WGC Workday Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

WGC Workday Championship Round 2 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data article feature image
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Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa.

Thursday at The Concession gave us a good view of what the top players in the world will face heading into the weekend. The course seems to be a good test of the entire bag as players are challenged in all facets of their game from tee to green.

Webb Simpson and Matthew Fitzpatrick stood up best to the test in the first round as they fired matching 6-under rounds to take the overnight lead. They are being chased by a quartet of others, led by Brooks Koepka, who shot a 5-under 67.

In all, nearly half of the 72-man field would shoot under par to start the first WGC of 2021, making it a tight leaderboard heading to Round 2. As I always like to do after just one round, I will look for value in the pack chasing the leaders heading into Friday.

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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.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

One of the more streaky players on TOUR is Sebastian Munoz. He seems to either be near the top of the leaderboard or all the way at the bottom. It appears through 18 holes that we may get the good version of Munoz this week as he shot a 3-under 69 with some fantastic ball striking.

Munoz would gain more than three shots on the field with his ball striking, nearly equally balanced in both metrics. He missed just four greens in regulation, and if his putter had been just a bit better, we’d be looking at him in the top group of players.

I’m buying the Colombian heading into Friday’s round, and I think he has the skill to win even in this class of field. I’ll likely take a sprinkle or two at +12500 on FanDuel, but my focus on him will be mainly in DFS and finding some good finishing-position odds once posted between rounds.

Many were worried about the putter for Collin Morikawa coming into the week after he lost 7.6 strokes on the greens at Riviera, but that has been the story of his young career. He has had tournaments where he lost four, five, seven, even eight shots to the field with the flat stick and in others he’s gained just as many on the greens.

The putter on Thursday wasn’t great, but his irons certainly were. Morikawa was the second-best player in the field on approach during the first round as he shot a 2-under 69. The issue he had was with a few errant tee shots that put the breaks on an even better round. I expect that aspect to bounce back on Friday, and if he can get in line off the tee, we know his irons will put him in position to score. I’m in with an early buy on him this week at +5000 on DraftKings, and I expect he will be a name to watch throughout the weekend.

There are four guaranteed rounds for everyone in this field, unless they decide to withdraw, which makes a larger portion of the betting board in play heading into Friday’s second round. Part of that larger group is World No. 3 Justin Thomas who had an interesting day to say the least.

JT was merely field average with his ball striking on Thursday, but it was unlike anything I’ve quite seen. He lost more than four strokes off the tee, but gained nearly all of them back on approach. Thomas would hit three tee shots into the water in the first round, including two in a three-hole stretch he played to four-over par on the front nine. He would ultimately climb back with birdies on three of his final four holes to finish just a single shot over par.

We have seen JT excel in these WGC events in the past where he has the luxury of a round like Thursday, knowing that he has 54 more holes to climb back into contention. If there is one player who can go out and shoot 63 to climb right back into this thing, it’s Thomas, and for that reason the +9000 on DK to win and +1100 to Top 5 is simply too high.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

I don’t like writing up fades for guys I’m a fan of rooting for, but I can’t overlook Kevin Kisner heading into Friday. He lost strokes to the field on approach and had to rely on 3.59 strokes gained on the greens to get to his 5-under round and a tie for third.

I know bermuda is a preferred surface for Kiz, and he could certainly continue to roll the rock all weekend, but I will bet on the variance. He is someone who has said he needs a couple of tournaments under his belt to be ready to peak in his game, and this is his first time out since the Sony Open more than a month ago. I’ll trust his own words and expect that this round was a flash of what may be to come in a few weeks, but isn’t quite sustainable for the rest of this WGC.

I was bragging last week about the short-game improvement that Joaquin Niemann has shown in the new season, and then it predictably fell apart into the weekend. He’s come out at The Concession flashing that same short game en route to a 3-under round, but my concerns are around continued ball-striking issues.

Niemann was just above field average in both ball-striking metrics on Thursday, while gaining more than two and a half shots on the field around the greens. Put simply, that is not his game, and he lost strokes to the field on approach in three of four rounds last week, so it’s fair to wonder if he is searching for it. I’ll put my fade in on Niemann for the next couple of days, but knowing if he finds it, I could be headed the other direction come Sunday.

One player who stuck out nearly immediately for me during Thursday’s round was Victor Perez who was up near the top of the leaderboard for a good bit of the day before a double bogey knocked him back down on his 17th hole. He would birdie his final hole to shoot a 3-under 69 and sit just outside of the Top 10 going into Friday.

As I looked deeper into the numbers, Perez was just below field average on approach, but still managed to put up good numbers tee to green. The key aspects for Perez were a strong game off the tee, and two hole-out birdies from around the green. He would birdie the first and fifth holes with chip-ins to salvage a round where he hit just 11 greens in regulation.

Perez ranks 43rd in the 72-man field in that category, and he will be destined to fall down the leaderboard if he doesn’t greatly improve on approach the rest of the way.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

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