearly three strokes on the field with his ball striking but just couldn’t capitalize. While we are early into his career, it’s clear the putter is the biggest thing holding him back from bigger performances. We are seeing some lesser putters contend this week, and he may be the next one to turn things on this weekend, which could quickly put him in the mix even from six shots back. He’s +8000 on BetMGM, and that’s a value worth biting on into moving day.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

I know Phil Mickelson is the story going into the weekend, and I hate to be the wet blanket, but he’s an easy fade for me. We have seen flashes of good play for Lefty this year, including a similar opening round performance at the Masters. Still, it’s another thing to expect him to stay in the mix to become the oldest major champion in history throughout the weekend. While I can’t point you to any of the strokes gained data for a Phil fade on Saturday, I’ll just play against a guy that hasn’t finished top 20 on this TOUR since August.

The player that stands out from Friday’s round from a strokes gained perspective is Richy Werenski. He struggled with his ball striking in the second round where he played merely field average in the category.

The former Georgia Bulldog was able to still post an even-par day because of what he did on and around the greens. He gained more than three shots with his short game, including being one of the best in the field on the day around the greens. I’m putting in the fade on a guy that needed 2.78 strokes gained today to stay in the mix, but it’s hard not to expect him to start to revert to his average under the pressure of the weekend. Werenski ranks 122nd or worse in every strokes gained category this season, and while he’s a nice story so far, he seems destined to drop out of contention.

There are many Englishmen within shouting distance of the lead, and Lee Westwood is on the outer edge of that group. He has had a resurgence of his game this season, and put himself in contention across several big events. Unfortunately, I don’t see this week being one of them as he is showing many struggles with his iron play.

Westwood has lost strokes on approach in each of his first two rounds. Things got really bad for him on Friday as he lost 1.47 strokes with his irons but was able to grind out an even-par round with his short game. We may see him figure it out and bounce back on Saturday, but after seeing the struggles in back to back days, he becomes a fade for me into the weekend.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

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