Packed leaderboards have become a theme on TOUR over the past several tournaments. Needless to say, that has continued this week at the Sony Open in Honolulu.
There are a whopping 34 players within five shots of Nick Taylor’s lead through two rounds at Waialae Country Club.
The biggest name chasing Taylor is Webb Simpson, who sits two shots back in a four-way tie for second place with Stewart Cink, Vaughn Taylor and Russell Henley. Hideki Matsuyama headlines the group just behind them, as he went 7 under in his final seven holes to climb into a tie for sixth place with six others.
Anything can happen on Moving Day, as even the players that made the cut on the number are just eight shots back of the lead. Bottom line, there are certainly low scores to be had on this course.
I will be looking to the strokes gained data to help me find my favorite chasers heading into the weekend, knowing there is a lot of value available in the betting markets with a tight leaderboard.
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
There are a number of players to have an eye on toward the top of the leaderboard after two rounds at the Sony Open, with just eight shots separating the leaders from the cut makers. It’s hard to see anyone running away with it, which gives us ample value down the betting board.
Before I get into the value guys, my first buy has to be at the top with Simpson. He really hasn’t put a fully solid round together, yet he’s just two shots back. We know this is a place Webb loves, and if he does dial in all aspects of his game Saturday, any plus-money odds will be long gone.
Simpson found his irons Friday, gaining 2.28 strokes on the field with his approach after losing strokes in the opening round. He slipped with his game a bit off-the-tee after he gained 1.60 strokes with the peg in the ground Thursday, which might have him just a round away from really dialing in.
Personally, I could never play with a green glove, but it seems to be working well for Charley Hoffman this week. He heads into the final 36 holes, just one shot back of the lead at 9 under par, and has done it with steady play through two rounds at Waialae.
Hoffman is gaining more than two-and-a-half strokes ball striking through 36 holes, gaining more than three strokes Friday in the category. His 2.61 strokes gained on approach was one of the best in the field for the second round, and he has himself positioned to make a run for the win this weekend.
We have seen a number of players get their first win in several years on TOUR this season, and Hoffman will look to continue that trend. I’m jumping on board with the solid +3300 available at DraftKings and might even buy myself a green glove if he pulls it off.
Brian Stuard, my longshot flyer pick for the weekend at +10000 on BetMGM, will be looking to erase a five-shot deficit as he sits at 7 under par. I think most players will target that group at 10 under, just three shots from Stuard, with the hope that Taylor stumbles during Saturday’s round.
Stuard is a player that consistently does well at the Sony Open. Although he didn’t stand out in any strokes gained category Friday, he was really steady throughout his game until he got to the greens.
He gained more than two strokes tee-to-green, including nearly two of them ball striking, but lost a little more than half stroke to the field putting. Stuard has a win on TOUR, but it was during the 2015 season.
If he’s going to come through again, it will be on a course like Waialae, where his accuracy and short game can shine.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
I’m going to start my fades at the very top, and it’s not because anything looks bad for Taylor from a strokes-gained perspective in the second round. It has more to do with the number of players chasing him, and the low scores available in any given round at Waialae.
Taylor got in a 12 under for a two-shot lead, but it took an interesting ruling on his final hole — he got relief from an out-of-bounds fence — to go on for his final birdie. It could turn out to be a tournament-changing moment for him, which could have easily gone in the other direction.
The biggest benefit for Taylor in the second round was finding his irons, as he gained nearly two-and-a-half strokes on approach after losing more than a stroke in the category Thursday. He’s also gained a field best 3.02 strokes with his putter through two rounds.
We have seen these types of flashy starts from the Canadian as recently as last week at Kapalua, and I am pegging it as a flash in the pan rather than a sign he’s ready to go on to his second TOUR victory.
I’m going to rely on putting variance for my second fade as well, as the only player in the top 13 with any negative ball striking Friday was Peter Malnati. He actually turned an awful start into a great round.
Instead, I will target Stewart Cink, as he gained more than three strokes putting on the field in the second round alone.
There’s no questioning the rest of his game, but the putter simply can’t stay that hot the rest of the way. He’s my fade, frankly by default, because the top of the board is littered with great ball striking.
Pat Perez gives me something a bit more comfortable to fade going into the weekend, as he lost strokes to the field ball striking and gained an absurd 3.59 strokes on the greens. He’s a good putter, ranking 52nd on TOUR last season, but that type number is not sustainable. It just doesn’t pair well when coupled with back-to-back rounds losing strokes tee-to-green to be honest.
Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2