2020 U.S. Open Round 3 Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained Data

2020 U.S. Open Round 3 Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained Data article feature image
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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Bubba Watson.

  • Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson headline the top buys heading into the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot.
  • Chris Murphy breaks it all down using strokes gained data and shares his plays for Round 3 below.

There were many complaints Thursday that Winged Foot played too easy and wasn’t featuring traditional U.S. Open conditions.

However, there will be no comments of that sort following Friday’s second round, with the Mamaroneck, N.Y., course beating up the world-class field throughout the day of play.

The U.S. Open leaderboard went from 21 players under par following the first round to just six in red numbers after 36 holes. Patrick Reed leads the way, continuing to scramble his way around Winged Foot en route to a round of even par.

Bryson DeChambeau sits a shot back, highlighted by an eagle on his final hole to move to 3 under for the tournament. Justin Thomas, who led after the first round, headlines the trio of Harris English and Rafa Cabrera-Bello that’s tied for fourth place at 2 under par.

Once again, the top player tee to green on the day posted the best score. DeChambeau gained more than six stokes on the field in that metric, which will continue to be our target as we look through the strokes gained statistics from the second round.

Note: There is still a couple of groups finishing their second round Saturday, but the cut is firmly in place at +6. Keep that in mind while looking at the stats for the full field of players.

(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.

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3 Golfers to Buy in Round 3

I tend to buy in on Bubba Watson after a round or two on new courses, where from a ball-striking perspective you can see where the course fits his eye. He’s a player who likes to shape the ball in all directions and it appears he likes his sight lines at Winged Foot.

Watson led the field in ball striking Friday, gaining more than five strokes on the field in that category. If it weren’t for his issues navigating the false front on the 18th in Round 2, which led to double bogey, he would be within just a couple shots of the lead. Outside of that miscue, Watson had a good day on and around the greens.  I think his imaginative play fits well with the heavy sloping of these putting surfaces.

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw I liked his odds Thursday and while those numbers are long gone, he still has value in DFS and matchups.

Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player, had a great, bogey-free round going Friday through 15 holes until he stumbled with back-to-back bogeys on the seventh and eighth holes. Johnson still moved up 33 spots on the leaderboard by shooting an even-par 70, putting himself just six shots back despite not playing his best golf.

Johnson gained more than three shots on the field tee to green in Round 2, which was supported by gaining more than a stroke-and-a-half on approach. In fact, he was better in all aspects of his game compared to his first round and still has room to improve.

I think Johnson will be in the mix before everything finishes up, and the way he continues to improve round after round each week, makes now the ideal time to buy. Give me all the Johnson on Saturday and the rest of the way.

As I noted in my comments on Johnson, that even-par round will be a coveted asset the rest of this event. Paul Casey is likely out of contention to win the title, but he made a clutch birdie on his final hole Friday to sneak inside the cut line with an even-par 70.

After a very un-Casey like 76 on Thursday, where he lost stokes to the field in nearly every aspect of the game, he righted the ship during Friday’s round. He was back to his usual ball-striking self, gaining more than five shots tee to green and nearly three shots on the field with his irons.

It would take a minor miracle for the Englishman to climb back into contention, but he is certainly in play for Weekend and Showdown DFS, as well as some betting markets.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

Cabrera-Bello sticks out as the fade call of the day following Friday’s round. He was entirely saved by his putter in Round 2, gaining more than six shots on the field with his putter. It helped him to an even-par round, despite losing .98 strokes tee to green.

The Spaniard struggled the most off the tee, where he lost more than a stroke to the field and was just barely above average with his irons. It looks like a fairly straight forward fade of RCB on Saturday, as I expect him to tumble down the board without his ball striking.

I find myself in the same conundrum as yesterday with Reed (that hasn’t gone well), where the strokes gained numbers are telling a story that is a bit different than my instinct. Louis Oosthuizen really struggled in both ball striking categories Friday, losing strokes to the field in both metrics. He was bailed out by a good putter and hole out from a greenside bunker, which kept his round at “just” four over on the day.

Oosthuizen comes into the weekend at 1 over par and four shots back of the lead. Clearly, there were ball-striking issues for the South African on Friday, but that is generally where he thrives and has always done well grinding in tough conditions. The fade is viable by the numbers, but it just might be a spot to tread lighter Saturday and then be more definitive for Sunday.

Billy Horschel is the final fade going into Saturday’s round. He lost strokes in ball striking Friday, struggling both off the tee and with his iron play. The University of Florida alumnus bailed his round out around the greens, gaining nearly four strokes on the field in that metric.

Horschel was able to salvage an even-par round by continually getting up and down on his bogey-free back nine. Horschel only hit three fairways and 10 greens during his round. He finds himself tied for 17th, but he won’t be able to lean on this type of play to carry him through the weekend.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

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