RBC Heritage Round 4 Buys & Fades: Ride Stewart Cink To The Finish
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Stewart Cink at the RBC Heritage.
The performance this week by Stewart Cink has been nothing short of remarkable as he posted his third consecutive round in the 60s on Saturday to sustain his five-shot advantage. It wasn’t all roses though as he stumbled out of the gates with a shaky start on the first three holes, including a (gasp) second bogey of the week at the third. He’d quickly right the ship with birdies at 4 and 5, and added another at 14 to cruise home with a 2-under 69.
Cink’s closest competitor to start the day was playing partner Corey Conners who simply couldn’t get the ball in the hole as he made just one birdie and two bogeys in his round. Collin Morikawa also struggled putting but holed just enough to put himself in the final pairing with Cink on Sunday.
Matt Wallace and Emiliano Grillo will make up the penultimate pairing, from six and seven shots back respectively. Sungjae Im got in the house at 11-under alongside Wallace, while four others including Webb Simpson will start the final round eight shots back, at 10-under-par.
According to stat guru Justin Ray, 54-hole leaders of five shots or more have closed the deal 82.5% of the time over the last 15 years. In the famous and astute quote from Dumb and Dumber, “so you’re saying there’s a chance.” Probably not, but let’s dive into the stats and see what stands out heading into Sunday.
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 4
I haven’t bought him yet, but this thing is Stewart Cink‘s to lose. Despite some opening round struggles, he doesn’t seem to be wavering. I don’t like laying juice in golf, but I would search for the best number at the books available to you and buy Cink for the win on Sunday. The best I see right now is -240 on FanDuel, and that’s about a 70% probability to win, about 12% lower than the actual stats I provided from Justin Ray earlier.
Cink has been dialed in across his game all week, gaining strokes in every category through 54 holes. His best stat is on approach, which is the key to this course, where he is averaging 2.75 strokes gained on the field across the first three rounds. It just doesn’t seem like he will put himself in enough trouble to bring others back into contention, which may require the chasers to fire a 62 or better to beat him. I’m officially buying this as Cink’s third win at Harbour Town — his first in 17 years — and while I realize this isn’t some great stance, there is some legitimate value in the betting markets on the 47-year-old.
There is no question who the next buy has to be, and it’s a double down from yesterday with Collin Morikawa. He is the player paired with Cink and the one that can put the most pressure on him throughout Sunday’s round, but he also has the stats to back it up.
The recent WGC at Concession winner has gained more than 12 shots on the field tee to green this week, yet finds himself five shots back of the lead. That is more of a sign to the incredible golf that Cink has played, but it also gives a bit of insight into just how poor Collin’s putter has been through three rounds. He started the week gaining 2.42 strokes on the greens, but has given them all back and then some over the last 36 holes. If Morikawa can find a hot putter on Sunday, he may be able to put a bit of pressure on the leader, but I’d be more comfortable with him in DFS and in a head-to-head matchup than anything to win the event.
Anyone further back than second or third really has to shoot a really low round to even be in consideration and because of that, it just leaves me with Webb Simpson. He is the player with the course history, best irons and most potential for a hot putter to fire a 61 or 60. It’s far fetched and frankly not really worth +3300, but he would be my pick of the bunch if I had to make that choice.
I am actually more interested in Webb in the markets on DraftKings that are out there for top finisher outside of Cink. He’s +750 there to overtake the rest of the crowd, and he’s also had a good week tee to green. Webb seemed to finally find his stride on the greens in the third round, and I wouldn’t put it past him to post another low number with no pressure on Sunday at Harbour Town.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
I actually like quite a bit of the top of the leaderboard to perform well on Sunday. Grillo was poor with his irons and had a second straight solid round on the greens to salvage two under. I expect him to improve on that Sunday. Sungjae regressed a bit ball striking, but he too could bounce back, which drops me down to the players at 10-under.
Here I will double down on my fade of Matthew Fitzpatrick. He has been the English version of Fitzmagic on the greens this week, somehow making up for 1.13 shots lost to the field on approach on Saturday. This is a second shot golf course, and the irons have been the weakest link for Fitzpatrick through 54 holes. I expect it to truly catch up with him in the final round on Sunday.
The week has brought about a gradual regression of the ball striking for Harold Varner III. He went from nearly two-and-a-half strokes gained in the metric on Thursday, to just over one-and-a-half Friday, to nearly one-and-a-half strokes lost to the field ball striking in the third round Saturday.
This isn’t the trend you want for a player that has also struggled to finish in final rounds. I expect we see HV3 drop from the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday as his game seems to be fading fast this week at RBC Heritage.
Another player that appears to be losing form by the round is Brian Harman. It is fully understandable for the former Georgia Bulldog as he has played several high intensity rounds dating back to the WGC Match Play. He had to beat Bubba Watson in the Round of 16, in order to qualify for The Masters. Harman got that done, then found himself in the top 10 in the final round at Augusta before heading east to Hilton Head this week.
Remarkably, he finds himself in the top 10 again at the RBC Heritage, but he seems to be just barely holding on after Saturday. Harman shot a 4-under 67 in the third round but did it with more than four-and-a-half strokes gained on and around the greens. He actually lost strokes to the field in both ball striking metrics, making it a second consecutive round where he lost strokes in the ball striking category. I just can’t trust that kind of form heading into Sunday, and for that reason I’ve got him pegged as my last fade of the final round.