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 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.
Both forecasts are in consensus that there will be a fairly steady 15mph breeze blowing in from the north, slowly shifting during the day from north-west to north-east. Both forecasts have the gustiest conditions tailing off just a little in the afternoon, combined with the warmest temperatures of around 70 Fahrenheit, although this is coastal golf and all that could change in the next 24 hours of course.
Conditions underfoot are expected to be relatively soft for an Open Championship played in mid-July, with the course having seen a lot of rain over the last couple of months and more again over the weekend and on Monday. Dry conditions will prevail for the 4 tournament days and the course will gradually become less soft, however I’m not expecting it to become firm and fast immediately, and certainly not between the first and last tee times on Thursday.
Going back to 2012 and Royal Lytham, 10 players have shared the First Round Leader market spoils over 8 renewals; 7 of those 10 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. But as Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes proved in 2016, 2017 and 2019 respectively, late starters can start fast, especially if a weather window appears.
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
- 14:26 – 2019 – Royal Portrush – JB Holmes
2019 was interesting in that there was a perceived, if slight, advantage for the afternoon wave with lighter winds and warmer temperatures, and that proved largely correct with JB Holmes shooting 66 from a 2.26pm tee time to lead by a stroke from eventual winner Shane Lowry, who’d teed off in the morning.
If we look back at 2011 when The Open last visited Royal St George’s, Thomas Bjorn and Tom Lewis shared the lead after day 1 with rounds of 65. The tee times from the top 5 after 18 holes was as follows:
- 1st. Thomas Bjorn: 07:25
- 1st: Tom Lewis: 14:32
- 3rd: Lucas Glover: 13:10
- 3rd: Webb Simpson: 15:05
- 3rd: Miguel Angel Jimenez: 08:09
A mix of tee times then 10 years ago, with the PM starters just shading it overall. My take this year is that the PM starters should get marginally better conditions with the gustiest of the winds early in the day and temperatures at their peak in the afternoon sunshine. That doesn’t preclude an early starter from posting something outstanding of course, however it may be slightly tougher for those to do so.
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8 Places Each-Way at 1/5 Odds
Boylesports, Betfair and Paddy Power have all gone 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds across Thursday’s opening round action, so do check their odds before placing your bets: Boylesports | Betfair | Paddy Power.
7 Places Each-Way at 1/5 Odds
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