Another day, another absolute grind at Olympia Fields. The course has proven to be a true test, as moving day was much more about maintaining on Saturday.
The third round finished with two players — Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama — as the only golfers under par. They have separated themselves more than we’ve seen at the end of prior rounds but still hold just a two-shot lead over a group of three at 1-over. Rory McIlroy, one of the co-leaders going into Saturday, fell back to 2-over par after he shot 73. He comes into Sunday tied for sixth with five others.
There are still 14 players within four shots of the lead heading into Sunday, leaving the door wide open for anything to happen on a course that has shown its teeth throughout the week. It could be anyone’s tournament to win and will undoubtedly become must-see television.
There were two 66s today, which are the low rounds of the tournament. Kevin Streelman went bogey-free in his 4-under round, but he still remains 12-over on the event.
Jon Rahm matched him a few hours later, and he did it in a unique fashion. He only had one bogey, which was caused by what can only be described as a brain lapse. Rahm was on the fifth green with a birdie putt when he inexplicably picked his ball up without marking it. He had to take a penalty and replace his ball before a composed two-putt for bogey. The Spaniard will come into Sunday in contention, just three shots back of the leaders.
Once again, strokes gained tee-to-green has been the barometer for good scores at the BMW Championship. In Round 3, the top 17 players in tee-to-green shot even par or better. I will continue our focus in that category as we look at the strokes gained data for players to buy or sell heading into Sunday’s final round.
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
Last week’s champion, Dustin Johnson, has made a habit of turning around after victories and staying hot the following week. I was skeptical coming into the week that he could go from such an easy setup to one that I thought would be a test, though certainly not to this magnitude. He has proven me wrong through three rounds, and I think he’s the best bet to win the BMW Championship after tomorrow’s round.
Until Saturday, DJ hadn’t put it together off-the-tee, which is typically the strength of his game. He found it in Round 3, leading the field in that category and gaining nearly two strokes off-the-tee on his way to a 1-under 69. He did it despite a bogey on a Par 5 first hole. He managed to put his game together from there.
We know he doesn’t get bothered by much of anything, and he seems to be carrying the swagger that has helped make him one of the top players in the world for years. I’ll be looking at DJ up top tomorrow in matchups and DFS, then eyeing others to fall in behind.
Joaquin Niemann has been one of the steadiest players tee-to-green throughout the week. He ranks fourth in that category on the tournament and had the third-best round in that metric on Saturday. He did it with ball-striking, as he was top six on the day in both off-the-tee and on approach.
Niemann finished the day with a 2-under 68 and vaulted up the leaderboard into a tie for third. He has been right around field average with his putter this week, which is actually a positive sign for a guy ranked 162nd on the greens this season. He seems to have a bit of comfort on these greens, as he’s been steadily around average each of the first three days.
I know Sunday is a different animal in big events like the playoffs, but this 21-year-old doesn’t strike me as a player to be rattled. Niemann has shown the ability to play well when in contention on Sunday multiple times this season, and I think his ball-striking will hold up better than some of those around him tomorrow.
I’m diving down the leaderboard for my next buy. As crazy as it sounds, it looks likely that a 4-over finish tomorrow may lead to a top 10 in this event. It also appeared the players going off earlier played in slightly better conditions than those in the afternoon in Round 3.
Collin Morikawa played Saturday morning with Tiger Woods and seemed to finally find his game after being off the first two days. He shot a solid 2-under 68 to climb to 7-over for the tournament.
Morikawa gained strokes across the board today, led by his off-the-tee game. He will go off on Sunday just before 11 a.m. ET tied for 37th place but just three shots out of the current top 15. He’s a player who has clearly been off this week, as this should be a course where his elite ball-striking stands out. I’ll take the chances that Morikawa found it a bit on Saturday and look for him to post an early score near the top 10, then sit back to watch others try to hold on in the afternoon.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4
Matsuyama came out of the gates firing on Thursday and took the 18-hole lead into Friday. He struggled in Round 2, before bouncing back on Saturday to tie the lead at 1-under for the tournament.
He’s certainly had a great week, but it’s concerning that he hasn’t had his irons since Thursday. Matsuyama has lost strokes on approach in both of the last two rounds, and he had to rely on his around-the-green game to bail him out. The short game did it in a big way on the first hole Saturday; he holed out from the greenside bunker for eagle. Matsuyama kept that hot wedge throughout, as he continually made chip after chip to bail himself out and save par.
I haven’t seen enough consistency in his ball-striking over the last two days to rely on him to hold up in the final group on Sunday. He’s going to be in the toughest conditions and under the most pressure as he seeks his first TOUR win in three years. I’m again fading the co-leader, hoping for a similar result, this time with Matsuyama as I expect his constant scrambling to catch up with him.
I’ve struggled with this selection tonight, as I followed Adam Scott’s round quite closely on Saturday, and from my own eye, he seemed to play well until the big mistake on No. 17. Quite frankly, I was surprised to see his strokes gained numbers, especially the putter, as he seemed to miss every putt early in the round.
Scott’s off-the-tee numbers are certainly skewed by his drive into the water on the 17th, but he’s lost strokes in that category in all three rounds. Today, he also lost strokes on approach. In all, he grinded out his round by making some putts down the stretch and gaining more than a stroke and a half on the greens, all while losing strokes on ball-striking.
The consistent issues off-the-tee through three days lead to a difficult but likely wise fade of Scott on Sunday. He certainly has the skills to win an event like this, but it doesn’t look like his game is quite there this week.
Events like this have players come seemingly out of nowhere with one good round to put themselves in position to contend on Sunday. Sebastian Munoz did exactly that on Saturday. He posted an excellent 3-under 67, with his only blemish coming on the 18th hole. He’s positioned just four shots off the lead on Sunday at 3-over par and in a tie for sixth.
Munoz certainly played well, but he did it with very average ball-striking, a hole-out birdie from the greenside bunker on No. 12, and a really hot putter. It’s unlikely the 99th-ranked putter on the season can keep that up in the final round of a playoff event. It’s not that he hasn’t been in the position to contend and win on TOUR, but with all due respect to the Sanderson Farms, this will feel quite a bit different.
I’m going to target players against the Colombian in matchups and fade him in Showdown as I think he’ll have trouble maintaining his position under the pressure on Sunday.
Strokes Gained Data for Every Player in Round 3