2021 U.S. Open: Round 3 Matchups
For many of the best golfers in the world, Friday was a day of carnage at the U.S. Open played at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Scoring in the second round was even more difficult than on Thursday with players shooting 2.8 strokes over par. As the cut-line shifted from +2 down to +4, world-class players including Tyrrell Hatton, Jason Kokrak, Will Zalatoris and Tony Finau struggled mightily. By rounds end, each had completely collapsed to the depths of the leaderboard. And yet, sitting tied for first place after 36 holes is the 115th-ranked player in the world, 48-year old European Tour journeyman, Richard Bland. Sharing the lead with him is Russell Henley, who had not finished higher than 71st in the past two months. That's golf—and as you might have seen from my selections yesterday—it's the most volatile sport in the world to predict. What I will always promise to do in this space is to point you, the reader, to the data. That is our guiding light. If we stick to that process, we will come out positive on the other side. Let's get to the third-round selections.
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*Betting lines accurate at the time of publication.
Matthew Fitzpatrick +100 FanDuel (1u) over Tommy Fleetwood
In the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, Matthew Fitzpatrick has had chance after chance to climb the leaderboard. His ball-striking, both off-the-tee and with his approach shots has been elite thus far in the tournament. It has been the struggles with his putter that have kept him mired near the middle of the pack. While Poa grass is his least favorite, he has the reputation of one of the better putters on the PGA Tour. With putting being very random and usually progressing back to the mean, we should expect some putts to start dropping for Fitzpatrick. His opponent for Saturday's round is none other than his fellow English countryman, Tommy Fleetwood. Fleetwood has once again played very mediocre golf for the first two rounds. His putting and ball-striking have both been very average. When we analyze the data, Fitzpatrick has clear advantages in my pre-tourney rank, ball-striking, BS-P difference, overall putting rank and in second-round strokes gained averages. Fitzpatrick also has some extra motivation to play for—a spot in the Toyko Olympics. This U.S. Open is his last chance to hold off Paul Casey for the last spot on England's team.
Xander Schauffele -115 FanDuel (1u) over Scottie Scheffler
According to the signals to identify when making selections, this matchup is close to a perfect setup. Scottie Scheffler currently leads the U.S. Open in putting, gaining over seven strokes in two rounds! The most he has ever gained in a single event is 5.1 strokes, and there are still two rounds remaining. He is also generally not good on Poa with the flat-stick ranking 94th in our pre-tourney SG: P model. He is usually a much better ball-striker and is riding this hot putter to 10th place in the tournament thus far. On the flip side, hometown boy Xander Schauffele ranks second in the entire field in ball-striking, which is much more predictive of future success than putting. Xander's hot ball-striking, combined with the odds of both players' putting games flipping has me all-aboard the Schauffele train on Saturday.
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