Paul Williams

Paul Williams' The Masters FRL And Alternative Bets

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First Round Leader Market

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:

  • 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.

Jordan Spieth 2pts EW FRL 25/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

A late tee time for Jordan Spieth – he goes out in the final group at 2pm alongside Paul Casey and Brooks Koepka – could well result in yet another flying start around Augusta National for the 2015 winner. As I highlighted in the preamble, the final two groups have had considerable success here on the Thursday in recent times and although the forecast suggests no significant advantage or disadvantage to any of the tee times, it’s often the case that conditions ease a little around this piece of manicured perfection in Georgia towards the end of the day.

5 attempts at The Masters has yielded 3 first round leads for the 25 year-old with rounds of 64 in 2015, 66 in 2016 and 66 again last year being enough for at least a 2-stroke lead on each occasion. Current form will be the main objection to Jordan’s chances in the outright market – he’s failed to produce a top-10 finish anywhere since the Open Championship last July and 30th last week in Texas was his best finish of 2019 – however first round positions of 5th, 9th, 2nd and 6th in his last 6 strokeplay starts suggests that he’s getting off to decent starts without seeing it through for 4 days. 68/68 to open last week at the Valero put Spieth into 2nd spot heading into the weekend before fading and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see something similar here after a fast Thursday start. RESULT: LOSE

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Charles Howell III 1pt EW FRL 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

At the other end of the draw is Charles Howell III who goes out at 9.47am alongside Eddie Pepperell and former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel. Marc Leishman, Bill Haas and Jordan Spieth have all produced FRL wins here from tee times in a similar ball-park in recent years and the 39 year-old, who was born and raised in Augusta, could get off to a flyer with plenty of friends and family in attendance. Although his record at The Masters is solid yet unspectacular and he hasn’t played here since 2012, he has got off to a decent start in past when sitting 8th after day 1 in 2004.

Howell was the First Round leader at the RSM Classic at the start of the PGA Tour wraparound season, which he went on to convert for his 3rd PGA Tour title, and his rock-solid form since then suggests to me that a low round is possible at any point in time – if he’s going to produce one this week then it’s likely to be early in the week before the pressure takes a firm grip in my view. RESULT: LOSE

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Rafa Cabrera-Bello 1pt EW FRL 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

A 1.16pm tee time alongside Francesco Molinari and Tyrrell Hatton will feel like a European Tour jaunt for Rafa Cabrera-Bello and a relaxed approach could see the birdies start to mount up in the first round, as they often can for the Spaniard. Last year’s 38th place finish contained the 34 year-old’s best round here at Augusta National as he opened with 69 to sit in a tie for 4th place after day 1 and it’s fair to say that he’s one of these players who often gets out of the blocks quickly in many events before treading water for the next couple of days and eventually back-dooring a top-10 finish.

3rd at Bay Hill a month ago was Rafa’s best regular PGA Tour event career finish and was fuelled once again by a flying start where he shot 65 on the Thursday to lead by 2 strokes and something similar here isn’t out of the question. Lee Westwood, Jordan Spieth and Charley Hoffman have all finished up FRL here from similar tee times in recent years and similarly to Howell, his best round may well come while the pressure’s at a minimum. RESULT: LOSE

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Top 20 Market

We talked about some players who made a lot of sense to roster in our DraftKings teams in our DraftKings podcast and two which Steve Bamford and myself both agreed on warrant some support in the top-20 market also.

The beauty of this bet is that at level stakes, if either of the two players finishes inside the top-20 then, assuming no ties, we’ll more than double our stake from the two bets combined. If both oblige then happy days!

Charley Hoffman 1pt top 20 finish 7/2 with Betway

All the hype has been around Charley Hoffman’s chances in the first round leader market which has seen his price slashed as short as 25/1 in places, however for me there’s more likelihood that he continues his generally impressive efforts at Augusta now that he’s found some good form once again on the PGA Tour. 27th, 9th, 29th, 22nd and 12th last year are 5 impressive attempts here in Georgia and after a poor run of 4 successive missed cuts earlier this year, the 42 year-old appears to have found something approaching top gear in recent weeks, finishing 18th at the Valspar Championship and 2nd last week in Texas. Soft golf courses are Charley’s forte and although Augusta will undoubtedly dry out as the week progresses, when Sunday’s forecast breezy conditions arrive he’ll also be comfortable given how positive his game is in the wind. RESULT: LOSE

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Charles Howell III 1pt top 20 finish 4/1 with bet365

Consistency has always been Charles Howell III’s key strength – after all he’s amassed over $38m in prize money in a career that’s reaped just 3 Tour wins in a career entering its 20th year – however from a betting perspective that low conversion rate of genuine chances can be a little off-putting if backing in the outright market. The top 20 market, however, is made for the 39 year-old who churns out that kind of finish with regularity, which he’s also done twice here at Augusta National in the past. Like Hoffman, Howell also performs well in soft conditions and isn’t one to collapse when the wind starts blowing, plus he’s found some excellent form with his irons in the last 6 months or so, punctuated by his first win in over 11 years at the RSM Classic in November. 8 successive top-35 finishes in strokeplay golf since that win, 6 of which were top-20 finishes, bodes well for another middling performance here which could well pay us off for this bet. RESULT: LOSE

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Hole In One Market

Hole in One at the 16th 1pt 6/5 with Betfair

With 12 aces at The Masters since 2004, this bet is a great bit of fun that can keep you interested right until late on Sunday. The 4th, 6th, 12th and 16th are the par-3 chances for a hole-in-one as always, however it’s the 16th where the action really tends to take place – particularly on Sunday when the pin position is traditionally put in its friendliest position at the bottom of the green. Matt Kuchar won this bet for us in 2017, Charley Hoffman won this bet for us last year and there were 3 more aces from Shane Lowry, Davis Love III and Louis Oosthuizen in 2016, making 5 in the past 3 renewals. RESULT: WIN

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 09:50BST 10.4.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.