While the Palmetto Championship at Congaree lacks the field depth that we have become accustomed to over the last few months on TOUR, it still has some stars. The main one, Dustin Johnson, finally played like that number one player in the world on Thursday as he set the pace with a 6-under 65 to start the tournament.
He was matched at that number by three others in the opening round, which held the lead throughout most of the day, until Wes Roach posted a 7-under 64 late in the afternoon. Roach had six birdies, an eagle and just one bogey on Thursday and will go into Friday with his first overnight lead on TOUR.
Overall, 53 players shot under par to start their week, giving us a view that scores are available on this new course. There are plenty of names packed together on the leaderboard, with a big name up top, creating a lot of betting value going into the second round on Friday.
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
If Dustin Johnson continues to play like he did on Thursday, he will run away with this event. It has been a while since we have seen this form from the World No. 1, even for 18 holes, which has me believing he may be dialed in for a win this week.
DJ led the field on strokes gained tee to green in the opening round and finally paired it with a good putter. His bogey-free 65 was a clean round, but despite gaining more than a stroke on the field in every metric, he actually left some shots out there. I am not usually one to suggest a player so early at just +225 on William Hill, but it may be the best we see the rest of the way. This has all of the feelings of a runaway win, and if that is the case, this is likely the last time we see him at plus money.
It’s hard for me not to see what Chez Reavie has done this week as a great sign for his game and possibly for some momentum for him to build upon into the weekend. Chez and Erik Van Rooyen tied for the medalist position at the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier in Columbus, Ohio on Monday. They cleared the rest of the field in the most difficult qualifier by two shots, over a number of household names on TOUR. Both players carried that into their opening rounds at Congaree, but it’s Reavie’s that sticks out for me.
He shot a bogey-free 67 where he missed just two fairways, and three greens during the round. We know that Chez has the talent to compete in any field, as he has done in major championships and TOUR events alike, but it has been a struggle for him this season. In fact, he’s missed six straight cuts, though he is positioned to play the weekend and potentially be a factor this week.
I’m going to take a shot at a solid number on DraftKings at +5000, hoping that he found something in his 12-under, 36-hole qualifying marathon. This is a field where if he were in form, Reavie would’ve been a name in this odds position to start the week.
Leading into the week I kept talking about the talented young players in this field that might be positioned to breakthrough. Will Gordon was one I had in mind, though I never got there before he teed off on Thursday.
Gordon has my interest now after a firing 3-under 68 to start his week. He did it with fantastic ball-striking where he gained 3.7 strokes on the field, including more than two strokes with his off-the-tee game. Gordon is known to be a long hitter, and someone that when dialed in with his irons, has flashed the ability to be a factor in a given week. I’ve seen enough through 18 holes to take a stab at the young Vanderbilt product, especially with +10000 available at BetMGM.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2
The last time we seemingly saw Erik Van Rooyen, he was making a GIF out of himself as he took some swipes in anger at the tee marker at the PGA Championship. He has reigned that in, at least for now, this week at the Palmetto Championship where he shot an opening round 6-under 65.
EVR was steady throughout his round on Thursday as he gained strokes on the field across every strokes gained category to start the week. He has always been a player that can score and go low in any round, but he has been plagued by the big number this season as he ranks 180th in bogey avoidance.
The South African was able to escape his opening round with just one bogey and seven birdies. My concern for EVR the rest of the way is that this appears to be a course where players can get in trouble and reel off bogeys. I know he won’t be able to sustain the putting pace he set on Thursday with more than four strokes gained on the greens, and I think we will see him get bitten by these issues as we head into the weekend.
Another player that was leaning heavily on his short game to start the week was Kiradech Aphibarnrat. The big man posted a solid 4-under 67 on the day, which was a welcome sign no matter how it came together for a player that has missed four straight cuts on TOUR.
He will struggle to maintain his position in the top 10 on the current leaderboard unless he cleans things up with his irons. Aphibarnrat lost strokes to the field on approach on Thursday, but made up for it by gaining more than four strokes on and around the greens. I am putting in the early fade on Kiradech as this round, while solid, has enough holes to have me believing he may struggle on Friday.
The final fade going into the second round is with Chris Baker. He also posted a solid under-par round of 68, but he somehow managed it while losing 1.82 strokes to the field on approach. He was the worst player in the top 20 with his irons on Thursday, but ranked fourth in the field putting.
Baker came in to this week off of the high of making the U.S. Open through qualifying, which is undoubtedly a big moment in his career. He is likely to have an eye on California if things start to go sideways on Friday, and his opening round approach stats show the signs of a player that was starting to lose his game a bit. I’ll put my early fade in on Baker who may struggle to hold his name inside of the cut if he doesn’t find something in the second round.