Sentry TOC Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Johnson.
It was a picture-perfect Friday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, making for ideal scoring positions for some of the best players in the world.
Needless to say, the majority of them took full advantage, with just one golfer failing to break par and 30 of the 42 shooting in the 60s on the par-73 track.
Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger and Collin Morikawa led the way with 8-under rounds, vaulting themselves up the leaderboard. The latter two will start Round 3 two strokes behind the front runner Harris English, who outplayed co-leader Justin Thomas in Friday’s final pairing to take the solo lead.
There are 16 players within just four shots of the lead, which includes eight of the top nine players in the world. It will be must-see TV as the players jostle to gain an edge on the rest of the field.
I know we will be splitting hairs with our strokes gained data, with so many of the world’s best in contention, but it should also provide a lot of value in the betting markets heading into Moving Day at the event.
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
Dustin Johnson is the best player in the world, and looked like it in the second round. That said, go ahead and sign me up to buy-in on him the rest of the way.
Johnson reeled off an easy-looking 8-under 65 in the second round. He did without making any putts of real length, as he noted in his press conference following the finish. He was right at field average with his putter, while leading the field tee-to-green. It’s also notable that Johnson was just above field average off-the-tee, which is typically a top strength of his game.
He will start Saturday’s round four back of Harris, and his odds are back around where they started before the tournament. However, plus-1000 will be long gone if he keeps playing like he did in the second round. I’m buying Johnson in all formats, seeing him as the player to beat the rest of the way.
I’m taking my stand at the top of the odds, so while certainly Thomas, Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau would all be good plays, I’d rather drop down in odds with such a condensed leaderboard.
The first name that jumps out for me based on his odds is Scottie Scheffler. The former Texas Longhorns star fired a 66 on Friday, moving his way into the top 10 at 10 under par, putting him even with Johnson. Through two rounds, Scheffler is one of the few players that has gained strokes in all three tee-to-green metrics, and he’s been consistent in that aspect.
There is certainly room for Scheffler to improve on the greens, where he has lost strokes putting each day. However, he did bring it back much closer to field average during Friday’s solid round. If he can continue that trend on Saturday, he could find himself near the final pairing.
BetMGM has hung a juicy looking +3500 on Scheffler going into Moving Day, so I will be all over it.
I am a little hesitant to drop down any further than the players at 10 under, mainly because with conditions set to be calm again. I have some hope with winds expected to be up a bit Sunday, so I will take a stab on Jason Kokrak.
He shot a 7-under round Friday, jumping into a tie for 17th place at 9 under on the tournament. Kokrak started the event slow with two bogeys and a double in his first seven holes Thursday, but has really played solid golf since then. He came out on fire in Round 2 with a 6-under 30 on his outward nine before cooling a bit on the way in.
Konrak’s iron play carried him through the round, along with a solid putter that has him ranked third on PGA TOUR after being 151st last season. I’ll dabble on the +10000 available via DraftKings going into Round 3 and continue to ride the hot game that got him his first TOUR win at the CJ Cup this past fall.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
Well, here we are again looking to find fades in a round where no one in the Top 10 shot worse than 4 under and that was by Thomas and the first-round leader.
If I have to peg one at the top, which frankly I do, it’s Ryan Palmer. He has managed to put himself in a tie for second, sitting just two shots back of English’s lead despite lacking a part of his ball striking in each round.
On Friday, it was the irons for Palmer, as he lost 1.60 strokes to the field on approach. He made up for it with a sharp game on and around the greens, but with scoring going the way it did through 36 holes, he will have to get both aspects of his ball-striking dialed in over the final two rounds.
I’ll put my fade in on Palmer from a DFS perspective and certainly shop for good odds in his tee-time matchup with Morikawa.
I have difficulty fading Patrick Reed on a course that sets up so well for his game, but the numbers put him as the next name on the chopping block. Like Palmer, he had issues with his irons Friday and lost more than a stroke to the field on approach.
Reed’s usually sharp short game also was an issue around the greens, as he lost strokes in that metric that led to a negative tee-to-green showing despite his 5-under round.
Reed has always loved playing Kapalua and could certainly make me regret this call, but right now his game is lacking just enough that I think we see him tumble down the leaderboard.
Can I just fade Hideki Matsuyama here? Man, he has been surprisingly bad this week, as he looks to dig out of dead last, but that’s a cop out. Instead, I’ll go big and put my hex on World No. 3 Jon Rahm. The Spaniard finds himself just four shots back of the lead, though I think it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors.
I was surprised when I tuned in Friday to see Rahm making his way down the final few holes with a chance to climb into the Top 10 with a 7-under round. He just hasn’t seemed to have much of his game this week, and the data bears that out.
For the second day in a row, Rahm lost strokes to the field both on approach and in overall ball-striking. He was able to save the Friday round and score quite well due to a hot putter, as he gained 1.52 strokes on the greens. His play just isn’t sustainable with what everyone else is doing around him unless he quickly finds his ball striking.
I’m putting my fade in on Rahm and his Saturday pairing with Scheffler will match up well for me to grab some good odds with one of my buys.