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:
- 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.
Leishman aside, you could make a fair case for most of the players above on recent(ish) form alone, however their tee times are varied to say the least. What does stand out to me though is that if we go back to 2007, the final group of the day has produced a top-5 finisher on 6 of the 12 occasions; extend that to the last 2 groups and 9 of the last 12 renewals have produced a top-5 finisher in the first round leader market. 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. A dry, sunny day will greet the players on Thursday following some wet weather in the lead up to the start of this year’s event. Temperatures will soon pick up from 14 Celsius to 26 Celsius by teatime, however with that will come a breeze that will eventually reach around 10-15mph. Warmer temperatures will undoubtedly help the ball fly further in the afternoon, however that may well be negated by the slightly breezier conditions.