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Tom Jacobs shares his First Round Leader Picks and Predictions for the Mexico Open, a new event on the PGA Tour!

Mexico Open First Round Leader Picks & Predictions: Back Aaron Wise To Start Fast

The First Round Leader article is back, and we have a new event to get our teeth into! This is a new course and new event, so there is no historical course data that we can pull for this one, but we are going to lean on some current form and historical First Round Leader data, to make some informed decisions this week!

Mexico Open First Round Leader Strategy

We don't have the usual historical data to go on here, so we have no realistic target for winning score, or AM/PM split, other than the fact it is expected to get windy in the afternoon, on both Thursday and Friday. With that in mind, you are going to want to be targeting the early wave, especially on paspalum greens!

Who Are The Fastest Starters In This Field?

A lot of the best players on Tour have opted for a week off this week, but there are still some of the fastest starters on Tour in the field, so let's check them a few of them below. I won't go with the standard 10, as that may be misleading based on who is missing this week, but here is a snapshot of the top-5.

Aaron Wise:

12th in Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season (68.92 avg)

Lowest Round 1 Score this season: 63 (Mayakoba)

Jon Rahm:

T15 in Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season (69.00 avg)

Lowest Round 1 Score this season: 66 (Multiple)

Chris Kirk:

T15 in Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season (69.00 avg)

Lowest Round 1 Score this season: 64 (Mayakoba)

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

T15 in Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season (69.00 avg)

Lowest Round 1 Score this season: 66 (RSM Classic)

Wyndham Clark

T22 in Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season (69.13 avg)

Lowest Round 1 Score this season: 65 (American Express)

What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

This is a tough one this week, as we have no real knowledge of the golf course, and little historical data to go by. Let's instead then average out the leading round 1 score across the PGA Tour this season. There have been 25 events this year, not including the Zurich Classic, and the lowest opening-day score came courtesy of Sebastian Munoz, who shot a 60 at the RSM Classic in November. The highest leading round 1 score was unsurprisingly at Augusta, as Sungjae Im opened his Masters week, with a 67 to lead the field. The average leading round 1 score so far in the 25 events on the PGA Tour we have counted, is 63.68. 64 seems like a good target based on that info, and while this seems like a course that could be quite gettable, the players have got to learn it, so I will lean 64 over 63.

Mexico Open: The Favorites

Jon Rahm +1600

Given Rahm's outright odds currently sit at +500, it might be wise to bet him in this market at 3x the price, given he is likely to start fast if he is going to have a good week and win here.

Rahm opened three-straight events with rounds of 66 to kick off 2022, and that was a large part in him ranking inside the top-15 for Round 1 Scoring Average so far. Things have tailed off since then, opening with rounds of 67-69-72-69-74, but I fully expect him to start finding a putting stroke soon, which will lead to faster starts.

Jon Rahm has led or co-led 8 times in his career, going back to 2016, and the most recent of those came at the Tour Championship last September. 32 times in total Rahm has been either in the lead or within two of the opening day lead, including twice this season, as he sat one back after day 1 of the Tournament of Champions, and 2 back after day 1 of the Phoenix Open.

Rahm twice finished 3rd at the WGC Mexico Championship, once leading after day 1 with a 67, and shooting a 61 on the Saturday three years ago, so he has previous in this area.

+1600 looks generous given his outright odds.

Abraham Ancer +3500

The field is not deep here, and Abraham Ancer is unsurprisingly high up in all the markets. The +3500 you can get on him is a standout price on the Oddschecker Grid, so if you do want to bet him, make sure you are checking the odds first!

Abraham Ancer has been within two of the first round lead 19 times in total in his career, and on 4 of those occasions he has co-led going into Friday.

His best opening round in recent times, came at the PLAYERS Championship, where he opened with a 68 to sit two back going into the second round.

Ancer opened with a 65 at the Mayakoba in 2018 to sit one back and opened with a 67 at the El Bosque Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour, back in 2017, so he has previous of starting fast in his home country.

Gary Woodland +3500

Gary Woodland has shown flashes of his best stuff this season, and his best Round 1 effort this season, came at Torrey Pines, where he opened with a 66 to sit two back.

