Safeway Open Round 3 Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained Data
Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire for Getty Images. Pictured: Sam Burns.
What a Safeway Open it has been thus far for Sam Burns.
Through 36 holes, Burns is currently rolling along at 15 under par, which is a score that would’ve won the entire tournament in two of the last three years.
Burns isn’t the only one going low at the event, either. Harry Higgs is just two shots back after a 10-under 62 on Friday, which was capped by an albatross on his final hole. Cameron Percy, D.J. Trahan and first-round leader Russell Knox are tied for third, sitting just three shots back of Burns. In total, 10 players are double digits under par and within a handful of shots of the leader.
It’s been a birdie fest from the start at Silverado Resort & Spa, as it took 5 under par to make the weekend. That means everyone still playing has been scoring through the first two days. There are no signs of things slowing down, either, so we will look to the strokes gained statistics to identify the players that may be able to get a little more out of their game on Saturday.
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’m buying Burns to stay hot throughout the weekend in Napa. He’s built himself a two-shot lead heading to the weekend, as he looks to capture his first win on the PGA Tour.
The 24-year-old golfer has been absolutely dialed in with every aspect of his game through two rounds. He has shown no weaknesses, as he’s gaining more than a stroke on the field in all three tee-to-green categories, coupling that with a hot putter. He gained more than two stokes with his ball striking Friday, ranking 19th from tee to green and gained 2.45 shots more on the greens.
I don’t expect the putter to stay quite that hot throughout the weekend, but with everything else in form, it won’t have to be.
These events to start the new season are often times when we see a player break through for their first win and, through two rounds, everything is pointing to it being Burns’ time.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Si Woo Kim with the highest odds to triumph heading into the Safeway Open, but it was also a sign of just how good and consistent he has been this summer. Kim came into the tournament off two Top-13 finishes in his last three events, including a third-place showing at the Wyndham Championship.
Kim started slow Thursday, struggling to find his irons. However, he bounced back in that category Friday by gaining more than three shots on the field on approach. Kim hit 15 of 18 greens in Round 2, and also rolled it well, gaining more than 1.5 shots on the green. He was able to put together a bogey-free round of 65 to jump into contention, sitting six shots back in 12th place.
Kim is a proven winner and has to be happy about his chances after seeing a lot of inexperienced players ahead of him on the leaderboard. I’m buying Kim with his form and ability to make a run into contention.
Even in a seemingly off day for Brendan Steele (like Friday), he still found his way around the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa just fine. Despite losing strokes on approach for the round, he managed to shoot a 2-under 70 and stay within shouting distance of the lead.
Steele will start Saturday six shots behind Burns, but will have the best comfort level of anyone in the field at this course. He’s a two-time Safeway Open champion and, while the strokes gained numbers were poor with his irons, he still hit 14 of 18 greens on Friday.
Course familiarity allows Steele to be a bit off and still miss in the right spots in order to salvage his 18 holes like he did in Friday’s round. I’ll buy into him tightening up his ball striking on moving day in pursuit of his third win in Napa.
3 Golfers to Sell in Round 3
D.J. Trahan has had a solid week through two rounds. He finds himself tied for 3rd at 12 under, following a solid, bogey-free 65 on Friday. There is no doubt Trahan is playing well, and maybe he simply found something in his game, but the fact is this will be his first weekend round in eight months. He hasn’t made a cut since The American Express in back in mid-January, which was the last time he gained strokes tee to green in a tournament on tour.
As we dive into his strokes gained statistics, Trahan is being carried by a dynamite short game. He’s fifth in the field, both around the green and putting, but ranks just 53rd in ball striking.
Trahan has certainly shown improvement through two days, but it’s just tough to trust him Saturday to stay in that form. He hasn’t played a weekend round in eight months, but now finds himself in contention. It’d be a great story if he can keep it up, but all of the data points to a fade.
James Hahn is another name near the top of the leaderboard that we haven’t seen in quite sometime. He’s missed three cuts in his three events since the restart and this is his first event in two months.
Hahn started strong following the layoff, gaining more than two-and-a-half strokes on approach Thursday on his way to a 4-under 68. Hahn had a great round Frida, carding a 7-under 65 and gained more than 4.5 strokes putting. He led the field in that category in the second round to jump into a tie for sixth place through 36 holes.
The concern with Hahn heading into the weekend is that, while having a better round Friday, it was in spite of him losing his iron game. He actually dropped .56 strokes to the field on approach, which further highlights just how hot his putter was running for him. I’ll look to fade Hahn following his extended layoff, and the belief that his ball striking Friday was more indicative of what I expect to see this weekend.
It’s been a strong start for Tom Hoge, who he finds himself 10 under par through two rounds. He’s had 12 birdies and just two bogeys through 36 holes, gaining nearly two strokes putting and ranking eighth in the field.
My fade for Hoge is similar to Trahan in that the ball striking has just been average through two days. For him to keep up in a scoring fest, that will have to improve. He was middle of the pack in all tee-to-green categories Friday, ranking 58th off the tee, 81st in approach and 66th around the green. These simply aren’t the numbers of a player who will be able to stay near the top of the leaderboard throughout the rest of the weekend.