Bermuda Championship First Round Leader Predictions and Picks: Back Adam Hadwin To Start Fast
Let’s take a look at those who could lead after Round 1 of the Bermuda Championship. With some suspect weather, including strong winds forecast, there is some uncertainty over what a good opening round could look like this week, but nevertheless let’s take a look at the history of the event.
Bermuda Championship Strategy
How do we go about spotting value in the First Round Leader markets?
Well, this tends to change week-to-week depending on weather and course conditions but we tend to target early tee times when playing Stateside, as that seems to give players an edge as they’re out in generally calm conditions, with the best greens and smaller crowds unless in a marquee group, giving them a chance to string together their round in peace.
This week, there are winds for most of the round, at 28km/h, with 37km/h gusts kicking in at times as well. The winds do tend to die down as the afternoon goes on, with 20-24 km/h winds between 4 and 7pm. Given the gusts remain fairly consistent all day and the winds don’t die down significantly until late in the round Thursday, I think both the AM and PM wave will have a chance of posting the first-round lead. The greens are better in the morning, but the wind will be slightly stronger so it just depends how the players cope with those.
So far, rounds of 62 (Scottie Scheffler) and 63 (Peter Malnati) have led after round 1 here, with Scheffler teeing off #10 at 8:14am, while Malnati went off #1 at 7:25am. This would suggest an early start may be the best to focus on still.
Who in this field started fast on Tour last season?
Given the overall weakness of this field this week, very few here actually featured highly in the first-round scoring average last season, but here are six that ranked inside the top-40.
- Patrick Reed (9th overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 69.55) – Low Opening Round – 64
- (Farmers Insurance Open)
- Seamus Power - (10th overall in 2020/21 - Scoring Average 69.59) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Barbasol Championship)
- Nick Taylor – (22nd overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 69.85) – Low Opening Round – 65 (Wyndham Championship)
- Mark Hubbard – 31st overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 70.03) – Low Opening Round – 63 (Phoenix Open)
- Sepp Straka - 35th overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 70.10) – Low Opening Round – 65
- (Shriners Open, also shot 63 at the Olympics)
- Joseph Bramlett – 40th overall in 2020/21 – Scoring Average 70.16) – Low Opening Round – 64 (Byron Nelson)
What score is required to lead after round 1?
This is of course a bit of a guess and subject to change, dependant on the course, but the 63 from the 2020 renewal is the obvious target. Not only did that do the job last year, but if we average out the leading round 1 scores on the PGA Tour from the 2020/21 season, over 45 individual events we get an average leading round 1 score of 63.97. A 63 would almost certainly get the job done, given the stronger winds forecast for this renewal. Looking at last year’s renewal, when the wind picked up through the week, the best rounds were 66 on Friday and 65 on Saturday with a 63 on the final day from Denny McCarthy. With the wind in mind, maybe 64 is the better target, but either way the formula remains the same. Look for the guys that start fast and no matter what the lowest score available on Thursday, those that have a history of starting brightly on Thursday’s should still be on your radar.
The Bermuda Championship Favorites
The favorites in this market correlate with the favorites in the outright market but may provide better value if you think that either, one of the favorites can start fast but fade away, or they go wire-to-wire, in which case you could double down with an outright and a first-round leader bet.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2600)
Matthew Fitzpatrick has held four first-round leads in his career, the 2015 British Masters, the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational, the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic and the WGC Workday Championship in 2021.
Fitzpatrick has also been within two of the lead 21 times in his career so he likes a fast start.
If you think he can carry on the form he showed when winning at Valderrama you may be tempted to back him as he goes into this week with good recent memories, but that win was based on steady play throughout the week, rather than low rounds.
Should you be tempted to back him at 12/1 in the outright market this week, I would suggest looking at him as the First Round Leader at over twice the odds given his knack of getting his weeks off to a hot start.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+2900)
South African, Christiaan Bezuidenhout recently held the first-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England, and that was his third first-round lead of his career, all of which have come since February 2020.
Another that’s been close to the lead a lot (within two shots of the first-round lead 13 times), Bezuidenhout has tended to keep pace with the leaders fairly often, but a lot of the time when in tough conditions. His 61 to lead the Dimension Data Pro-Am in South Africa and the 64 to lead at Wentworth are standout opening rounds for him and he doesn’t tend to start the week with a low number often.
