2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Round 2 Buys & Fades: Bubba Watson is a Top Choice at Detroit Golf Club

2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Round 2 Buys & Fades: Bubba Watson is a Top Choice at Detroit Golf Club article feature image
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Bubba Watson.

The drama of the PGA TOUR seems to never end, and lately, it has consistently involved Bryson DeChambeau. This week, news broke during the morning wave that he and longtime caddie Tim Tucker were on the outs despite them being together in Detroit for practice rounds leading up to the tournament.

It was certainly an odd series of events as Bryson set to tee off in the afternoon wave to defend his title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and Tucker seemingly went back home. All of this happened just before a three-hour-and-15-minute weather delay in the first round which allowed social media to have a great time at their expense, especially Brooks Koepka.

Once DeChambeau finally got to his tee time, he stumbled out of the gates, bogeying two of his first three holes. He really struggled to get much going throughout the round, but will get back after it first thing on Friday morning.

The story of the day on the golf course was Davis Thompson, who recently turned pro after being an All-American at Georgia. The Rocket Mortgage is his third event as a professional, having missed the cut in his first two. He looks on track to make the weekend in Detroit, and possibly do something really special after a 9-under 63 on Thursday.

Thompson will take a two shot advantage into the second round over Brandon Hagy, Tom Lewis and Joaquin Niemann who posted the best round of the afternoon wave. Seamus Power and J.J. Spaun are another shot back at 6-under, while the leaderboard begins to bunch up as a number of players posted 67 to start their week.

There is a lot of inexperience at the top of the leaderboard, as only Niemann has a win on TOUR, until you get to the group at 5-under. He certainly leads the way from the top of the leaderboard, but he also did it with an incredible round on the greens. In my eyes, everything is still wide open, especially in this birdie-fest, making for some interesting numbers in the odds market heading to Round 2. Let’s take a look at who stands out heading into Friday.

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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 2

One player that was gaining some momentum last week before simply falling on his face down the back stretch at The Travelers was Bubba Watson. It seemed he may have carried that poor play into the start of his week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after bogeys on two of his first four holes, but he would close the round with six birdies over his final eleven to climb into the top 20.

I always have interest in Bubba around certain courses, and while he has missed the cut twice at this event, Detroit Golf Club seems like a place that should fit his game. We started to see that down his back nine on Thursday, and he ultimately gained more than two shots on the field on approach during the opening round. He’s just five shots back of the young first-round leader, which makes him an attractive option at +4500 on FanDuel into the second round.

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It’s been a fantastic year for Jason Kokrak as he captured his first win on TOUR in the fall, then outlasted Jordan Spieth in Texas for another one at the Charles Schwab. The biggest change for the big man has been his improvement on the greens which took him from being a ball-striker that couldn’t putt, to a force throughout his bag.

He posted an up-and-down round of 69 on Thursday at Detroit Golf Club, as his now reliable putter let him down. Kokrak lost 2.3 strokes to the field on the greens, which negated much of the great work he did tee to green. In fact, he was the second best player in the field off the tee on Thursday, and gained another 2.19 strokes on approach.

I expect he comes out on Friday with the putting stroke that has lifted him to be the No. 24 player in the world, and if he maintains that elite ball-striking, he will be in the mix heading to the weekend. I’m buying on Jason heading into Friday in DFS and matchups, but I may also dabble at +3300 in the outright market on FanDuel.

I’m sticking with the poor putting trends and buying a turnaround from Hideki Matsuyama on Friday. He was rolling at the close of his front nine on Thursday where he birdied four in a row and had his name in the mix at the top of the leaderboard. Unfortunately, he lost that fire on the back nine where he simply couldn’t put the ball in the hole.

Hideki ended up completely falling apart on the 8th green, his 17th hole, where he four-putted from the fringe for an ugly double. It was his only dropped shots of the day, as he ranked third in the field on approach, and missed just three greens in regulation.

If the Masters champion can find his putting stroke on Friday, he has the ability to go low and position himself for an afternoon tee time on the weekend. His odds are longer than the others despite just being a shot or two behind, as he’s +5000 on DraftKings heading into Round 2, making him an intriguing player that could make a move.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

There isn’t anything from a strokes gained perspective that will jump out as a fade on Davis Thompson going into the second round. I am simply playing the old adage that it is hard to follow up a great round with another good round. I’ll add to that the fact that he’s a young player, in just his third professional event, and completely green to this scenario.

We may find out that he is built just like some of the other recent young stars on TOUR, and he gets a win early in his career, but I am willing to go against that at this stage. Thompson will have a lot of pressure on himself carrying an overnight lead, and I think he is in for a struggle in the second round.

There have been a few times this year where we have seen J.J. Spaun jump out with a solid opening round, before fading from the leaderboard. It looks like he may be positioned for that same fate this week as he shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday.

My concern for Spaun going into the second round is if he can sustain this success over the next three days. It will be tough for a player that has had just one top-20 finish since September to be able to stay in it, especially as the pressure mounts.

In looking closer at J.J.’s round, he gained 2.45 strokes putting on the day, which helped him overcome lost strokes to the field off the tee and around the green. While his approach game was really solid, it seems inevitable that the putter will fall off as he hasn’t gained strokes on the greens in four straight events. I’m out on Spaun as early as tomorrow, as I think he sets up as a good target in matchups and fade in DFS.

Roger Sloan hasn’t quite finished his Thursday round as he still has three holes to play. He has put together a solid day through the first 15, currently sitting at 5-under. My concern with the Canadian is the way he has put the round together, gaining almost all of his strokes on and around the greens.

Sloan currently ranks third in strokes gained around the green at 1.91 and has piled up another 1.56 on the putting surface. He has been able to overcome his ball-striking with this short-game play, but that won’t be sustainable the rest of the way at Detroit Golf Club. This course will require players to do most of their work ball-striking in order to get in position for birdies, and Sloan just isn’t showing that he has that part of his game this week.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

*Stats are incomplete, some players still have holes to finish in Round 1

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