Paul Williams

Paul Williams' US PGA Championship FRL Tips 2022

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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 in this event 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 the weather: The latest weather forecast for Southern Hills is here.

Thursday looks set fair for the whole day at Southern Hills, with long sunny spells and temperatures reaching the mid-80s Fahrenheit later in the afternoon. The early starters may get an hour or two of relatively light winds; from there it looks like a steady 10-15mph with gusts up to 20mph, maybe increasing further as the day progresses.

In terms of history, we have 2 angles of attack this week given that the US PGA Championship moves around from course to course, however we do have the benefit of the 2007 renewal held here to peruse too.

Looking at the US PGA Championship history first, going back to 2011 the morning wave has produced 10 of the 16 players who either led or co-led after day 1 in this event.

The exceptions to the rule were Adam Scott who matched Jim Furyk’s 65 from a 13:45 tee time in 2013; Ryan Palmer who also shot 65 the year after to co-lead with Kevin Chappell and Lee Westwood; Kevin Kisner who equalled Thorbjorn Olesen’s early 67 in 2017 at Quail Hollow from a 13:55 tee time; Gary Woodland who broke our hearts in 2018 from a 13:26 tee time to pip Rickie Fowler by shooting 64; Brendon Todd who equalled Jason Day’s early round of 65 in 2020; and finally Corey Conners who took the solo lead 12 months ago from a 13:03 tee time with an opening round of 67.

With the exception of the aforementioned Ryan Palmer, all first round leaders since 2011 had shown some snippets of form in the very recent past. 6 of Woodland’s previous 8 rounds had been in the 60s prior to shooting 64 in the first round at Bellerive in 2018. In 2017 Kisner was 3rd after the first round in Ohio and Olesen had finished 10th overall courtesy of a 67/75 weekend.

Jimmy Walker, who led from wire-to-wire in 2016 to capture his maiden Major title, had also started brightly at the Bridgestone and sat 2nd after 18 holes whereas Dustin Johnson, who led the US PGA on his own in 2015 after a first round 66, had also produced some good opening form at Akron where he was 2nd going into the weekend.

More recently, Brooks Koepka’s opening 63 in 2019 followed on from having finished 1st and 4th after day one in his previous 3 starts, whereas Day (15th) and Todd (2nd) had both started brightly at St Jude the week before arriving at TPC Harding Park in 2020. Last year’s first round leader Corey Conners had finished 8th at The Masters, 7th at The PLAYERS and had been FRL at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before that, so was clearly playing nicely.

Essentially a spark of life in the very recent past seems to be a good pointer for this.

So, PGA Championship history errs on the side of early starters, however we also have 2007 to look a little deeper into which was held here at Southern Hills. The top 5 players after day 1 were as follows:

  • Graeme Storm 65, 12.45pm
  • John Daly 67, 8.50am
  • Woody Austin 68, 1.15pm
  • Arron Oberholser 68, 8.10am
  • Stephen Ames 68, 2.15pm

So it’s 3:2 to the PM starters from 2007, however with a forecast that’s hinting at easier conditions in the morning I’ll stack my team 3:1 in favour of the AM starters.

As per the outright market, there’s some each-way value to be found in the FRL market too with Boylesports, Betfred, Coral & Unibet offering 7 places each way, 1/5 odds. Details of their new customer offers are below:

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My selections for First Round Leader are as follows:

Jordan Spieth 2pts EW 30/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

  • US PGA Starts: 9
  • US PGA FRL Best: 9th (2019)
  • US PGA FRL Top-8s: 0
  • Last 6 (Solo) Event FRL Form: 2/67/72/43/32/12
  • Tee Time: 8.11AM

Jordan Spieth is one of the most popular bets this week in the outright market and seeing him get off to a flying start this week would surprise nobody.

The 28 year-old made all when winning the 2015 Masters as well as the 2017 Open Championship, and another wire-to-wire victory here at Southern Hills isn’t out of the question. Spieth has a further pair of FRL success at Augusta National to add to his impressive Major tally which I make 4 in total from 36 starts, putting his statistics well ahead of his odds here this week.

Incoming form is strong as we know – a win at the Heritage was followed by 2nd last week at the Byron Nelson, which could so easily have been another victory save for a 3-putt from 6 feet on the start of his final 9 holes on Sunday. Nevertheless, an in-form Spieth is dangerous this week and in the neighbouring state to his home I can see him getting off to a fast start.

Talking of geography, Spieth’s record just down the road in Texas is outstanding from both an overall and FRL perspective, and conditions here this week play to his strengths. 2 FRLs from his last 4 starts in Texas is all we need to know about his Thursday focus of late, and 2 wins in the state at the 2016 Dean & Deluca Invitational and 2021 Texas Open also bode well.

