Sentry TOC Round 4 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa.
Another day of ideal conditions in Hawaii brought more low scoring for the world’s best in Round 3 of the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Once again, the top of the leaderboard was littered with rounds in the mid sixties on a Par 73 course.
Through 53 holes it looked like Harris English would comfortably maintain his lead despite a 9-under 64 from Ryan Palmer on Saturday. Unfortunately for English, he needed to finish a 54th hole and made a big mistake there, coming up short and into the penalty area. He was ultimately able to find his ball and save par, but he and Palmer will now go into Sunday as co-leaders.
Collin Morikawa was the third player able to separate a bit from the rest of the field, reaching 20-under with a 8-under round on moving day. He will start the final round just one shot back of the leaders and two shots clear of the rest of the field.
The winds are expected to pick up during the final round, especially later in the day as the leaders come down the back stretch. It should make for some interesting drama and may bring just a few more players into contention for the victory.
As we look at the Strokes Gained Data from Saturday, we will want to hone in on the best ball strikers as they will be the ones most likely to hold up in the projected winds.
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 4
No player in the last six years has won this event from further back than fourth place to start Sunday’s round and even with the wind, I think that is likely to hold close to true. I won’t be targeting anyone from the group at 16-under or beyond because I think they are just too far back and have too many players in front of them to make a run at the win.
Harris English was really good throughout the first 54 holes, but it’s important to remember that it’s been since the fall of 2013 that he last won a solo TOUR event. Through all of his great golf over the last year, he hasn’t been in position to get that elusive victory and will undoubtedly be feeling that pressure down the stretch on Sunday.
I’ll look to play my buys based on English having some struggles, as I simply can’t take him at +125 with his lack of history closing the deal.
If you’ve followed me this week, the best play we have up top is with Collin Morikawa at +2500 after Round 1. There is a lot to like about what he has done since then, and I’m going to double down to peg him as the champion Sunday evening.
He leads the field in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green through 54 holes, and it’s not even particularly close. His half stroke advantage in that category over Palmer highlights just how great he has been this week. Add to it that Morikawa has improved with his putting each round, and this sets up to be another feather in the cap of the young Cal standout.
If I’m taking someone to go low and steal this thing on Sunday evening it’s going to be Justin Thomas. He has the history at Kapalua, having won this event twice already, and he also has the ability to shoot a tournament low score at any moment.
Despite matching English for the first-round lead, Thomas really hasn’t put all aspects of his game together for a full round yet this week. He’s lost balls off the tee and missed a bunch of short putts, but through it all he’s maintained his elite iron play. Thomas ranks second in the field in Strokes Gained Approach on the week, after gaining another two strokes against the field on Saturday, but he’s also lost strokes off the tee all three days.
If JT stops giving up strokes with penalties and can find a hot putter in the final round, he could make a run at this even from four shots behind. He’s my favorite from a few shots back, but the +1100 on DraftKings isn’t anything to get overly excited about.
The guy that ranks third in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green behind Morikawa and Palmer this week is Sungjae Im. He sits a 17-under alongside JT, but is double the odds. Im is a bit of a longshot at +2700 on FanDuel, but he too has the scoring ability to shoot low enough to take this thing if the others in front of him falter.
Sungjae has been steady most of the week, gaining strokes in all three tee-to-green metrics, including 1.11 on approach. He stumbled a bit with the irons on Saturday, but that damage came on the front nine and I love the momentum he built with birdies on four of his last five holes.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
I’ve already hinted at my fade and it doubled as things transpired over the last thirty minutes or so of coverage on Saturday night. If you look at the charts above it won’t make any sense to you because it doesn’t look bad from a Strokes Gained perspective.
First on the chopping block is English. He showed a lot of nerves with an approach into the “native area” on 18 in the third round and despite saving par, I think the pressure of the final round gets to him.
If you want a statistical lean that points to English falling short, he has shown a negative progression each round from a tee-to-green perspective. He also had to lean heavily on the putter, which was the best in the field today at 2.77, but those putts feel a little different on Sunday with the tournament on the line.
As I mentioned English hasn’t won in eight years, and he’s playing alongside a guy that hasn’t won since 2010 in Palmer, who is my second fade up top. I foresee a scenario where this entire pairing goes sideways on Sunday.
It was all smiles for Palmer walking off the 18th green on Saturday with the tournament low round until he walked into the scoring tent and saw a rules official wanting to talk. Ultimately, it was deemed he didn’t do anything illegal when kicking a divot in frustration on the ninth hole, but it had to shake him a bit mentally.
The Texan has to have enough on his mind having not won in eleven years, and that situation can only pile onto that overnight. Again, Palmer was the best in the field tee-to-green and on approach in the third round, so you won’t see anything for a fade there, but this is a gut play where he’s trying to follow an extremely low round with another, now from the final pairing.
I’m willing to fade both guys up top, especially in DFS and take my chances that they stumble enough to get caught from behind.
My final fade for Sunday is more directed for DFS or matchup purposes. He shouldn’t be in contention to win, but I also think we could see him drop down the leaderboard and out of the top 10.
Patrick Cantlay has struggled through three rounds to find consistent ball striking, losing strokes on approach in two of the first three rounds. He lost more than a stroke ball striking in the third round but made up for it with his around the green game. Cantlay gained a field best 2.51 strokes around the green on Saturday, but that isn’t sustainable especially if conditions get tougher as expected.