The First Round Leader (FRL) market is fascinating given there are many ways to review the data to hand, especially at the Open Championship which uses a course rota system.
How does the weather forecast impact conditions? Will it be softer earlier, windier for some, warmer for others? What tee times have the recent FRL winners had? Have the recent FRL winners started well in an Open Championship in the past? Have the recent FRL winners started well in their recent events; have they even been playing well in recent events?
Lots of questions and the odd red herring along the way I’m sure, however I think there are a few factors to consider which might help point us in the right direction.
Both forecasts suggest a largely dry day with temperatures picking up to around 17 Centigrade / 63 Fahrenheit in the afternoon. The breeze won’t be excessive with 9 mph picking up a little to around 14 mph as the temperature rises, although this is coastal golf and all of that could change in the next 24 hours of course.
Conditions underfoot are relatively soft and with the chance of more rain before the start all players should find the course scoreable on the first day if they can keep the ball in play.
Going back to 2012 and Royal Lytham, 12 players have shared the First Round Leader market spoils over 10 renewals; 9 of those 12 players teed off in the morning. Although that’s hardly a representative sample size, it does however tell a story about course conditions plus more receptive greens for the early starters. But as Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes proved in 2016, 2017 and 2019 respectively, late starters can start fast, especially if a weather window appears.
Looking at FRL market winners since 2012, we’re talking about an elite group of players – with 21 Major titles between them, it’s a high quality bunch:
- 07:52 – 2018: Carnoustie, Kevin Kisner
- 08:25 – 2022: St Andrews, Cameron Young
- 08:42 – 2012: Royal Lytham, Adam Scott
- 09:26 – 2014: Hoylake, Rory McIlroy
- 09:33 – 2015: St Andrews, Dustin Johnson
- 09:47 – 2017: Royal Birkdale, Jordan Spieth
- 09:58 – 2021: Royal St George’s, Louis Oosthuizen
- 10:06 – 2013: Muirfield, Zach Johnson
- 10:09 – 2017: Royal Birkdale, Brooks Koepka
- 13:26 – 2016: Royal Troon, Phil Mickelson
- 13:37 – 2017: Royal Birkdale, Matt Kuchar
- 14:26 – 2019: Royal Portrush, JB Holmes
If we look back at 2014 when The Open last visited Hoylake, Rory McIlroy led after 18 holes with an opening round of 66, with Matteo Manassero a shot behind and 7 others tied for third. The tee times from the top 9 after 18 holes were as follows:
- 1st. Rory McIlroy: 09:26
- 2nd. Matteo Manassero: 08:04
- 3rd. Brooks Koepka: 07:20
- 3rd. Francesco Molinari: 07:53
- 3rd. Shane Lowry: 15:22
- 3rd. Edoardo Molinari: 07:20
- 3rd. Adam Scott: 14:27
- 3rd. Jim Furyk: 08:26
- 3rd. Sergio Garcia: 08:37
So eventual FRL leader Rory McIlroy was an early starter, as was Manassero in second, plus 5 of the 7 players in the tie for third, which adds a little more weight to the argument that an early tee time on Thursday may well be favourable.
2023 First Round Leader Bookmaker Open Championship Promotions
First Round Leader punters often get forgotten about by the bookmakers, but that certainly isn’t the case at the 2023 Open Championship.
7 Places Each-Way at 1/5 Odds
Unibet have gone 7 places each-way at 1/5 odds across Thursday’s opening round action, so do check their odds before placing your bets: