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 probably too many levels of complexity!
Going back to 2012 and Royal Lytham, 9 players have shared the First Round Leader market spoils over 7 renewals; 7 of those 9 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. In general, First Round Leader wins are statistically more prone for morning wavers. But as Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar both proved in 2016 and 2017 respectively, late starters can start fast, especially if a weather window appears.
I’ve been tracking multiple weather forecasts across the UK Met Office, BBC and Windfinder since Monday morning and they’ve constantly changed. However I write this within 18 hours of the first tee time and now there appears to be some correlation. Undoubtedly Thursday will be the toughest day of the 2019 Open. Rain looks to be a factor from 09:00 right through till lunchtime. But from 14:00 onwards the chance of rain drops below 50% and continues to drop away. Wind will also be a factor, with winds averaging 15-25mph throughout the morning and into lunchtime / early afternoon. The wind could then subside just a tad for the afternoon starters, but undoubtedly with less chance of rain. In conclusion it looks like a very, very tough day for all with little draw bias. However with many of the elite players going out post 14:30, many of them will find themselves on a lush golf course with potentially less wind as play moves towards the early evening.
Looking at FRL market winners since 2012, we’re talking about an elite group of players – with 20 Major titles between them, it’s a high quality bunch:
- 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
- 10:06 – 2013 – Muirfield – Zach Johnson
- 10:09 – 2017 – Royal Birkdale – Brooks Koepka
- 07:52 – 2018 – Carnoustie – Kevin Kisner
- 13:26 – 2016 – Royal Troon – Phil Mickelson
- 13:37 – 2017 – Royal Birkdale – Matt Kuchar
The timings of their endeavours can also be perceived as enlightening. With players on the course at the Open Championship from 06:35, the earliest a First Round Leader has set off in our 7 year sample is 07:52. Past that point, there’s a definite 90 minute ‘sweet spot’ when a selection of the best players start their tournaments. From there we then jump to a small timeframe post-13:30 where again a small selection of elite players go out. Naturally though, by the coast the weather plays a huge part in the equation, so I’m taking the view that with potentially slightly better weather and with the 2019 green spike rule protecting putting surfaces, late starters might just have a slight advantage at Royal Portrush.
2019 Key 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 2019 Open Championship.
8 Places Each-Way at 1/5 Odds
Betfair Sportsbook, Boylesports and Paddy Power have all gone 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds across Thursday’s opening round action. As we went to release this preview, Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power were by far and away the best of the 8 places 1/5 odds brigade on best odds available. Naturally the advantage with 8 places each-way being that there are 3 more paying places to fill as opposed to a group of bookmakers who are simply handing out the standard 5 places each-way at 1/4 odds.