Sentry TOC Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Sergio Garcia.
Golf. Is. Back.
It’s been a long few weeks that has seemed like months since we’ve seen the pros on TOUR. They returned to the course on Thursday for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which oddly featured several non-champions from the prior year. You won’t see me complaining, as we have a larger and even better field in Hawaii this year than normal and they certainly didn’t disappoint in Round 1.
The first groups to take the course came out and posted some low numbers as Robert Streb, Nick Taylor and Sergio Garcia posted 6-under 67s on the Par 73 at Kapalua Resort. Harris English and Justin Thomas would later chase them down and pass them en route to matching 65s. They will go off in the final pairing together on Friday, since they do a rare re-pairing for Round 2 at the Tournament of Champions.
There is just over a quarter of the 42-man field within three shots of the leaders as we head into Friday, and with one of the favorites up top, we should find some decent betting numbers down the leaderboard.
Let’s take a look at the Strokes Gained Data from the first round and see who stands out.
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
Simply looking at the raw numbers, I nearly started to write up Sergio Garcia as a fade heading into Round 2, as he had an improbable eagle chip in from the “native area” and gained 2.77 strokes around the green. That figure really buoyed his tee-to-green numbers, which had him second in the field. While that number certainly isn’t sustainable, I am still trying to figure out why his approach number is so low at just .25 strokes gained.
Sergio started slow with bogeys on two of his first three, but went bogey-free with six birdies following the eagle chip-in on the 5th. His back nine approaches saw under-par opportunities from six feet, 18 inches (MISSED!!), 15 feet, 21 feet on the fringe, 18 feet, 16 feet on the fairway for eagle, five feet (missed), missed green, and a missed birdie from eight feet on 18.
In review, it wasn’t just his short game that was dialed in, it was nearly all there for fifteen holes, as is always the story for Sergio. He’s won on this course before (even if it was back in 2002) and if the putter can do just a bit more with that ball-striking, he’ll be in contention all weekend. I’ll buy him live at the +2500 available on DraftKings and sit back to see if we can hit him like we did in this same spot at the Safeway.
It’s impossible to look at the Strokes Gained Data from the first round and not notice what Adam Scott did out there today. He led the field in Strokes Gained tee-to-green, ball striking and in approach on his way to a 68. As is the story of his career, the putter was his issue (if you can call it that in a 5-under round) as he lost 2.5 strokes to the field on the greens on Thursday.
The Australian missed six birdie putts from inside of 15 feet in Round 1, and five of those were inside of 10 feet, including a three-footer on the 8th. Again, despite all of that he had five birdies, no bogeys and is just four shots back of the leaders.
It was pointed out as soon as odds were released that Scott’s number seemed high at over +5000 in some books. While that number is long gone, the +3300 on DraftKings still looks pretty good if he can just find a way to get the ball in the hole.
One final cautionary putting tale is with Collin Morikawa, who outside of a birdie on the 7th simply couldn’t put the ball in the hole for nearly 12 holes. He began to find it coming in and was able to post a 4-under round on the day.
Morikawa was the third-best in the field tee-to-green, and one of the best ball-strikers on the day. I’m willing to bet on the variance against the 2.69 strokes he lost putting on the day and expect at least a couple of the seven-, three- and five-footers he missed to roll in and allow him to climb the leaderboard on Friday.
I like him a bit better in DFS than I do in the betting market, as the +2800 is a few points lower than his pre-tournament odds and now he has a five-shot deficit. That being said, if he makes the run he’s capable of and that we are hoping for on Friday, the number won’t be anywhere near that the rest of the way for the 2020 PGA Champion.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
I wanted to find a fade at the top of the leaderboard, but there simply isn’t anyone that sticks out from strokes gained perspective. It’s not that uncommon for that to be the case after just one round, so we’ll just make sure we fade the right guys down the board a bit.
Martin Laird is the first one that sticks out. He is typically someone that plays well when his ball-striking is on and his putting game can hover around average. In the first round on Thursday he had a hot putter and just nothing on the ball-striking side. If he can’t find that ball-striking this weekend, he will quickly tumble lower in this field.
I’ll look to target against Party Marty in matchups tomorrow and will fade him in a spot that I think he will be popular as a punt play in DFS Showdown.
There are a couple of players at 3-under that stick out as fairly easy fades heading into Round 2. They have pretty similar strokes gained numbers, in a bad way, and I think they will be good targets in matchups and fades for DFS.
The first is Cameron Smith. He was the fifth-worst on the day in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, losing 2.83 strokes to the field. He lost strokes in all three of those metrics, but it was his iron play that was really poor, as he lost 1.64 strokes to the field on approach.
Smith was bailed out by a hot putter, as he gained 2.45 strokes on the field with the flat stick, which allowed him to make it in at 3-under. The one other saving grace which skews his strokes gained numbers a bit was the mess he made on the 15th hole in Round 1. He double-bogeyed after a drive in the native area, then chipped out only to hit his approach back into the native area.
It was certainly a mess, and likely his overall numbers are better than they appear, but taking the stats further he was middle of the pack hitting greens in regulation and didn’t have much land close to the hole. I’ve always seen Cam Smith as a streaky player and the trends look to be poor to start this week.
Abraham Ancer has a fairly identical stat line to Smith from the first day, only a bit worse. He also made it in with a 70, and did it by gaining more than four strokes on the field with his putter.
Ancer simply shot nearly the best round he could ask for while losing 4.5 strokes tee-to-green, where he lost more than a stroke in each metric. As odd as it sounds I would actually expect Ancer to be the one more likely to bounce back with his ball-striking in the second round, as that is the strength of his game, but it’s a situation I’d rather target against until I see it.