A 3-ball with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will focus the mind and overall Spieth’s record when playing with Woods has been positive, so there’s no reason to think he’ll suffer in the circus that will surround their group. RESULT: T56

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Ryan Palmer 0.75pt EW 125/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

  • US PGA Starts:  13
  • US PGA FRL Best: 1st (2014)
  • US PGA FRL Top-8s: 1
  • Last 6 (Solo) Event FRL Form: 105/10/50/7/60/12
  • Tee Time: 7.05AM

I may sound like a broken record when it comes to FRL betting and Ryan Palmer having put him up at the Masters last month too, however I’m not going to disregard what I think is a good bet for fear of repetition.

Sundays tend to be the issue for the Texan rather than Thursdays, and 12 career FRL wins gives him a strike rate of better than 1 in 50 which suggests there’s a little bit of juice in the price on offer, despite this being on one of golf’s biggest stages.

Coming from neighbouring Texas, any breeze will be like water off of a duck’s back for the 45 year-old and he warmed up nicely for this by leading to halfway last week in his home state following rounds of 67/62 before coming unstuck over the weekend. 5th overall was no disgrace though and he should be in confident mood heading into this week.

13 starts at the PGA Championship over the years have seen Ryan produce an overall best of 5th place in 2014, which was fuelled by an opening round of 65 that gave him a tie for the lead after 18 holes – more of the same this week at a healthy price wouldn’t be a shock in my view. RESULT: T78

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Ryan Fox 0.75pt EW 150/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

  • US PGA Starts: 3
  • US PGA FRL Best: 16th (2018)
  • US PGA FRL Top-8s: 0
  • Last 6 Event FRL Form: 44/1/46/31/1/14
  • Tee Time: 8:50AM

Backing a player who’s been regularly hitting the ground running in recent times isn’t a bad ploy in the FRL market and to that end I’ll take a chance on Ryan Fox.

Wire-to-wire winner at the Ras al Khaimah Classic in February following an opening round of 63, the burly Kiwi was also top of the pile after day 1 at The Belfry a fortnight ago and is in a rich vein of form overall at present.

15th at the ISPS Handa Championship followed his success in the Middle East, followed by 9th at the Catalunya Championship, 8th at the British Masters and 2nd last week at the Soudal Open. Yes, all at a lower level than this week of course, but that doesn’t preclude anyone from getting out of the blocks quickly this week.

Averaging 318 yards from off the tee for the season to date ticks the length box for this stretching layout, and the 35 year-old has been setting up countless opportunities for birdie or better over the past few weeks with a strong SG Approach game – 2/13/6/12/1 on that count on his last 5 starts – and he’s been converting a fair few also, ranking 4/7/41/6/2 for putting average over those same 5 events. Put simply, he’s liable to throw a low round in just about anywhere and at any time just now, so taking a chance on him here given the price on offer is an acceptable risk in my view.

3rd after 18 holes at the 2019 Open Championship is Ryan’s quickest Major Championship start to date and although linksy/coastal tracks tend to be his strongest suit, the often breezy nature of those events can be correlated to this week and seeing him continue his recent run of fast starts isn’t out of the question. RESULT: T27

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MinWoo Lee 0.5pt EW 200/1 (5EW, 1/4) with 10bet

  • US PGA Starts: Debut
  • US PGA FRL Best: N/A
  • US PGA FRL Top-8s: N/A
  • Last 6 Event FRL Form: 54/33/111/96/104/31
  • Tee Time: 12:30PM

Finally I’m taking a punt on MinWoo Lee who could spring a surprise from the very start of the afternoon wave.

Now I can’t offer you any sparkling US PGA Championship FRL form as he’s making his debut this week; nor can I offer you any outstanding recent FRL form as he’s not made the top 10 after day since the Australian PGA Championship back in January.

What I can offer you though is a little insight into his game on the DP World Tour, where he’s tended to excel on tracks with a little more room off the tee and where there’s wind involved. Victory at the Scottish Open last year is a case in point, as is his Vic Open success the year before at 13th Beach Golf Links, and the Perth native grew up mastering the low stinger given the breezy nature of that part of the Australian coast.

FRL in Italy a couple of months after his Scottish success wasn’t converted into another victory, however he ended the year strongly with 3 top-8 finishes before a creditable 16th at the DP World Tour Championship to cap a strong season.

14th at The Masters demonstrates a growing maturity in only his 2nd Major start, and hidden within that you’ll find a record-equalling front 9 on Sunday of 30 strokes which briefly put the 23 year-old in the top 4, before he fell back on the final 9.

Rested since that exertion, MinWoo’s sister MinJee won her 7th title last weekend; when the tables were turned last year, MinJee won her first women’s Major shortly after her brother’s Scottish Open success – perhaps positive family vibes will propel her brother into a fast start this week. RESULT: T78

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:00BST 18.5.22 but naturally subject to fluctuation.