TOUR Championship Round 4 Buys and Fades Using Strokes Gained Data

TOUR Championship Round 4 Buys and Fades Using Strokes Gained Data article feature image
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Jon Rahm

  • The TOUR Championship begins its final round on Monday, and Dustin Johnson will begin the round with a five-stroke lead.
  • Based on strokes gained data, Chris Murphy expects Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Viktor Hovland to play well in the tournament's final round.
  • Check out Murphy's breakdown with strokes gained data for every golfer in the field below.

Dustin Johnson made me eat my words Sunday when he bounced back in a big way during Round 3 of the TOUR Championship.

Following Friday’s round, Johnson and his swing coach worked to find the form he had in the weeks leading up to the TOUR Championship and they clearly got it done.

Johnson tied for round of the day and week Sunday, firing a 6-under-64 and gaining strokes in all metrics along the way. He was the second-best player tee to green, only behind Daniel Berger, who carded the other 64 on the day.

Johnson will take a five-shot lead over Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele into Monday’s final round. Jon Rahm also got his swing back in order on Sunday with a 4-under 66 to jump up  into fourth place.

Sungjae Im was solo second going into Round 3, but shot one of the day’s six over par rounds to fall back into a tie for sixth, putting him seven shots back.

I’ve found it difficult to predict the ebbs and flows of the players this week, but that is to be expected when trying to fade some of the top 30 players in the PGA this season. Let’s look at the strokes gained data from Round 3 and see if we can find some players that stand out for the final round:

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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 4

As I mentioned in the summary, Rahm found his swing again. He was fourth in the field from tee to green and gained in all three categories during the round. His ball striking, particularly in his approach game, was the most encouraging as he gained 1.27 strokes with his irons.

Rahm still has room to improve in what is typically the strongest part of his game and that’s from tee. Despite gaining more than a half stroke in that metric on Sunday, he should continue to dial that in for a chance to make a run at Johnson on Monday. Rahm also lost more than a half stroke on the greens, which leaves plenty of room for improvement even after his solid round.

I don’t think anyone has much of a shot at catching Johnson, but Rahm is certainly capable of posting something really low. I like the bounce-back form he showed following a couple of ugly holes in Round 2 and will buy him in all formats for Monday’s final round.

I did get one play right Sunday and that was Scottie Scheffler. I’m going back to the well here after he shot a strong 66, leading the field by a full shot on approach. He is dialed in with his ball striking on a course he knows well and has had success on before.

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Scheffler, like Rahm, left some shots out there with his putter and can continue to improve on his positioning by rolling it a little better in the final round. I’ll continue to ride Scottie’s hot hand as he looks to continue to climb from his current ninth-place position.

So far in each round, someone from further back in the 30-player field has come in with a low round to vault up the leaderboard. On Saturday, it was Im and Sunday, it was Daniel Berger.

For Monday, I am eyeing Viktor Hovland to be that player.

Hovland had a really good Round 3 with his irons, gaining the fourth most in the field on approach. He also gained off the tee and was held back just a bit with his short game. If Hovland can make a few more putts in the final round, he can really make a charge to improve his finishing position.

The rookie is almost always in play in DFS because he is such a birdie maker and I think for a final-round Showdown on DraftKings, he can be a great target to move up from 21st toward the Top 10. I also like him in matchups, simply because he seems to have a better tee-to-green game than those around him.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4

I’m going back to the well, due to the fact it’s just impossible to look at this data and think Schauffele can keep this up. The guy leads the field with 7.6 total strokes gained on the week. My issue is that 7.08 of those strokes have been gained putting. He is averaging 2.36 strokes gained putting per round.

Putting is the statistic with the most variance from round to round, and if he’s going to do that for a fourth straight round to beat me, then so be it. I simply can’t think that he can lose more than two strokes on approach — like he did Sunday — and stay near the top of the leaderboard.

I’ll double down on the fade and hope that the white-hot putter gets cooled enough to expose how off he has been with his ball striking.

Tony Finau is another player that has found his putting stroke during the competition. He charged his way up to 12th place with a 4-under 66 via more than three strokes gained on the greens.

Finau is a player we typically think of as a ball striker with a shaky putter, but he’s been the exact opposite this week. He’s losing strokes ball striking on the week, and it was really concerning to see him lose more than a stroke with his irons in the third round.

I’m going to fade Finau’s Sunday round. It looks good on the surface, but doesn’t look sustainable into Monday’s finale.

I can never seem to figure out MacKenzie Hughes.  He’s a guy I could seemingly write up as a fade after every round, because his ball striking tee-to-green numbers never seem to fit his score. The Canadian almost always gets it done with his short game, both around and on the green.

It sounds a bit like Jordan Spieth and, recently, that’s not much of a compliment for a player’s ball striking.

He’s finally a fade play as he has reached a ridiculous, unsustainable point that I can’t let slide for Monday. Hughes has lost strokes ball striking in every round this week and is averaging negative strokes gained in both approach and off-the-tee for the tournament. He continues to score with 52-footers — he did it for birdie on No. 15 on Sunday — and bails himself out with lengthy par saves. I’ll take my chances that the putting variance finally catches up with him.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 3

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