Travelers Championship Round 3 Betting Tips: Using Strokes Gained to Find an Edge

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Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele

Jun 27, 2020, 09:45 PM EDT

Just like we all expected, the top-three spots of the leaderboard entering the weekend are filled up by Phil Mickelson, Will Gordon and Mackenzie Hughes.

Below them are some big names, though, in Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman. The former two had pretty mediocre second rounds but still sit within striking range of the top.


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It’s been an interesting tournament, and expected afternoon thunderstorms will force tee times up tomorrow. Weather will definitely be a factor, perhaps especially Sunday if the rain softens up the course even more than it is.

Anyway, let’s dive into what’s happened the first two rounds and see what value we can find ahead of the weekend.

But first, a quick explanation on Strokes Gained data and what it means for golf handicapping.

(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 has, 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 handle them 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 is more stable long-term, and often you can find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well but just not getting putts to drop, which is more random. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

<Read more about Strokes Gained here.>

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 3

I feel like I’m in a bit of a deja vu from last weekend, as Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann are coming on incredible strong. They currently lead the field in Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking, and be it not for some poor short-game luck — pretty awful in Niemann’s case — they’d be near the top of the board again.

They’ve shown they can put up massive scores; the question at this point is whether they’re too far back at -8 for Ancer and -6 for Niemann. My opinion is that Ancer is in play to win, while Niemann probably is out of it given the disadvantage he’s put himself in to this point.

Still, there are ways you can buy expected improved performances, including in 3-balls, head-to-head props and DFS weekend contests. Given how they’ve played over the last several weeks — and with their irons this tournament — I feel confident in putting them as buys.

Marc Leishman is also up there in SG: Ball-Striking, and notably he’s not as far back, currently sitting at 9-under — four back from Phil at the top. Leishman fits this course very well, and the big difference between him and the guys above him has simply been putting. That could change on the weekend.

I don’t super love his price at 14/1 — I’m not seeing a particularly obvious value, although Will Gordon at 22/1 is nice if you believe in him — and thus I think I’ll try to find him in head-to-heads and roster him in DFS contests.

And here’s something you definitely should consider before you live-bet this tournament: DraftKings is offering a 30% profit boost in each round of the Travelers. That means if you want to bet Leishman at 14/1 for $25, you’d actually win $455 rather than $350, boosting your odds to over 18/1.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

Speaking of Will Gordon, what a tournament so far for the 24-year-old without status on a professional tour. This would be a huge win for him obviously and an incredible story for golf.

I’m skeptical, though. There are a lot of superior players right around him, and while I want to believe, his putting numbers are just ludicrous this week. He’s second in the field in strokes gained there behind just Jhonattan Vegas, which will probably come down to earth.

To be fair, Gordon has been pretty darn solid with the rest of his game. But pretty darn solid will get you a top-20 or top-30, not a win, and he’ll need to keep up the crazy-hot putting to actually contend.

I love Xander, but the second round was bad. To be fair, he did stay under par and is in fourth place, but he lost 2.79 strokes on the approach game to the field.

He was able to make it up with the putter, and perhaps that continues, but if the ball-striking isn’t there, he’ll drop in a hurry. For what it’s worth, the same story could be said for Rory McIlroy.

Finally, Brendan Steele, who clearly likes TPC River Highlands given his history and play here this week, has also benefited from a super-hot putter that will likely regress.

Like Xander, he’s been neutral in the tee-to-green game, and if that continues on the weekend, guys will shoot 7- and 8-under and fly past him.

And no, I will not talk about Phil Mickelson. Why do you ask?

Alright, enough talk. Here’s the data for all players for Friday.

Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 2

(Note: The graph below is interactive. Click/hover to see data.)

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