I would personally look elsewhere.
Mito Pereira (+3300)
Mito Pereira has yet to hold a first-round lead, despite winning three times in his career, but when winning the Rex Hospital Open this year, he opened with a 62 and still sat 2nd on day one!
His 67 at the Fortinet saw him sit two behind the lead in the season-opener, so he’s already threatened an early lead this season, and he strikes me as the type that will do that more often in the future.
Like my stance in the outright market, I will pass on him here based on price and not knowing what he will make of this test, but it could be a good way to have him onside if the outright odds don’t do it for you this week but you do want him on your card.
Patrick Reed (+3300)
Patrick Reed has been in and around the first-round lead (within two shots), 29 times in his career, dating back to 2012 and if he’s healthy this test could be a perfect place for him to do something similar this week.
Reed has led or co-led seven times in his career, most recently with a brilliant 64 to open at the Farmers Insurance Open which he went on to win.
Considering four of his nine victories have come when leading after day one, and he’s always been inside the top-10 and no more than four strokes back on the opening day when emerging victorious, Reed may prove a worthy first-round leader bet if you like his overall chances of winning the tournament.
I think there are too many question marks surrounding his health and form to back him with any real confidence in any market this week, but if you do like him you should look closer at the 33/1 available to be the day one leader.
Bermuda Championship First Round Leader Picks
Adam Hadwin (+4500)
I have already outlined a case for Adam Hadwin to win this week, in my early preview of the event and now I will tell you why I expect him to start fast as well.
In five of his last seven starts, Hadwin has opened with rounds of 67 or better, including at the Wyndham Championship where he shot a 64 to sit 2nd behind Russell Henley who shot a 62, and at the Fortinet Championship where his opening 66 left him trailing only Chez Reavie (65).
He has been in 2nd place after round 1 six times in his career, and while he’s only ever led after round 1 twice (in both his Korn Ferry wins), I think Hadwin can go low enough here. The weather may well keep the scoring down, so he may not need a 63 here, a 64 or 65 may well be enough, and on a course that looks the most suitable of those he’s played this season, I think he represents good value to get off to a good start.
Hadwin is the first off #10 tee on Thursday at 7:35am.
Russell Knox (+6000)
Russell Knox is proving a popular selection in the outright market this week, and while I couldn’t get there myself this week, I do think he can be in the mix after round 1.
Knox held the outright lead after round of both the Safeway Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic in 2020, shooting 63 and 65 respectively and both of those scores will challenge this week.
Aside from those recent first round leads, Knox has been within two of the lead four other times since the start of 2018, including here in 2019 when a 64 left him two adrift of Scottie Scheffler.
Opening rounds of 64 in Hawaii (2017) and Pebble (2013, leader) give further confidence that Knox could be close to the first-round lead, no matter what conditions present themselves here in Bermuda.
You have to go back to Pebble in February for the last time Knox was inside the top-10 (6th) after round one but if he has turned the corner, like many suspect he has, a return to a suitable course could lead to a positive result, especially on the opening day.
Not yet convinced he can put four rounds together, I will instead take him in the opening round at slightly inflated odds compared to his outright price, in the hope he can get off to one of his trademark fast starts. He has held three first-round leads in his PGA Tour career, and when trailing he has been within two shots on 23 occasions across the Korn Ferry and PGA Tours over the past eleven years.
Knox is out at 7:57am off #1 tee.
Kurt Kitayama (+9000)
Kurt Kitayama just narrowly missed out on my list of early outright leans and I think he makes a lot of sense in other side markets, and I am happy to include him here too.
Kitayama is not young at 28 by any means, but it still feels like we are yet to see his true ceiling and given he’s already a two-time winner on the European Tour in back-to-back years (2018 and 2019), that’s quite exciting.
It felt like the PGA Tour was his destiny after those early wins as it often does once a player starts to stand out among the rest on the European Tour and also has an American flag next to their name, but there’s more to him than that.
A recent graduate via the Korn Ferry Tour, Kitayama has played two events this season on the PGA Tour, without excelling. He missed the cut at the season-opening Fortinet Championship and finished in a tie for 45th at the Sanderson Farms, but he started with a round of 66 in the latter, good enough to sit just two behind the lead of Sahith Theegala.
