First-round leader Sam Burns was in the first group Friday morning, and he started right where he left off Thursday evening. Burns birdied two of his first three holes, never looking back as he would go bogey free with a 5-under 66 to stretch his lead to five shots at the Genesis Invitational.
Burns set the 36-hole scoring record and will also take the largest lead into the weekend in tournament history. He will be seeking his first TOUR win at Riviera Country Club, but he will have to earn it as world No. 1 Dustin Johnson leads a pack of four players at 7 under par looking to chase him down this weekend.
Jordan Spieth headlines the group at 6 under, and the leaderboard really jumbles up from there with 18 players within three shots of second place.
Moving Day at the Genesis might also have an added wind element, especially as it goes into the afternoon. It will create an interesting dynamic for Burns, who last found himself in the final group at the Farmers, only to shoot a 3-over 75 and drop to 20th place.
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 3
I have held off from buying Dustin Johnson so far, but now is the time to take the leap. He’s five shots back and yet we get odds short of what he was coming into the event, but the +300 available could be the last time we see him at plus money if Saturday’s round goes like we hope.
Johnson, not Burns, is the best player in the field in Strokes Gained tee to green through 36 holes, and it doesn’t even feel like he’s played his best round yet. He parred the easiest hole on the course to start his Friday, in his first step of a theme of missed putts in the round.
Johnson is the best player in the world on a course he has dominated in his career, and he will be looking to run down a leader that has never won at this level. The only thing that would make this better would be if they were in the same group, but it’s fairly likely that will be the case Sunday. I’m getting in on him now before he makes one of his patented runs on Moving Day.
Looking past the group at 7 under, where Joaquin Niemann is also attractive, I will dip down for someone that can go really low and get in the mix. The player that sticks out for me in that mold is Tony Finau.
Finau was 3 under on his first round before a bad double bogey and an arguably worse three putt put him back to even on the day. He would climb back with a 4-under 67 on Friday to get back inside the top 15. The putter was much better in the second round, while the ball striking stayed strong.
Finau ranks fifth in the field on approach through two rounds after gaining 2.17 strokes on the field with his irons Friday. He gaining nearly two strokes on average through 36 holes with his ball striking, and if he can keep the putter hot, he can put himself in contention. I’ll mostly be looking at Finau for DFS and placement bets, but I also don’t mind sprinkling on +3300 to win, as I believe the next one will come when least expected.
There are a handful of lesser known players that show up and compete each year at Riviera regardless of how they are playing coming into the event. James Hahn is one of those guys, and he showed it Friday by matching Burns’ round with a 5-under 65. He had to have it in order to play the weekend, and now he’ll get the first time off Saturday with the best course conditions.
Hahn gained more than two strokes on the field tee to green in the second round, including 1.10 strokes gained on approach. Despite his three over first round, he is gaining strokes on the field in every category this week and is positioned to make a run up the leaderboard. I won’t be making any plays on him to win, but I like him in DFS and for placement odds to Top 20 and maybe even backdoor a Top 10.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
I’m not going to make an official fade play against Burns just yet, but from my buys above you can tell that I am heavily leaning that direction this weekend. I think he caught a huge break by dodging DJ in the final group Saturday, and if he can just break par, he may be too far ahead for anyone come Sunday.
Instead, I’ll take the easy route with a fade of Tyler McCumber. His story this week starts with him slamming his finger in his hotel window, requiring a large portion of his fingernail to be removed Tuesday. He then goes out Thursday with it heavily bandaged, in a larger than normal glove and fires a casual 67 round. On Friday, he would follow it up with a 3-under 68 to put him in the group at 7 under par.
Unfortunately, I think the story stops there, as he will also have the pressure of the final group on him and his approach play started to fade Friday. McCumber would lose shots to the field with his irons in the second round, and that won’t allow him to sustain his spot on the leaderboard this weekend.
The strokes gained anomaly through 36 holes is Matthew Fitzpatrick. He posted the second-best round Thursday, despite striking the ball at just above field average. On Friday, he would follow it up with a terrible day with his irons where he lost 1.66 shots to the field on approach, but still managed to save an even par round.
Fitzpatrick now heads to the weekend in the Top 10 despite losing strokes both off the tee and on approach through two rounds. My fade for him is solely around his ball striking issues and the fact that the expected winds will expose those issues.
We have spent the last few weeks talking about some of the big names that appear to be “back” especially with Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka. It was Koepka who seemingly sealed that with his win in Phoenix, but this week I still have concerns about his ball striking.
Brooks was just above field average on approach in the first round, but shot a solid, 3-under 68. He continued those iron issues Friday, as he ended up losing more than a shot to the field in his 1-under round. I am not convinced yet that the consistency is fully there for Koepka to compete on a difficult course like Riviera, and with that, I will fade him into this weekend.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2
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