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:
- 2021: Justin Rose (65), 12:48pm tee time. The Englishman romped into a 4-stroke lead after 18 holes, having withdrawn from the Arnold Palmer Invitational on his last start through injury to throw most punters off the scent. That was the 4th time that Rose had led, or co-led, The Masters after day 1.
- 2020: In the November Masters, 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 15 occasions; extend that to the last 3 groups and 10 of the last 15 renewals have produced a top-5 finisher in the first round leader market. Justin Rose didn’t quite continue that trend from his 12:48 tee time last year, however he was still one of the later starters on the day.
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.
Overnight rain and thunderstorms have the potential to push into the start of play on Thursday, so any delay could throw tee times up in the air. Once the rain clears, the players should be left with a slowly warming day with lush conditions underfoot and a steady breeze of 15-20mph, gusting a little beyond that.
On the face of it, that forecast favours nobody in particular, however there’s just a hint that the wind may drop towards the end of the day, which in turn could allow a later starter to once again post a score on the back 9 in the warmest part of the day.
As per the outright market, there’s some each-way value to be found in the FRL market too with Boylesports offering 8 places each way, 1/5 odds for this market, and Betfred offering 7 places, 1/5 odds with some strong odds.