This might be one of the most suitable courses for his skill set that he’ll play on the PGA Tour, and certainly before the year is out and he should be able to deal with any adverse conditions.
A winner in Mauritius and Oman, Kitayama has proven his ability in the wind, and further evidence is available with finishes of T9 in Qatar, T12 in Saudi and perhaps most interestingly T18 at Pebble Beach.
Aaron Rai was initially in this spot (who I do still like) but after the tee times comes out, and the other three selections were virtually going out back-to-back, I wanted to ensure I had a chance with someone in the afternoon wave, in case there was a huge weather split. Kitayama looks a viable candidate to me.
Kitayama is out at 1:43pm off #1 tee.
Vaughn Taylor (+10000)
It has been a while since he last held the first-round lead (2018 Northern Trust) but he’s been within two shots of the opening-round leader on seven occasions since then. 64 at the Mayakoba in 2019 left him two behind, as did a 65 here in 2020 and a 64 in Hawaii in 2021, which are all similar tests. Another 65 to open up at the Barbasol in July left him one behind the leader, so he’s been close on a Thursday on multiple occasions, and he can at least threaten the top of the leaderboard on day one again here.
He’s only played three times since that opening 65 at the Barbasol put him so close to the opening-round lead and while there’s not been much to shout about since, I think there is every chance he returns a good opening-round on a more suitable course this week.
Taylor is out at 7:46am off #1 tee.
Bermuda Championship First Round Leader - Others Considered
Aaron Rai (+6600)
I have mentioned in multiple shows and podcasts in the past that I don’t think Aaron Rai is built for success on the PGA Tour, and that’s not to disparage what he has done in his career to date, it is just being realistic about his playing profile.
A player that is clearly built for shorter and fiddly tracks where accuracy counts for something, Rai will have looked at this event as a chance to make some headway in the FedEx Cup standings. Like the two winners of this event, Brendon Todd and Brian Gay, Rai is more than capable of making enough birdies to win should the course suit, as highlighted by winning scores of -17, -17 and -18 in his career and his final-round 64 in Scotland last year where he beat Tommy Fleetwood.
So how is Rai in opening rounds generally? Since the major improvement he made in his game from 2016 onwards, Rai has led or co-led three times and been within one on a further two occasions at close of play on Thursday.
One of the players in the field that we know can cope with blustery conditions, and a seemingly good course fit for this event, Rai will be desperate to get his week off to a better start here, after missing his first three cuts in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
Rai was initially in the group of definitive selections but once the tee times came out and Hadwin, Taylor and Knox were in the first three groups out, I wanted to ensure I got someone from the afternoon wave in, in case there’s a big weather split. I do really like Rai still.
Aaron Rai is out at 8:41 off #10 tee.
Graeme McDowell (+8000)
McDowell is garnering some interest in the outright market this week, due to his undoubtedly stellar record on coastal courses. While like Russell Knox, I am not sure he can piece four rounds together here, I do think he can get off to a good start, especially if conditions get really tough and a 65/66 is in the mix for the lead.
The Northern Irishman has led or co-led after Round 1 an astonishing 14 times in his career, which may surprise given he’s known more for grinding out scores, than he is for going low. The last of those first-round leads came when winning the 2020 Saudi International, where he started the week with a brilliant 64. Only two of those opening-day leads have come on the PGA Tour though, and I do think if the weather looks a little bit less brutal ahead of the opening tee times on Thursday, the score will get away from him, so proceed with caution.
McDowell is out at 12:59pm off #1 tee.
Chase Seiffert (+10000)
Seiffert has led after round 1 once in his career, and that was at another Robert Trent Jones Sr course. He has opened with rounds of 65 and 67 here in two attempts and hit his irons well at the Fortinet despite a modest finish (T51). With two decent rounds under his belt at the season-opener, Seiffert now comes to a course he’s opened up well on both times and if he keeps hitting his irons well, he could lead early here. His best finishes on the PGA Tour include a T3 at the Honda Classic where the wind blows, the Travelers (T9) which correlates looking at leaderboards here and Puerto Rico (T15) which has similarities as well.
Chase Seiffert is out at 8:52am off #10 tee.