2021 Sony Open Buys & Fades: Looking Back and Ahead Using Strokes Gained Data
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Palmer.
Another year, another playoff to decide the Sentry Tournament of Champions. This time it was Harris English who was able to hold on to his 54-hole co-lead and break through for his first solo TOUR victory since 2013.
He held off the charge of Joaquin Niemann who tied the low round of the tournament with a 9-under 64 on Sunday. The two were tied after 72 holes and needed one more to decide the champion. English was able to birdie the Par 5 18th in the first playoff hole to capture the victory.
As is often the case for a tournament champion, Harris English led the field in strokes gained putting on the week at Kapalua. He gained 1.71 strokes over the field on the greens for the week and was really steady throughout the rest of his game. English and Niemann tied at the top in Strokes Gained Total on the week, but the Chilean did it with a strong ball striking week where he ranked second in Strokes Gained Approach.
Both players will look to carry this positive momentum into the next stop in the Hawaii swing at Waialae Country Club as they tee it up on Thursday for the Sony Open. Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data for some other players that will try to carry positive momentum into that 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 for the Sony Open
While many of the really big names from Kapalua have decided to pass on the Sony Open, it will still be a strong field for Waialae. This will also open up the betting markets a bit and open the door for some players a little further down the board.
One of those players is Ryan Palmer who was the other half of the final pairing on Sunday, which featured two of the better players on TOUR with an extended drought since their last solo win (both have had wins in team events). That may be understating it a bit for Palmer who last won in 2010, now more than a decade ago.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t to be on Sunday either, as a huge mistake off the tee on the Par 3 11th resulted in a double bogey, effectively knocking him out of contention.
Despite the mistake, Palmer was still able to salvage a 2-under final round and a great overall week where he finished alone in fourth place.
He gained strokes across the board in all metrics for the event, finishing fourth in total strokes gained and fifth tee-to-green. His irons were dialed in for the week as he gained more than two strokes on approach in three of his four rounds, and finished fourth overall in the category despite losing 1.60 strokes in the second round.
Palmer will return to the Sony Open on Thursday where he finished fourth last year after a blunder on his 72nd hole cost him a chance at that allusive next win. He will certainly come in showing good form on a course he has performed well at in the past.
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The best player in the field for the week from a Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green perspective was not English or Niemann, instead it was Sungjae Im who finished in a tie for fifth. He was really steady throughout his game as he gained strokes in all three metrics across the week, but was really carried by some stellar iron play.
Im gained 1.28 strokes on approach across the week, ranking sixth in the field. Adding in his off-the-tee results he was also the best of the week in overall ball striking.
It was the putter that left Sungjae short of the leaders at the end of the week as he lost 0.81 strokes to the field on the greens, only gaining strokes in Round 3, and losing more than two strokes putting to the field on Sunday. If he can find the flatstick at Waialae Country Club, the rest of his game is there for him to be in contention for his second career victory.
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If you are looking for a player for the Sony Open who didn’t make a splash at the top of the leaderboard in Kapalua, look no further than Sebastian Munoz. He finished in a tie for 17th, which in a 42 man field is essentially middle of the pack, but it was how he did it that is encouraging for his next event.
Munoz had a simply awful 2-over 75 on Thursday at Kapalua Resort where he lost 5.38 strokes to the field overall, including 2.94 strokes lost on approach and another 2.86 strokes putting. There is nothing available to make that opening round look pretty as it was the worst in the field on the day, but he did quickly turn it around the rest of the way.
Over the final 54 holes Munoz made 19 birdies and just one bogey, allowing him to climb from that 2-over start to a 16-under finish. He would go on to gain strokes in all three tee-to-green metrics for each of the next three rounds and climb back to nearly field average in all categories by the end of the week.
The Colombian certainly found something on Friday and was able to carry it through the rest of the tournament. He will certainly be worth looking into in all betting markets for this week’s Sony Open as he looks to build off of his Top 10 finish at the event in 2019.
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