Woodland is not necessarily known as being a fast starter but he has opened with rounds of 68 or better five times this season, including in his first three-straight events.

One of those was a 67 at the Mayakoba, which wasn't enough to keep pace with the 61 opening-day lead, but was good nonetheless. He somehow missed the cut that week though, as he did when opening with a 67 at the Sanderson Farms Championship and a 68 in Phoenix!

In his career, he has been within two of the lead 29 times, dating back to 2010 and he's led or co-led 5 times. The most recent of those came at the 2019 Zozo Championship, where he opened with a 64.

Tony Finau +4000

Tony Finau has been within two of the opening-day lead 26 times in his career, dating back to 2013 and he has led or co-led on 6 of those occasions. Of those first-round leads, one came in Mexico back in 2014 at the then-named OHL Classic, as he opened with a 65 to co-lead.

You have to go back to last year's WGC Workday Championship (Feb 2021) for the last time Finau was within two of the first-round lead, and he opened that week with a 68. The time before that was again in Mexico, as he opened the Maykoba with a round of 67 to sit two back in 2020.

Not a fast starter then of late, Finau makes little appeal,. even at a nice number. He's currently 106th on Tour this season, in Round 1 Scoring Average.

Kevin Na +4200

Kevin Na has been better than Finau on the opening day this season, but aside from his opening 61 at the Sony Open where he led by one going into Friday, and his 67 at the Tournament of Champions the week before, which saw him sit two back, he's started the week pretty slow this season.

His last four opening rounds read 72-81-71-70, so he will really need to challenge his earlier season form to cash in this market.

35 times in his career, Kevin Na has been within two of the first round lead, and on 7 of those occasions he has led or co-led. So throughout the years, he has had previous, but that isn't too many times, considering that data goes back to his China Open start in 2002!

Mexico Open: First Round Leader Selections

Aaron Wise +5000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Aaron Wise is the fastest starter among those in this field, so far this season and his best effort came when firing a Thursday 63 at the Mayakoba. While the two courses are unlikely to play similar, they do at least share the same grass type on the greens, which seems a big factor for Wise.

Given how fast he's been starting this year, and his most recent start the RBC Heritage, where he opened with three 68's, I think Wise is a good pick in this market and the outright market this week as well.

In 13 starts this year, Wise has opened with a round of 68 or better 6 times, including his first four events straight. That does mean he's only done it twice since, but he's been playing in some tougher scoring events of late, and his under-par opening rounds in his last four events are to be respected.

Wise has been within two of the first round lead 20 times in his career, dating back to 2016 and on 3 of those occasions led or co-led. Given he has been in the doldrums for a couple of years in that span, that is pretty impressive, and three times last year alone he was within two of the lead going into Friday. One of those came at the Mayakoba, as referenced earlier and he's also opened with rounds of 67 and 65 on that course in the past, to sit two back again as well.

He loves playing in Mexico, and I am comfortable that he can cope with the bigger course, so I like his chances at solid odds.

Aaron Wise is teeing off at 8:40 am off #10 tee with J.T. Poston and Nate Lashley.

Mark Hubbard +7000

Mark Hubbard has held six first-round leads in his career, two of which have come this year and one last year at the Phoenix Open. The two this year came on the Korn Ferry Tour, but one was last month at the Louisiana Open and the other was last week at the Club Car Championship, so we know he's in form of late, even if at a lower level.

Widen the parameters to within two of the first-round lead and we see Hubbard has been within striking distance 24 times in total after day one, including at the Barbasol Championship last July and Byron Nelson last May, adding to that Phoenix Open lead in 2021, so his recent record is decent.

Hubbard has never had a big finish at the Maykoba, but he did open with a 64 there in 2019 to sit 4th on day one, and also has rounds of 66 and 67 there under his belt, so he can get it rolling on this sort of surface.

A man with recent experience of going low on Thursday, he who calls himself "HomelessHubbs" might be able to afford his own place soon, and a fast start here would go a long way to achieving that.

