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

Credit:

Sam Greenwood, Getty Images. Pictured: Viktor Hovland

As we all thought, it was a low scoring first round at the ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club.

My longshot pick to win Sebastian Munoz set the pace with an 8-under 64 on Thursday. He is being chased by red hot Tyrrell Hatton and World No. 3, Justin Thomas, who are tied for second, just one shot behind.

Tiger Woods’ first competitive round in over a month was pretty rusty as he shot the second worst round of the day with a 4-over 76.

While there was plenty of scoring to be had in Round 1, the course also showed it has some teeth even for the modern day player as there were plenty of double bogeys and worse posted throughout the day. It’ll be fun to see how the players attack this short Par 72 throughout the rest of the weekend.

The quick glance of the strokes gained data from Thursday shows that players made it happen in a number of different ways. We will dive deeper to see if we can find some buys and fades based on the Round 1 stats.

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.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

I’ve said before that I like to drop down the leaderboard a bit for my buys early in a tournament, especially when it is shaping up to be a scoring-fest like I expect throughout the weekend. Certainly both Tyrrell Hatton and for me, Justin Thomas, look like good plays. Thomas turned around an even par front nine to a 7-under back nine and seems to have found something.

Instead, I will drop down a bit further to Scottie Scheffler, who I have been hoping would show the form he had prior to missing the U.S. Open. He did that today with a 5-under 67, where he led the field in strokes gained off-the-tee and was third tee-to-green.

Scheffler comes into Friday in a tie for ninth, despite losing 1.33 strokes on the green as he still found a way to make six birdies in his opening round. The former Longhorn ranked seventh in Birdie or Better Percentage last season, and is a great target in low scoring events. I’ll buy him in all markets tomorrow including the +4000 available to win at BetMGM.

I think it says a lot that Jon Rahm remains at around just +1000 to win this event after a round where he is tied for 17th going into Friday. It was a fairly clean round for the Spaniard outside of an ugly, cold shank from 173 yards out in the middle of the fairway on 18 (his 9th hole of the round). Rahm still managed to rank sixth in the field on approach despite that shot, and held the round together by saving bogey on the hole.

The part I really like about Rahm going into Friday is that he lost 1.33 strokes putting on Thursday, and just made par on 4 of the easiest holes on the course including 2 of the Par 5s. There is a lot of room to improve going into Round 2, and with so much focus on JT, he may slide by with lower ownership in DFS.

Viktor Hovland was my favorite play in all markets coming into the tournament, and part of that was his preference for putting on bentgrass greens. Unfortunately, that didn’t show on Thursday as he was the second worst putter in the field, losing 3.76 strokes with the flat stick.

I’m still buying Hovland into Friday as everything else was there with his game. He gained 2.62 strokes tee-to-green, buoyed by gaining 1.55 strokes off-the-tee, which ranked third in the field.

After coming into the tournament around +3500 to win, he is now +12500 at DraftKings with some juicy odds for Top 5 and Top 10. He’s only seven shots back and we know he can score. I’m still on him in all markets this weekend.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

The first fade that sticks out is Justin Rose. I would love to see him make his way back to the top level player he used to be just a short time ago, but he simply isn’t there yet.

Rose came storming out to the early lead as he was making every putt he looked at to start his round. He finished with a 5-under 67 by gaining 3.57 strokes putting, despite losing strokes to the field tee-to-green. Add to it that Rose admitted to being a bit lost with his game prior to the CJ Cup and he is an easy fade headed into Friday at the ZOZO.

The ZOZO Championship was created to grow the game of golf in Japan and is typically hosted in the greater Tokyo area. I tell you that here because it would be a great story to see a guy like Satoshi Kodaira make a run at contending this weekend, but I am going to have to hit him with a fade.

Kodaira shot a 68 on Thursday to position himself in a tie for 17th and just four shots back of the lead. The way he did it however solidifies my fade as he lost 1.43 strokes tee-to-green and was even worse ball striking. As a friend of mine says, someone like this winning is “a story that writes itself”, but based on the strokes gained data from Round 1, the fade is the story going into Friday.

Jason Kokrak came off of the biggest weekend of his life as he captured his first TOUR victory last week at the CJ Cup. He actually backed it up with a quick 2-under thru tow holes on Thursday, before a triple bogey on his third brought him back down. He would go on to finish with a 3-under 69 in tie for 26th.

I personally don’t like betting players off of a win unless they are the absolute elite of the elite, and especially when it’s a player’s first breakthrough. The fact that Kokrak lost 1.66 strokes tee-to-green on Thursday just supports that feeling and I’ll continue this fade throughout the weekend.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

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