Waste Management Phoenix Open Round 4 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele
Jordan Spieth is back.
What an incredible round on Saturday by the three-time major champion, who appears to be finally taking steps in the right direction with his game. Spieth shot a career-low 61 on Saturday to jump into a tie for the lead through 54 holes.
Spieth will be joined by co-leader Xander Schauffele, who shot a 6-under round to remain atop the leaderboard, and Scottie Scheffler in the final group. Scheffler will start the day three back of his playing partners, as will K.H. Lee, who will play from the penultimate group with Louis Oosthuizen and World No. 3 Justin Thomas, who will all be looking to get in the mix down the stretch of the final round on Sunday.
As I noted in yesterday’s article, Schauffele hasn’t won on TOUR since January of 2019. Spieth has not won since The Open Championship in July of 2017. Scheffler? Still looking for his first TOUR win.
The final grouping will undoubtedly be feeling all of the nerves on Sunday, which could open the door for someone to go really low and steal this thing from under them.
I’m going to plant my flag somewhere on Sunday, but I don’t have a gut feel for it so hopefully our Strokes Gained Data will give me some guidance.
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 4
The best player on average through three rounds in strokes gained tee-to-green this week is, wait … K.H. Lee? That fade didn’t work out on Saturday, but I surely can’t go to him here either.
I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m buying in on Spieth. It’s been a long time — a really long time — but when he is at his best, which he has been this week, he is a closer. The guy knows how to win and frankly, neither of the other two in his group can say the same.
Spieth leads the field in strokes gained approach through three rounds, which was bolstered by an incredible Saturday where he gained 4.43 strokes on the field with his irons. I know it helps that he made more than 124 feet of putts on Saturday, but that is what Spieth does when he is on, and the 5.42 strokes gained tee-to-green tell me he is dialed in where it matters.
He can and probably will continue to get away with wayward drives on Sunday as long as the irons and short game stay in form. It looks like +250 is the best number on Spieth heading into Sunday, but I will happily take that compared to the -110 odds on Schauffele. This is much more of a toss up in my mind than those numbers portray.
Before they flipped spots in the eyes of the golf world, Thomas was often viewed and referred to as “Spieth’s buddy.” Ironically, I can see a very likely scenario where the buddy shoots something like a 63 on Sunday and steals this win from Spieth.
Thomas has quietly had a solid week and positioned himself at 14-under, four behind the leaders. He’s done this despite a triple on 17 on Thursday and a double to start his round on Friday. JT climbed back into contention with a bogey-free 64 on Saturday which has gotten a bit overlooked by the theatrics from Spieth.
If there is one player that can go out and go really low it’s Thomas. He gained 2.63 shots tee-to-green in Round 3, including another round where he gained more than a shot on the field with his approach.
His goal is likely to at least cut the deficit in half by the turn and then put the pedal down to post a number from the penultimate group. His odds reflect the fact he has a chance to do it, as +1000 on BetMGM isn’t typically what we see for someone four shots back heading into a final round.
Another player that won’t be looking to play for a top-five on Sunday is Brooks Koepka. He has said time and again that his goal is to win, plain and simple.
Koepka started slow on Saturday, but he finished with a flurry of five birdies in his final six holes to get to 13-under heading into the final round. He will take a mindset to Sunday’s round that he needs to go after every pin in order to pull this off, and that’s the type of player we want to back to come from behind.
Overall, Koepka has gained more than a shot on the field on approach in each of his three rounds which is a great sign for his game. He will need that level of play and likely a bit more to win on Sunday, but he’s worth a shot at +4100 on FanDuel and certainly in DFS.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
My endorsement of Spieth is inherently a fade of Xander and I’m good with that on Sunday. I know it’s been a longer period of time since Jordan last won, but I know he has the winning mentality in him and honestly, I can’t say the same for Schauffele.
When Schauffele last won at the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, it seemed like it would be a springboard to many more TOUR wins. Ironically, his next best spot to win was at the same event in 2020 during which he flat choked on the final hole and lost in a playoff to Thomas. Schauffele alluded to feeling some things on that final hole he wasn’t used to, and he really hasn’t shown the ability to overcome that since then.
The fade for me on Xander in this spot is really based on wanting to see him do it first, but him losing .78 strokes to the field on approach today helps my argument. He had a great round, made a bunch of putts and shot 6-under, but he had shaky moments throughout the round. If the doubts are in there on Sunday, someone else will take this title from Schauffele.
I’ve got to double down on my fade of Lee on Sunday. As I mentioned yesterday, he just hasn’t done anything on the course in nearly a year for me to think he can sustain his spot near the top of the leaderboard.
Lee was able to keep it together to shoot another 5-under round on Saturday, but he did it with a lot of reliance on his short game. He gained 2.57 shots on the field around the green, which makes up a large portion of his 2.70 strokes gained tee-to-green.
We know the Sunday pressure will mount and feel different for a player that hasn’t been anywhere close to this position in twelve months, and I’m expecting that to get to him.
Keegan Bradley was part of the final group on Saturday and was able to sneak in with a 1-under 70. He did it in spite of losing his ball striking, as he lost 1.95 strokes tee to green, including more than a stroke with his irons.
The crux of Bradley’s game revolves around his ball striking, with the hopes he can just be field average with the putter. Today, his putter was better than everything he did tee to green and if he doesn’t find it on Sunday, he will tumble further down the leaderboard.