The resurgence of Jordan Spieth’s game continued with another big round on Friday at Spyglass Hill as he birdied four of his final six holes to take the 36-hole lead alone heading into the weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Daniel Berger was the biggest contender for Spieth on Friday as he shot a 6-under 66 to join him in the final grouping, just one shot back. They will be joined by Henrik Norlander, who continues his run of good play and is just two shots back of Spieth at 10-under.
The winds didn’t turn out to be what they were once projected for during the second round, but the courses still played difficult. Everyone who made it through the 1-under cut will put their focus on Pebble Beach the rest of the way, and the wind is expected to play a factor.
I’ll continue to keep my focus on those players coming from behind as there is a chance they may see better conditions in the morning on Saturday. There may be some real value to be found further down the leaderboard as Spieth looks to claim his first victory since 2017.
Keep in mind as we dive into the data that all of these strokes-gained numbers are for just the 18 holes each player played on Pebble Beach as no shotlink data was available on Spyglass Hill. It won’t be an issue over the last two rounds, but it’s important to keep that in mind when analyzing this information heading into the weekend.
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
If I’m taking anyone at the top of the leaderboard, it’s probably a double down on Henrik Norlander first. Since I covered that Thursday, I’ll just mention that I still like him at similar odds into Round 3, but will make my first official buy with Patrick Cantlay.
Cantlay finally cooled off a bit over at Spyglass on Friday as he started with a lost tee ball on his very first shot of the day. He would go on to double bogey his first hole and lose his two-stroke lead before the day even started. Cantlay would show some good resolve despite the shaky start, climbing back to even on his round through seven holes before eventually finishing at 1-over on the day.
We knew coming in to Round 2 that his 21-under through his last 36 holes played on TOUR wouldn’t continue, so it wasn’t surprising to come back to Earth. It actually feels a bit better to see it happen before the weekend and create a bit more value at +430 on FanDuel heading into Moving Day. He’s still the favorite to win this on Sunday in my mind, so I’ll take what I can get while it’s available.
One player sneaking under the radar a bit into Saturday’s third round is Russell Knox. He started fast at Pebble Beach on Thursday before finishing with a solid 6-under 66. Knox followed it up with a solid 2-under 70 Friday on Spyglass, where he went bogey-free over his last nine holes and birdied two of his final three.
The Scotsman ranks first in greens in regulation through 36 holes, and first in scrambling. He brought his iron game with him this week to the California coast and we know his background will have him ready for any of the weekend weather.
I’ll jump on the +3300 available on BetMGM and will also shop for some solid placement odds. He should be a great DFS play throughout the final two rounds as well.
One of the best rounds at Pebble Beach on Friday came from Matthew NeSmith, who had a lot of ground to make up just to play the weekend. He overcame a 2-over round on Spyglass Hill on Thursday with a 5-under 67 on Friday at Pebble Beach.
NeSmith will get to go right back out at Pebble early on Saturday and try to climb his way back into contention. He gained 3.83 strokes with his approach play in the second round and will look to continue that play this weekend. He finished 11th at this event last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised with a similar result or better come Sunday afternoon.
3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3
I started to write Paul Casey as a buy heading into Saturday, but as I weighed the factors and odds I’ve turned him into a fade. This usually doesn’t go my way, but I’ll keep swinging at it.
My issue with Casey is that he has a lot of factors working against him after a round out of which he got the absolute most possible on Friday. His ball striking simply wasn’t what we are used to in the second round as he lost .58 shots to the field on approach and had to be bailed out time and again with his short game. He would gain more than five shots on and around the greens on Friday, neither of which is a strength of his game.
Casey either finds his ball striking and makes a run for the win this weekend or the wear and tear of three straight weeks in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and now California fully catch up to him. I’ll play for the latter going into the third round.
One of the best stories of the first round on Thursday was Akshay Bhatia, who accomplished the remarkable feat of hitting all 18 greens at Pebble Beach during his round. He would carry that momentum into Round 2 at Spyglass, hitting his first eight greens. Bhatia would tie the record with 26 consecutive greens in regulation, not missing a green until the ninth hole on Friday.
He would stumble a bit on the way in on Friday, finishing with a 1-over round, but still just five shots back of the lead going into the weekend. My fade of him is less about his play, and more about not thinking he is quite ready to contend on the weekend on TOUR.
Akshay is just 19-years-old, and outside of a ninth-place finish at the Safeway Open in September, he just doesn’t have the experience in this spot. This will be just the third made cut in 12 events for Bhatia and with the pressure rising and the weather coming in, I expect to see him fade over the final 36 holes. He’s supremely talented and there will be high finishes in his future, I just don’t quite see it this weekend.
Trying to use strokes gained data to predict Jason Day is a difficult task, but I’ll give it a shot going into the weekend at Pebble Beach. He lost strokes on the field with his irons at that course in Round 1, and followed it up by hitting just 55% of his greens at Spyglass in the second round. Somehow he managed to still carve out another 3-under round on Friday despite his approach issues.
I am fighting an uphill battle with a fade of Day as he has been nearly automatic with his results at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am over the past several years. I’ll take my chances as his ball striking isn’t quite there and with the cold and wind ready for the weekend he’ll need to have it dialed in to remain in contention.