Mark Hubbard is in the first afternoon group teeing off #1 tee at 12:45pm with Greg Chalmers and Scott Brown.

Danny Lee +10000

We know Danny Lee loves a fast start as he's featured and gone close for us in this column already this season.

In particular, Lee has a great record at the Mayakoba, where he has three top-7 finishes and two more top-26's. In those starts at the Mayakoba he has opened with rounds of 66 (7th), 70 (56th), 65 (4th), 62 (1st) and 68 (36th) so he's on occasion started very well on that golf course. He's also shot multiple rounds of 66 or better there throughout the week, including a closing-64 there earlier this season.

Lee is the epitome of volatile, which is why he sits outside the top-100 in Round 1 Scoring Average this season, but when he spikes it is very good. Already this season, he has opened with a 67 in Bermuda, a 68 in Mexico, a 65 at the Amex, and a 65 at the Valspar as well.

Add to those fast starts his third round 65's at both the Bermuda Championship and Genesis Invitational, and you have got the perfect candidate for this market.

Lee has been within two of the opening-day lead a whopping 39 times (!!) since 2009 and while he's only converted 6 of those into first round leads, you at least know he is capable of giving you a run. The most recent of these came with that 65 at the Valspar where he was one back after day one, and his 67 earlier in the season at the Bermuda also left him just two behind going into Friday.

I like Lee on this type of grass and in this region and he has a favorable tee time to boot. Book it.

Danny Lee is in the third group out off #10 tee at 8:07 am with Austin Cook and Hayden Buckley.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat +12500

Aphibarnrat makes it three of my outright selections making it onto this card as well, so we are either going to be in for a great week, or a miserable one, very much depending on how these few start!

Dating back to 2009, Aphibarnrat has been within two of the opening-day lead 45 times, albeit a lot of the time in Asia. Just recently though, the Thailand international has been two back after day one, at both the Puerto Rico Open and the Corales, and while this is a slightly stronger field, it feels like that sort of event.

Those both came last month, so he's got a recent memory of starting fast on the PGA Tour, and he also opened with a 65 at the Thailand Masters in December, which he won. Add in his opening-day 67 at the Bermuda Championship, and three times this season Aphibarnrat has opened his account in quick fashion on the PGA Tour, and this looks a good stop for him to do the same again.

What really caught my eye though, especially in the outright market was his two top-5 finishes at the WGC Mexico Championship. When 5th there in 2018, he opened with a 66 to sit two back and closed with a 65 to end the week as well. When 3rd he was more consistent throughout the week, but was never outside the top-8, hitting three rounds of 68.

I like Aphibarnrat as a mercurial talent that can go deep on "Any Given Thursday" and his 10 leads or co-leads in his career show that. None yet have come on the PGA Tour, but he's likely got the itch to add another Ferrari to the garage soon, and a quick start here could help. He co-led the DP World Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship last September and that is recent enough to give me confidence!

Kiradech Aphibarnrat is in the first group out on #1 tee at 7:45 am with Davis Riley and Lee Hodges.

Brice Garnett +13000

This is a location play more than anything else, as we know Brice Garnett does his best stuff on the PGA Tour in Mexico!

Garnett has four top-11 finishes at the Mayakoba, has played well in Chile and Colombia on the Korn Ferry Tour and his only PGA Tour win came at the Corales, on paspalum grass as well, so it is clear where he feels most at home.

He's recently opened with rounds of 67 at both the PLAYERS Championship and the Valspar Championship, with the former leaving him within one back of the opening-day lead. That was the 19th time in his career he has been within two of the first round lead, and the others have notably come in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Puntacana and Puerto Rico, so I think it is fair to assume Garnett likes this part of the world, and this field strength.

He's not putting four rounds together this season, although he did finish T7 at the Puerto Rico Open and T27 at the Valspar, but for one round, in Mexico, I will give him a shot at leading, at big odds.

Brice Garnett is in the second group out on #10 tee at 7:56 am with Arjuan Atwal and Ryan Blaum.

Others Considered

Nate Lashley +10000

Article Author


Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!


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