Paul Williams

Paul Williams' The Masters 2021 FRL Tips

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Check out our First Round Leader form stats, history stats and tee times here.

The First Round Leader (FRL) market is fascinating given there are many ways to review the data to hand.

How does the weather forecast impact conditions? Will it be softer earlier, firmer later, windier for some, warmer for others? What tee times have the recent FRL winners had? Have the recent FRL winners started well here 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.

First up, some recent history of FRL winners here:

  • 2020: In November, Paul Casey, Dylan Frittelli and Dustin Johnson all shared the first round lead with 7-under rounds of 65 from 7.44am and 12pm (both players) tee times respectively, from a 2-tee start due to reduced daylight hours. Casey had closed his previous event, the Zozo Championship, with a 67 although his form, both overall and from a FRL perspective, was average at best; Frittelli however had flashed a little more form at the same event, sitting 4th after day 1 and 2nd into the weekend before fading. Eventual winner Dustin Johnson had started slowly on his previous 2 starts with rounds of 73 & 72, however he’d finished like a train in Houston to finish 2nd overall before capturing the Green Jacket here the following week.
  • 2019: Bryson Dechambeau (66), 1.38pm tee time; Brooks Koepka (66), 2.00pm tee time. Big hitters Bryson and Brooks shared the spoils after 18 holes, each shooting 6-under par from late tee times. DeChambeau didn’t have much in the way of immediate form, however he had won the Dubai Desert Classic earlier that year on the European Tour after sitting in 2nd place after the first day. Koepka had finished runner-up at the Honda Classic earlier in the season from a 6th place position after day 1, however that again was the most tangible pointer for this, albeit quite distant.
  • 2018: Jordan Spieth (66), 1.49pm tee time. The third time that Spieth had finished as FRL here at Augusta came after a closing round of 66 in Houston the week before, which was the 2nd best effort on show that day, that catapulted him into 3rd place overall.
  • 2017: Charley Hoffman (65), 1.08pm tee time. Hoffman had finished 2nd at the Arnold Palmer invitational two events prior, opening with a round of 68 (3rd place).
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (66), 9.48am tee time. Jordan had already won that season at Kapalua, plus had recorded a 67 (t10) to open with in Houston.
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth (64), 1.15pm tee time. Incoming form of 1/2/2 prior to leading here after Thursday and eventually winning the Green Jacket.
  • 2014: Bill Haas (68), 10.08am tee time. Incoming for of 6/14/37 and had been tied for the lead in Houston (65) after the first round.
  • 2013: Marc Leishman; Sergio Garcia (66), 9.28am, 12.57 tee times. Leishman’s effort was out of the blue really as he’d struggled of late, whereas Sergio had been playing nicely and had recently tied for the FRL lead at Doral (66) and was 2nd after round 1 at Riviera (65)
  • 2012: Lee Westwood (67), 12.48pm tee time. Incoming form of 2/4/4/29/21 and had opened with a solid round of 68 at Houston the week before.
  • Going back further still, in 2011 Rory McIlroy (9.24am) and Alvaro Quiros (1.59pm) tied for the lead with rounds of 65; Fred Couples shot a 66 from a 12.58 tee time in 2010 to lead on his own; Chad Campbell’s 12.35 tee time produced an opening 65 in 2009; Trevor Immelman and Justin Rose shared the lead in 2008 with rounds of 68 from 11.40am and 10.56 tee times respectively.

What stands out to me is that if we go back to 2007, the final group of the day has produced a top-5 finisher on 7 of the 14 occasions; extend that to the last 3 groups and 10 of the last 14 renewals have produced a top-5 finisher in the first round leader market.

This trend continued in November when both Dylan Frittelli and Dustin Johnson shot 7-under rounds from the 3rd-final groups which went off at noon due to the 2-tee start and shorter playing hours.

Is there some logic in there? The breeze often does lay down a little towards the end of the day and perhaps the euphoria and pressure begins to dissipate a little as the day progresses. Players will also usually enjoy the best temperatures in the afternoon and on this lengthy layout every extra yard helps, particularly with the scoreable holes on the back 9.

The latest weather forecast for Augusta National is here.

After a few different scenarios emerging with the weather forecast for Thursday, it looks like we can expect a fairly regular opening day after all. A cool start around the low 60s Fahrenheit with light winds, as the day warms up so the breeze will increase to a steady 10-15mph before dropping away right at the end of the day. Temperatures will peak in the high 70s with some pleasant sunshine for those coming home in the later groups.

