2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Round 3 Buys & Fades: Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris Headline Picks in Detroit

2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic Round 3 Buys & Fades: Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris Headline Picks in Detroit article feature image
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris.

With the Fourth of July approaching, it was appropriate the Rocket Mortgage Classic was full of fireworks Friday, as some of the biggest names to start the week had an early exit.

Bryson DeChambeau was the most surprising to depart since he was the tournament favorite and defending champion. He was unable to get anything going and missed the cut by two shots. Webb Simpson also followed suit, while Hideki Matsuyama never teed it up Friday after a positive COVID-19 test.

A weak field has gotten even softer going into the weekend at Detroit Golf Club, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting finish. Joaquin Niemann and Tom Lewis sit atop the leaderboard at 10 under par, with a group of three just one shot behind. Max Homa is the biggest name in that triumvirate, as he posted the round of the day with a 7-under 65 at the event.

Beyond the players at 9 under is a group of eight that will go into Saturday just two shots back, making for a packed leaderboard. I’ll still be looking for chasers and value plays, as the Rocket Mortgage Classic could go to any number of players over the next 36 holes.

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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 have been trying to will Sungjae Im back to the winner’s circle all year, but this might be the week we finally see it come to fruition. He has gained strokes in every category, including 1.81 with his irons Friday. This is coming off back-to-back tournaments gaining on approach, and just missing his usually sharp game off the tee.

This week, we are seeing the ball striking across the board, which has him positioned just three shots back of the leaders. The timing is great for Im to be putting together some of his best golf of the year, as the all important Olympics loom for the South Korean standout.

A victory would go a long way to boosting his confidence heading into Tokyo, and he has my interest at +2500 odds at BetMGM at the moment.

If you’ve followed along in these articles over the last year, you know I have a soft spot for Will Zalatoris. I have been on him since he broke onto the PGA scene last fall, plus I’m trying my hardest to be sure I don’t miss his inaugural PGA TOUR win. It has resulted in me sinking a number of dollars into him without much to show for it at this stage.

Regardless, I am going back to the well here with a bit of a FOMO play Zalatoris. He hasn’t had his best game to start the week, but it’s encouraging to still see him in the mix and just four shots behind the leaders.

Zalatoris has made a name for himself with his elite approach play this season, and that is what’s been missing so far this week. He started to show signs of turning that around Friday and I expect we see him dial it in this weekend.

I’m in for him in matchups, DFS and even at +3300 to pull of his first win. This is a course that suits his game, as it won’t expose his weakness around the greens. If he can just find it a bit on approach, he will be in the Sunday mix.

This might be a week where Jason Kokrak just simply isn’t seeing it or feeling it on the greens at Detroit Golf Club, but I just can’t get away. He has led the field through two rounds tee to green, where he’s gained more than 3.5 shots in each round.

The ball striking has been incredible, as he gained nearly three shots on the field in that category Friday after gaining four Thursday. To me, he looks like a player ready and in position to collect his third win of the season if he can just get a few more putts to drop.

I’m doubling down on him, as he still has value at +3000 on BetMGM and looks like a great play in matchups, as well as in DFS, heading into the third round.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

My first fade heading into the weekend is with one of the co-leaders in Tom Lewis. He’s had a nice run of golf through 36 holes, but it doesn’t seem sustainable with the way he has gotten it done thus far.

Lewis shot a 3-under 69 in the afternoon to tie Niemann atop the leaderboard, but had to overcome lost strokes on approach to make it happen. He lost .69 shots to the field with his irons Friday, which was disappointing after he had such a strong day in the category in the opening round.

My biggest concern is Lewis is a player that has lost more than a stroke to the field on approach in four consecutive tournaments and it appears the irons might be headed in that direction again.

It’s been a bit of a magic act for Troy Merritt through the first two rounds. He has managed to put himself just one shot back of the leaders despite losing strokes tee to green Thursday and another 1.51 on approach Friday.

The only way for that to happen is to have a scorching-hot putter and that certainly has been the case for Merritt. He’s already gained more than six shots on the greens, which is a huge number even for a guy who’s a solid putter. I’m going to fade his putter staying that hot the rest of the way, as I think he will need to find some ball striking in order to remain in contention.

The final fade for me  is on Brandon Hagy, who was in contention for the first-round lead before Davis Thompson got hot. Hagy had everything working in the opening round, but he reverted back to the issues that have plagued him over the last several tournaments.

He lost more than a stroke to the field tee to green in the second round, really struggling on approach. Hagy lost 1.48 strokes with his irons, and the only reason he’s still near the top at 8 under is because of his putter.

Similar to Lewis, Hagy has struggled for several events on approach, and it seems that issue might rear its ugly head again. I’m out on Hagy, as I expect we see him drop down the leaderboard as the pressure mounts.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

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