THE PLAYERS Championship Round 3 Buys & Fades: Bryson DeChambeau in Position for Back-to-Back Wins
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau.
The turn of a new day at TPC Sawgrass brought out a seemingly different course as the field improved by nearly two full strokes on Friday, and actually averaged an under-par round on the day. Still, though, many big names would pack their bags after 36 holes, including defending champion Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele.
One of the best rounds of the day, was posted by arguably the best story of the year in Chris Kirk, who has had quite a resurgence since returning to pro golf after taking nearly a year off to deal with alcohol addiction and depression issues. Kirk shot a final-round 65 to tie for second at the Sony Open, allowing him to keep his TOUR card, and he’s continued to play well. His 7-under 65 on Friday at THE PLAYERS Championship, in which he would lap the field tee to green, put him at the top of the leaderboard as the afternoon wave started to tee off.
Lee Westwood would take the overnight lead for a second-straight tournament as he shot a 6-under 66 to move one shot ahead of fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick heading into the weekend. Kirk and first-round leader Sergio Garcia trail Westwood by two shots, with a group of six, including API Champion Bryson DeChambeau, three-shots back at 6-under.
The big names are now lurking right near the top as we enter the weekend, which will make for an intriguing Moving Day at TPC Sawgrass. We should now have a decent sample of play and strokes gained data to identify some good buys and sells heading into the weekend at THE PLAYERS Championship.
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
Friday at THE PLAYERS Championship seemed to be a complete turnaround from Thursday as players were able to attack holes, allowing for a number of low scores to be posted. If that continues into the weekend, there will be a larger pool of players in contention to win this event come Sunday. Our issue is determining if the tournament directors will allow for the low scores, or test the players to hold on this weekend.
My pick to win through 36 holes is DeChambeau as he is on a stretch of play that quite frankly is going to make things scary for the rest of the TOUR. He shot another 3-under 69 to put himself just three-shots back of the player he beat on Sunday at Bay Hill.
There are several numbers that stand out from his round on Friday, both good and bad. The good is that he gained 3.61 strokes on approach in the second round, which led the way to more than four strokes gained tee to green. The bad side for him is just relative to who he is as a player off the tee, as he was essentially field average on the day. Additionally, he lost 1.17 strokes on the greens Friday, which is another strength of his game.
I don’t expect the two strengths of DeChambeau’s game to stay quiet long, and the way he is dialed in with his irons means he could have a really low round in the bag on Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the U.S. Open champion take control a bit on Moving Day, and if he does that, the +600 currently available on FanDuel will be long gone the rest of the way.
My favorite value heading into the weekend is at the same 6-under number with DeChambeau, and it’s another American, Charley Hoffman. The UNLV grad has had a great run of golf to start the new year as he put himself in contention at the AmEx before withdrawing due to back issues, then followed it up with two top-10 finishes in his last three events.
He has done it by being dialed in on approach, gaining 4.8 and 5.5 strokes on the field with his irons in his last two tournaments. Hoffman has kept that going this week as he’s gained more than four shots on the field with his approach play through 36 holes. It wasn’t just the irons for him on Friday, though, as he gained strokes on the field in every metric, including a strong putter.
There has been a lot to like with Hoffman for several weeks now, and with the ball striking he has shown, he can hold up in tough conditions or go low when he needs to. He’s a long-shot to pull off a win as he has not finished better than 30th at this event, but his +2600 odds to win are worth a look on FanDuel.
If I am looking for someone further back to to go low and post an 8- or 9-under type of round it has to be Justin Thomas. I’ve gone to this well a few times over the past few months, and eventually he’s going to pull it off.
Thomas went from outside of the cutline through seven holes, to a final birdie on his 18th hole to climb to 2-under par for the tournament. He will start Saturday seven-shots back of the lead, but he’s always someone who is on the cusp of a really low round because of his elite iron play. I’m willing to take a stab on JT at +5000 on DraftKings based simply on his willingness to be aggressive and look for that low round to get him back in contention.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
I’ve got to fade one of the top guys going into Saturday as I really don’t believe that they will be the two at the top after 54 holes. coincidentally, both Westwood and Fitzpatrick have the same shadow hanging over them as neither has broken through for a win in the states.
I’m just taking one for now, and it’s Westwood. He gained 4.38 strokes putting in his charge up the leaderboard on Friday, and I just don’t trust his ball striking the way that I do with Fitzpatrick. Westwood wasn’t able to gain a full stroke on the field ball striking in the second round as he hit just half of his fairways. He will have the added pressure of the final pairing on Saturday, and if he continues to have issues dialing it in off the tee and on approach, Sawgrass will bite him hard at some point. I expect to see him start to drop down the board as the third round plays out on Saturday.
There are always some good stories that seemingly show up out of no where in the first couple of rounds at tournaments on TOUR. Denny McCarthy is that guy through 36 holes at THE PLAYERS Championship.
McCarthy gained just 0.33 strokes tee to green in a 3-under 69 on Friday, which is made to look even worse when you add in the ace he had on the third hole. He hit just nine fairways and only 11 greens in regulation during the second round, and he sets up as a prime fade candidate as his latest round appears to be a bit of smoke and mirrors.
I’m not exactly sure of what to do with Brian Harman because on one hand, he had a great first round and showed some great ball striking, then on the other he lost 3.69 strokes on approach on Friday due to some issues at the 17th. You can add to my confusion the fact that despite that horrible round with his irons, he still shot under par.
I am placing the fade on the former Georgia Bulldog as he hit just half of his greens in regulation on Friday in addition to the double at the island green. He was able to make it past those iron play issues in his second round, but as the pressure increases I expect him to fade from contention without reliable ball striking to lean on.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2
*There are still a few players on the course to finish the second round, I cut off the data at everyone currently inside the cutline. (Victor Perez and Harry Higgs are on the bubble to make the weekend.)