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, firmer later, 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 probably too many levels of complexity!
Going back to 2012 and Royal Lytham, 8 players have shared the First Round Leader market spoils over 6 renewals. 6 of those 8 players teed off in the morning. Although that’s hardly a representative sample size, it does however tell a story about course conditions. Unless there’s a change in weather during the course of the day, early starters will often get the most receptive greens from overnight watering a well as first use of the putting surfaces; that’s typically offset by lower temperatures meaning that the ball doesn’t fly through the air quite as far. Wind conditions will vary from year to year, however if there’s no significant weather pattern influencing the area then we also often see calmer conditions in the morning.
Weather for Thursday at Carnoustie looks relatively settled. Light breeze across the morning starts to build slowly from lunchtime to a peak at 7pm with winds averaging 12 mph and gusting up to 15 mph. Temperatures for the early starters will be 14 degrees Celsius, which will peak at 19 degrees Celsius at 4pm BST. The temperature differential from morning to afternoon is only 5 degrees, but the wind scenario suggests to me that 2pm starters will face a significant disadvantage with dry turf conditions, well-used greens and moderate breeze which will only take the edge of scoring. Players affected in that late stage of the tee times include Matt Wallace, Bubba Watson, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox, Jason Dufner and Ryan Fox.
Looking at FRL market winners since 2012, we’re talking about an elite group of players – with 18 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
- 13:26 – 2016 – Royal Troon – Phil Mickelson
- 13:37 – 2017 – Royal Birkdale – Matt Kuchar
The timings of their endeavours is also enlightening. With players on the course at the Open Championship from 06:35, the earliest a First Round Leader has set off in our 6 year sample is 08:42. Past that point, there’s a definite 90 minute ‘sweet spot’ when a selection of the best players start their tournaments. From there we then jump to a small time frame at 13:30 where again a small selection of elite players go out.
2018 Key Bookmaker Open Championship Promotions
First Round Leader punters often get forgotten about by the bookmakers, but that certainly isn’t the case at the 2018 Open Championship. Both Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power have gone 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds across Thursday’s opening round action. Betfair Sportsbook shades it in terms of better prices, so I’m placing a number of my bets with them. The advantage being that there are 3 more paying places to fill as opposed to a group of bookmakers who are simply handing out the standard 5 places each-way at 1/4 odds.
Betfair Sportsbook have gone 8 places EW at 1/5 odds in the First Round Leader market plus get £100 in free bets for new customers using code ZBBC01 – full details here.
- Betfair Sportsbook Up To £100 in free bets: New customer offer. Place 5 x £10 or more bets to receive £20 in free bets. Repeat up to 5 times to receive maximum £100 bonus. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Exchange bets excluded. 18+, T&Cs apply.
I have a bunch of selections going off in the 0925, 1020, 1242, 1304 and 1315 groups. My First Round Leader selections are as follows: