TOUR Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained

TOUR Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained article feature image
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Sam Greenwood. Pictured: Justin Thomas.

Having someone leading a PGA tournament at 10 under par in the first round before hitting a single tee shot is a bit strange, but for the second straight year the TOUR Championship format seems to be working well.

Jon Rahm quickly made up his two-stroke deficit to Dustin Johnson and the world’s top two players are tied at 13 under after the first round of the TOUR Championship.

Justin Thomas shot a 4-under 66 to retain solo third after Friday’s round of play. Rory McIlroy and Abraham Ancer had the best rounds of the day,  posting matching 6-under 66s to move into fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Strokes Gained tee-to-green, once again, proved key to success at East Lake Golf Club as the Top 8 players in that category shot 2 under or better. Let’s take a look at the data from Round 1 to see who stands out on both ends of the strokes-gained spectrum:

(Click here to skip to the analysis section.)

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.

Read more about Strokes Gained here.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

Justin Thomas was absolutely fantastic in all aspects of his game Friday, yet still finds himself with the same two-shot deficit he had starting the day. In fact, he led the field in that category, buoyed by stellar ball striking that put him third in strokes gained off the tee and fourth on approach.

Thomas only missed four greens on the day, but when he did have an errant shot, he gained nearly a stroke on the field around them to rank fourth in that category as well.

It’s not that Thomas had a bad day with a 4-under 66, but it could have been so much better if his putter had cooperated. He lost more than a stroke on the greens on Friday, ranking 22nd in the field of 30.

Thomas has a tendency to run hot with his form, so it’s a great sign that his ball striking was in such good order. He’s also known to be a good putter on Bermuda greens, which are featured at East Lake.

I’m looking for Thomas to turn things around with the flat stick Saturday and give himself a chance to be in contention throughout the weekend.

It may seem a bit odd to buy a top-flight player coming off an even-par round on a day when so much of the field shot under par, but Webb Simpson showed a lot of promise following a really rough start.

Simpson bogeyed four of his first five holes, then parred the easiest hole (the Par 5, 6th) on the course. He only found one fairway and four greens in regulation Friday, en route to a 3-over front nine on his card.

I don’t know if it was rust after a week off or another factor, but Simpson finally put it together at the turn, recording a birdie on the 10th hole to kick off a solid back nine. He hit 11 of his final 12 greens in regulation, including the Par 5, 18th to finish with a closing birdie.

In total, Simpson finished ninth in the field tee-to-green despite his disastrous start to the round. The strength of his game — his irons — led the way, as he was the best in the field on approach.

I’m excited to buy Webb in all formats Saturday, largely due to the fact the context of his round paints a much better picture for the weekend on a course he knows and loves.

Cameron Champ is always in play on a course like East Lake, which values a strong off-the-tee game. Unsurprisingly, he had a great day in that category on Friday, but more importantly, Champ was dialed in with his approach game.

He was second in the field with his irons today, which coupled with leading the field off-the-tee led to the top ball-striking day of the tournament. Despite this good play, the longest player in the field left a number of shots on the course, highlighted by shooting even par on the two par fives.

Champ finished his first round with a respectable 2-under 68, but was really held back by a poor day on his short game. He was the worst in the field by half a stroke around the green, losing more than two strokes chipping. He lost another .74 strokes putting, which held him back even more from producing an even better round.

I’m buying into Champ’s ball striking for DFS and matchups, due to the fact I expect him to be able to clean up his short game on Saturday.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

I’m having déjà vu. It seems after every round, when I dive into the strokes gained stats, Brendon Todd is the guy that sticks out as the best fade. He continues to shoot some of the best rounds in the field despite losing strokes ball striking and tee-to-green as he did again Friday at East Lake.

He was the seventh worst in the field on approach, losing nearly .85 strokes with his irons. He also lost close to a half stroke around the greens, but made it up with a solid day off the tee and gained more than two strokes on the greens.

I don’t mean to keep harping on Todd, but his stats are the exact spots we look to attack. I’m willing to fade his ball striking at the risk of his putter continuing to bail him out.

My next fade is a bit uncomfortable. Xander Schauffele has been one of the best players at East Lake, which I noted in my course preview to start the week. However, after watching him Friday and following closely for the last few weeks, his game is simply off.

Schauffele hasn’t shown the ball striking he is known for and, while his 3-under 67 on Friday looked good on the surface, it was carried by a hot putter. He was essentially field average tee-to-green and struggled around the greens. He did have his typical, good off-the-tee game, but was just above field average on approach.

It was 1.71 strokes gained on the greens that carried him into sixth place. Needless to say, I just don’t see that sustaining this weekend.

I like fading popular players when the underlying stats and form don’t support that favoritism. It’s a tough stand to take, but it comes with a solid reward when you hit it right.

That said, I’m pushing the fade button on Schauffele on all platforms.

As good as Bryson DeChambeau was coming out of the break, he has been equally shaky over the past several weeks. It also seems his issues with his approach and around-the-green game might be hurting the rest of his play.-

DeChambeau was 27th in the 30-player field from tee-to-green Friday, losing nearly a full stroke in that category. He only gained strokes off the tee, while losing strokes in all other metrics.

Typically, DeChambeau is a strong putter and one of the best on tour when it comes to Bermuda greens, However,  he tied for the worst putting round of the day, losing 2.37 strokes. As has seemingly become a trend, DeChambeau continued losing strokes with his irons and around the greens.

It’s been nothing short of ugly for DeChambeau lately, with any real signs of a turnaround coming.

I’ll be targeting against him in Saturday matchups and will look to stay away in DFS until there are signs of improvement.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 1

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