As per the outright market, there’s some each-way value to be found in the FRL market too with both Paddy Power and Betfair offering 8 places each way, 1/5 odds for this market. Details of their new customer offers are below:

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My selections for First Round Leader are as follows:

Jordan Spieth 2pts EW 18/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Unibet

  • Masters Starts: 7
  • Masters FRL: 3
  • Masters FRL Top-5s: 3
  • Last 6 Event FRL Form: 12/4/12/15/11/4
  • Tee Time: 2:00pm

Sometimes what’s staring you in the face shouldn’t be ignored, despite how obvious it may seem. Jordan Spieth’s 2pm tee time in the final group of the day alongside Cameron Smith and Collin Morikawa is the icing on the cake for building a case for him to come flying out of the blocks on Thursday.

With top-5 FRL finishers coming from the final group on half of the last 14 Masters tournaments, the trends would suggest that this trio more than any should warrant close scrutiny and a weather forecast that hints of a laying down of the breeze as the day draws to a close, to accompany warm temperatures and sunshine, adds to the narrative.

Then we have Spieth himself, who arrives fresh from victory at the Valero Texas Open last week and getting the winless monkey off of his back, having not got over the line since his 2017 success at Royal Birkdale. That 3rd Major victory came after winning the Travelers Championship on his previous start and he led after the first round on both occasions; golf being the game that it is, I can see history repeating itself here with another fast start.

The final consideration is Spieth’s record here at Augusta National itself. Overall event form of 2/1/2/11/3/21/46 is impressive and another contending performance is expected by many, however in those 7 starts he’s also led after the first round on 3 occasions and he’ll know that another quick start can fuel his challenge this week. RESULT: T8

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Matthew Fitzpatrick 1pt EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

  • Masters Starts: 6
  • Masters FRL Best: 4th, 2017
  • Masters FRL Top-5s: 1
  • Last 6 Event FRL Form: 28/20/2/1/7/3
  • Tee Time: 1:24pm

There was a time when Matt Fitzpatrick’s first round performances were his biggest hindrance, however it’s clear that something has changed in recent times and that’s resulted in a strong uptick in results.

Perhaps the influence of Billy Foster on the bag has helped focus the mind of the 26 year-old in that respect and maybe the pre-event process has improved in some way, however it’s clear that in the past 6 months or so that Matt’s been getting out of the blocks much quicker and that bodes well for his 1.24pm tee time.

Since the BMW Championship in late August, 14 events have produced 1 (tied) FRL win and six further top-7 finishes after day 1, many of which were in top-class company. 66 to open the WGC at the Concession tied Webb Simpson’s best of the day and 68 to open at TPC Sawgrass on his last strokeplay start was beaten by just 2 other players.

Firm conditions play into Matt’s hands given his accurate mid-length game – indeed his best finish here at Augusta came in the most compatible conditions to this week of recent times back in 2016 – and he sat 4th after the first day the following year. RESULT: T30

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Ryan Palmer 1pt EW 80/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

  • Masters Starts: 5
  • Masters FRL Best: 6th, 2005
  • Last 6 Event FRL Form: 99/4/50/25/11/38
  • Tee Time: 1:00pm

In the absence of FRL stalwart Charley Hoffman, Ryan Palmer is the type of player that wouldn’t surprise if he was right up with the pace after the first 18 holes.

9 top-6 positions after the opening day from his past 40 strokeplay starts makes his strike rate for an each-way return ahead of his price here in the FRL market, and although this is clearly an elite field, there’s less players to beat here and his 1pm tee time is getting towards the sweet spot as previously discussed.

Statistically, Palmer is one that often looks great on paper for an outright punt but flatters to deceive at the business end of a tournament, however that’s perfect when all we need from him is a strong stress-free effort on a Thursday. 4th at the Tournament of Champions (3rd after day 1) was another case in point as he led going into the final round before shooting 71, however he’s clearly been playing some good stuff as 2nd at the Farmers Insurance Open (4th after day 1) demonstrates.

17th at the Players and 17th last week in Texas on his last 2 strokeplay outings are solid enough and he tees it up for the first time at Augusta National since 2015 this week having finished 8th after day 1 that week, backing up his 6th place FRL finish on debut a decade earlier. 10th overall in 2011 suggests that the Texan gets on with the track just fine and seeing him on the first page of the leaderboard after day 1 isn’t out of the question. RESULT: T30

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:25GMT 07.04.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.