2020 U.S. Open Round 2 Betting Guide: Using Strokes Gained Data to Find Value
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas.
- Justin Thomas was the first-round leader at the 2020 U.S. Open with a 5-under performance on Thursday at Winged Foot.
- Was JT's performance sustainable? Or was it propped up by a hot putter and great scrambling?
- Chris Murphy used Strokes Gained Data from Round 1 to help find betting opportunities for matchups and other bets in Round 2 on Friday.
It was a different Round 1 than almost everyone predicted, as light winds and soft greens created better scoring conditions than anticipated.
Justin Thomas took advantage on Thursday, jumping out to the lead with a 5-under 65 and setting the single-round record for a U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Patrick Reed trails JT by one shot after his 4-under 66, which featured a hole-in-one on the Par 3 seventh. Reed’s round would be matched in the afternoon by Thomas Pieters and Matthew Wolff. In total, 21 players shot under par, which nearly doubles the number of players who shot under par in the entire tournament in 2006.
I don’t expect the scoring to continue for players tomorrow, as the course will continue to dry out (even with some predicted overnight rain) and the added impact of steady 15 mph winds with gusts into the 20s throughout Friday’s round. I will play to an advantage tomorrow for the morning tee times. With steady winds expected throughout the day, they will get the edge of softer morning greens.
Pieters and JT led the way in Round 1 tee-to-green, and with the weather expected on Friday, ball-striking will be even more of a key in Round 2. There are still a few golfers to finish their rounds in the morning, but let’s look at the strokes gained stats from Thursday to see who we will want to buy and fade heading into Round 2.
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 2
Justin Thomas was fantastic on Thursday as he took the overnight lead with the best round of the day. He did it by gaining more than a stroke in every strokes gained metric. In fact, his worst category was off-the-tee in which he “only” gained .76 strokes on the field. He coupled that with gaining over two strokes both on approach and around the green while adding in another 2.61 strokes gained putting.
It was a great day all around for JT, and while I don’t expect this type of scoring round for nearly anyone tomorrow, his ball-striking is what has me buying. He gained more than three strokes in that area and will need to lean on the strength of that play in the winds on Friday.
Despite starting slowly with bogeys on two of his first four holes, Tony Finau climbed his way back to post a solid 1-under 69. He ranked sixth in the field today tee-to-green, gaining more than four strokes. Finau did it in a similar fashion as JT, gaining more than a stroke in all three tee-to-green metrics.
Finau was second in the field in driving distance and still managed to hit half of his fairways, which led to hitting a high percentage of greens on approach. Finau lost nearly a stroke with his putter, and if he can get hot on the greens this weekend, he will contend for his first major championship. I am buying Finau in DFS and matchups tomorrow, as he has shown the ability to play well in tough conditions. He also receives the preferred morning tee time.
Jon Rahm was my pick to win the U.S. Open at the start of the tournament, and he did nothing to change that opinion on Thursday. He had a solid first round, finishing in a tie for 14th at 1-under.
The Spaniard gained just short of four shots on the field tee-to-green by gaining more than a stroke in each category. He led the field in greens in regulation, but his putter left a bit to be desired with his round. I love Rahm to maintain his ball-striking tomorrow morning and think he can make a few more putts to put himself further up the leaderboard heading into the weekend.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
I’m a little shaky out of the gates on my first fade because tomorrow’s conditions really match up well with Patrick Reed’s game. The issue I have is that he simply can’t be as bad off-the-tee as he was today and stay in contention.
Reed lost 1.33 strokes from the tee boxes today, as he hit just five fairways. It didn’t affect his scoring too much, though, as gauged out of the rough and onto 12-of-18 greens in regulation. He was really good with his irons on Thursday, even outside of the ace on the seventh. He also has a great short game, but neither of those will save him if his performance on the tee doesn’t improve.
If they pump the sub-air and allow the greens to firm up like I anticipate tomorrow, especially during Reed’s afternoon tee time, fairways will be more of a premium. I am fading Captain America on these tee-shot issues tomorrow, as I expect he will struggle to hold the greens from the rough as he did today.
I really liked Jason Kokrak coming into today’s round, as I wrote up in my preview article on Fantasy Labs, and I still think he will have a solid tournament. My issue is that I don’t believe he can play better than he did today and that some regression is coming.
Kokrak is known to be a pretty poor putter as noted by his 152nd ranking in the category on TOUR last season. Today, however, he was lights out. He gained 4.88 strokes on the field with the flat stick, and I just can’t see that staying in form. If he keeps hitting fairways and can sharpen up his irons, he can certainly stay around the top 20, but I am fading him in his current position with his afternoon tee time.
Rory Sabbatini was the last man in the field, jumping in after Sam Horsfield tested positive for COVID-19. He took full advantage of that opportunity on Thursday, shooting a 1-under 69.
Sabbatini started fast with five birdies on his front nine but really faded out on his inward nine. He gained just .04 strokes gained off-the-tee, hitting only four fairways on the day, which resulted in hitting just eight greens in regulation. He would ultimately gain 1.61 strokes on approach and 4.28 strokes putting. Sabbatini ranked 147th on approach and 109th in strokes gained putting last season, losing strokes in both categories per round and leading me to fade as he likely regresses back to the mean.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1