RBC Heritage Round 3 Buys & Fades: Buy the Elite to Chase Down Stewart Cink
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Stewart Cink at the RBC Heritage.
It was a new day at Harbour Town on Friday but the same story for Stewart Cink who charged through the afternoon wave with another 8-under 63. He beat the 36-hole scoring record at the tournament by three shots and takes a commanding five-stroke advantage into the weekend at the RBC Heritage. Cink hasn’t had a bogey since his opening hole of the tournament, and appears to be dialed in and ready to run away with this event.
Many others took advantage of the good conditions in the second round as well, as Corey Conners and Emiliano Grillo posted 7-under 64s to position themselves in solo second and third respectively. Both passed opening round leader, Cameron Smith, who was only able to remain at even par on his round, losing ground on most of the rest of the field. He’s joined in a tie for fourth with a few other big names including defending PGA champion Collin Morikawa. Billy Horschel and Sungjae Im will also start the weekend seven shots back of the lead and looking to get into shouting distance on moving day.
There is a steep hill to climb for players to get into contention and scare Stewart Cink this weekend, but it’s important to remember that this thing is only halfway done. All of the chasers will need help from Cink at some point, and while I may back off from adding too many players to win, we can still dial in on the players ready to get into position for a top finish.
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
The first question heading into moving day is how far is too far back. Arguably, anyone outside of the top three may be too many behind, but the mindset has to be about how many they are back of second with the hopes that Cink comes back to the field.
I will tag on for the elite players to be the ones with the best chance to make some noise and possibly chase him down. My first buy will be going back to the first round leader, Cameron Smith.
It was fairly predictable that he would struggle to score a bit on Friday as he regressed back from the 7+ strokes he gained on and around the green on Thursday. I didn’t think he’d fall all the way to losing more than three strokes putting, but it’s common for the next round to be a bit of a grind after going so low the day before.
The reason I am adding Smith is more because of what he showed with his ball striking in the second round. He gained 1.89 strokes on approach during the round and more than two strokes ball striking. Despite the round he played on Thursday, he still hasn’t put everything together at the same time, and I think we could see that from the Australian on Saturday as he looks to position himself for a late Sunday tee time.
Collin Morikawa has to be one of the next buys on the board. He has the pedigree, even in his very young career, to not back down from the moment, and go for the win. I expect him to come out with a sole mindset to go for the win this weekend, and that will be fully necessary for anyone to really put pressure on Cink.
Similar to Smith, Morikawa had a great round putting on Thursday and regressed to a fairly large negative number on Friday. The PGA champion lost 1.66 strokes on the greens in his second round, but while his putting struggled, his typically strong ball striking returned.
Morikawa gained more than three strokes on approach with his irons on Friday and gave himself plenty of opportunities for a really low round. He was unable to capitalize on those opportunities, but if he can put it all together this weekend, he can make things quite a bit more interesting.
Looking even further down the board seems a bit crazy, but there are still two rounds left and we have seen plenty of craziness happen. If I’m looking for someone to go really low and match the 8- or 9-under rounds we have seen this week, it’s going to be with Abraham Ancer.
We haven’t seen the typical Ancer in recent weeks, but through two rounds in Hilton Head, his ball striking prowess has reappeared. He was the best player in the field with his irons on Friday as he gained 4.33 strokes on approach. Ancer was able to carve out a 5-under 66 despite losing more than a half stroke to the field on the greens. He’s a long shot, and arguably should be longer than +3300 with a nine-shot deficit, but he’s a guy I like to potentially make a run.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
The first fade going into the weekend is one that I don’t want to make as it’s a fellow Gamecock in Wes Bryan. He is a South Carolina native and undoubtedly familiar with the course at Harbour Town. He’s had some of his best results on TOUR at this event, and he’s certainly set up for that to happen again as he’s tied for eighth heading into Round 3.
Bryan put himself on the first page of the leaderboard on Friday with a hot putter that gained 2.94 strokes on the field. It was a full turnaround from the 1.37 he lost with the putter on Thursday, but while the flat stick went in the right direction, his ball striking faded. Bryan gained strokes in all tee to green aspects in the second round, but only the around the green game gained more than half a stroke on the field. This will be just the third cut made in Bryan’s last six events, and he has no finishes better than 32nd. I think we start to see the pressure of the weekend take a tole on the former Gamecock, and he will unfortunately struggle to stay near the top of the leaderboard.
I loved seeing the charge up the leaderboard from Matt Fitzpatrick as it appeared my one-and-done pick was headed for another missed cut after the first round. He certainly turned that thought around with his 7-under 64 to not only escape the cutline but find himself inside the top 10.
While all of that was great, when we look closely at the strokes gained data it paints the picture of a player relying on his putter. Fitzpatrick gained 4.88 strokes on the field with his flat stick on Friday, which isn’t an overly shocking one-round snapshot for the 27th best putter on TOUR this season, but he will need some help from the rest of his game to maintain it.
Fitzpatrick did nearly all of his tee to green damage off the tee as he was merely field average on approach and around the green. If he doesn’t find his irons over the weekend it’ll be really difficult for him to sustain his position on the leaderboard, which has me fading him into Saturday.
Ian Poulter was one of the stories of the day on Friday as he came out on fire with six birdies in his first ten holes. He had positioned himself alongside Cam Smith and Stewart Cink for the lead in the tournament, before eventually losing strokes down the stretch.
The Englishman still posted a 3-under 68, and he’s six shots back of second place. Poulter has managed to position himself here despite losing strokes tee to green in both rounds to open the tournament. He lost more than one-and-a-half strokes ball striking on Friday but made it up with more than four strokes gained on the greens. He is a great putter, but like the fades before him, he can’t expect that one club to carry him the rest of the way.