The American Express Round 4 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Si Woo Kim.
The third round at The American Express was filled with drama as 36-hole-leader Sungjae Im came out in control with birdies on his first two holes. Eventually, he made his first questionable decision going for the green in two on the par-5 fifth. He’d bogey there before finding water off the tee on the ninth, and compound that mistake by rinsing it again after a drop. His triple bogey would drop him out of the Top 10 and eventually to 21st.
Max Homa and Tony Finau found similar fates throughout their Saturday rounds, each posting double bogeys, but they bounced back to close in a tie for the lead alongside Si Woo Kim.
Kim took the road less traveled on Moving Day as he seemed to be the only player going along steadily in his bogey-free 67, but a balky putter left a few shots out there for the South Korean. This threesome will make up the final group on Sunday, but they will have plenty of chasers as 12 players are within three shots of the lead heading into the final round.
PGA West has shown to be a great test as there are plenty of birdies available throughout the course, but just one wayward shot can just as easily lead to bogey or worse. It will make for an exhilarating finish on Sunday afternoon, especially with fan favorite Tony Finau seeking his elusive second TOUR win.
Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from Round 3, and see who stands out to bring home the victory.
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
The winner for me tomorrow is still Kim. He has been clearly the most consistent player all week, with two bogey-free rounds on the Stadium Course. He gained 4.26 shots on approach on Saturday, which ranked second in the field only because Cameron Davis had two eagles including one hole out.
Kim has been rock solid this week and unlike the other two in his final group, he has avoided the big number. He also has more experience closing the deal than either of his opponents and will be less susceptible to the pressure of Sunday afternoon.
Kim will likely need to make a few more putts than he did today as the .82 strokes lost putting could come back to bite him if he can’t make birdies. As we’ve noted throughout, there are a ton of birdies available on the course and if anyone in the final group is going to hold onto the lead, they’ll have to make their fair share to avoid being caught from behind.
I’m sticking with my buy on Si Woo (+430 on FanDuel) from Friday as his game is in great form, and he stands out above the rest of his grouping.
I will start by saying I don’t love the odds, but there is no way I can write about strokes gained data this week and not mention Richy Werenski. In my view, he has been the second-best player in the field to Kim with just one bogey through 54 holes.
Werenski now has back-to-back rounds on the Stadium Course during which he has gained more than two shots on the field tee-to-green, including 3.88 gained on Moving Day. He did it primarily with a strong approach game as he gained 3.08 strokes with his irons, and added another 1.25 off-the-tee.
Richy has been fantastic throughout the bag this week, and he too has winning experience. He won the Barracuda Championship over the summer and won’t shy away from the pressure on Sunday.
While I don’t love the +1200 on FanDuel for a guy that was +20000 at the start of the event, it’s a number that’s warranted based on his play this week.
Emiliano Grillo came out firing on Saturday as he made the turn with a 5-under 31 and had a two-shot lead in the tournament during that run. Unfortunately, he lost that momentum on the easier back nine, on which he shot 1-over and finished the day two back of the leaders.
The Argentine has always been one of the best ball strikers on TOUR, but it’s been the flat stick that has held him back from more success. The good news is that his putter has been solid in both rounds on the Stadium Course this week, including 1.82 strokes gained on the greens in the third round. It was actually his irons that failed him down the back nine, losing nearly a half shot to the field.
I’m buying in on Grillo at +1600, expecting the strength of his game to bounce back on Sunday, and relying on his solid consistency this week on the greens to continue. He has the skills to make a run and go low enough to steal this thing from the final group.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
It’s not that I don’t like Tony Finau or don’t think he’s one of the top players on TOUR, but time and again he gets into these situations and just simply doesn’t come through. My fade of him on Sunday is simply a “show me” play, where I’m willing to fade him, primarily in DFS at high ownership, and let him prove that he can get it done again.
Finau has not yet secured his second TOUR victory, and it has now been just short of five years since his first win in Puerto Rico. He will have to earn it to win on Sunday in La Quinta, and I just don’t have any history to go on to buy into him getting it done.
Russell Knox checks in as my second fade for Sunday. He had the low round of the day on Saturday with a bogey-free, 8-under 64. Knox was able to climb his way into a tie for fifth heading into the final round.
The issue I have with him is similar to what we saw with Brandon Steele last Saturday, where Knox is now pressed to keep a white hot putter going in order to remain in contention. Russell gained 3.56 strokes putting in the third round, as he was dropping them from all over the greens, but to say it was an outlier would be a gross understatement. Knox currently ranks 199th on TOUR in strokes gained putting after finishing 161st in the category last year.
The Scotsman lost 1.68 strokes on these same greens on Friday, and I think he is more likely to duplicate that type of performance. I expect his putting to come crashing back to Earth on Sunday, which will leave him falling down the board.
I know Davis is a scorer, and it’s what makes him a viable DFS play each week he tees it up, but he took that to another level on Saturday. Davis posted two eagles, including one as a 158 yard hole-out from the rough on the Par 4 15th. They would propel him to a 6-under 66 and put him in a tie for 8th going into the final round.
It’s not that I don’t believe the young Australian has the game to hold his spot up top, but rather that this round seemed to come out of the blue and included quite a bit of luck. He lost 2.13 strokes to the field on approach on Friday, but was able to maintain his spot inside the cutline with a hot putter. On Saturday he turned it around to gain 5.12 strokes on the field with his irons, buoyed by his miraculous shot on 15.
I expect him to regress a bit on Sunday, and am fading his ability to contend to win, but his scoring ability likely keeps him in play for DFS Showdown purposes.