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Tom Jacobs is back with another First Round Leader article, as he breaks down the Memorial Tournament, past and present, to establish who can start fast this week!

Memorial Tournament First Round Leader Picks & Predictions: Back These Players For A Fast Start

Sam Burns won again last week at Colonial, but we now turn our focus to a regular favorite on the PGA Tour, the Memorial Tournament. Memorial is held at 'Jack's Place', which is the Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio.

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Memorial Tournament First Round Leader Strategy

Over the past 10 renewals of the Memorial Tournament it is four renewals a piece where a solo leader has come from an AM or PM wave, and two years where at least one player from each wave led. There appears to be little bias in terms of tee times then, unless weather dictates a draw bias.

Recent First Round Leaders of The Memorial Tournament

Here are the last ten first round leaders at the Memorial.

  • 2021 – Collin Morikawa (8:44 am) – AM -6/66
  • 2020 – Tony Finau (12:55 pm) – PM -6/66
  • 2019 – Ryan Moore (7:31 am) – AM -7/65
  • 2018 – Abraham Ancer, Hideki Matsuyama, Joaquin Niemann – AM/PM -7/65
  • 2017 – David Lingmerth, Jason Dufner – AM/PM -7/65
  • 2016 – Dustin Johnson (8:37 am) – AM -8/64
  • 2015 – Bo Van Pelt, Hideki Matsuyama – Both PM -8/64
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy (1:16 pm) – PM -9/63
  • 2013 – Charl Schwartzel (8:15 am) – AM -7/65
  • 2012 – Scott Stallings (1:27 pm) – PM -6/66

As stated above, over a 10-year period, there is little to separate the AM/PM wave, but since 2016, three solo leaders have come from the AM wave, twice it has been split with at least one from each, and only once has a solo leader come from the PM wave. With that in mind, I will arguably JUST favor the AM slot, but will spread my selections across both.

What Score Is Required to Lead After Round 1?

There have been some differing scores here leading after day one, ranging from McIlroy's nine-under 63 in 2014, to 66, which we saw in 2012, 2020 and 2021. Given that has been the leading score over the past two years, and there has been a renovation among those renewals, the 66 might now be the ceiling score on day one. Let's target 65, as someone always tends to break the mould on TOUR these days. That would also run in line with the average leading score of 64.9 here, over the past ten renewals.

Charles Schwab Challenge Odds: The First Round Leader Favorites

Jon Rahm +2200

Due to his short outright odds, Rahm often looks value in this market, and this event feels no different.

Rahm has led or co-led 9 times in his career after round 1, dating back to 2016 and obviously the most recent came in Mexico.

In total he has been within two of the first-round lead 33 times, which is a monstrous amount for someone still relatively young in golfing terms.

The PGA Championship didn't go how he would have hoped, much like the majority of 2022, but the Spaniard now returns to a course where he has won already, and should have won at again last year, were it not for an enforced withdrawal when six strokes ahead, due to COVID.

In each of the past two starts in this event, he has opened with a 69, and he shot a closing 64 at the other event held at this course in 2019, the Workday Charity Open. His rounds of 65 and 64 in rounds 2 and 3 were a prime example of his dominance this time 12 months ago, and while he hasn't shot out in front yet in this event, there is no reason to think he can't.

This could go one of two ways for Rahm, as his determination for vengeance this week will either lead him to a great result or potentially a bad one, but I would suggest a reasonably fast start is in order for the Spaniard.

One to consider.

Rory McIlroy +2500

In a shocking turn of events, McIlroy is one of my selections, so read on about him below.

Patrick Cantlay +3000

24 times in his career, Patrick Cantlay has started his week off, being within two of the first round lead, with 5 being leads or co-leads.

In six starts on this golf course Cantlay has two wins, a 4th, a 7th and never finished worse than 35th, and while his win last year may be fortunate, its some record.

In four of those starts, he has opened with a round of 70 or better and been inside the top-11 on day one, but he has yet to beat 68 on the opening day.

He will need to go two or three better this time, and his form doesn't seem to be in a place where you could be confident of that happening, even if the course form suggests it will.

Cantlay isn't the fastest starter on the planet, but he has already opened with a 62 to co-lead the Amex after day one this year, and a 67 to be within two after day one in Phoenix, so if you believe this is going to be another good showing for him at Memorial, back him in this market as well.

Xander Schauffele +3000

21 times in his career, Xander Schauffele has started fast enough to be within two on the opening day of a tournament.

Just once though, has he led the field going into Friday, and that was at the Tour Championship, where he continually shows a liking for East Lake.

Schauffele did open with a 68 here last year to sit within two of the opening-day lead, set by Collin Morikawa, but like the outright market he fails to make appeal to me week-to-week.

Memorial First Round Leader Picks, Bets, Predictions

Rory McIlroy +2500 (Bet365)

This will be my third time backing McIlroy in this market this season, but I do not do it lightly.

Every time I do it, I truly think he can start fast and he proved that when leading at Bay Hill, and when he opened well at the Wells Fargo with a 67 on the next occasion. This is another good spot for him and I am happy to roll the dice again.

Rory McIlroy has led this tournament after Round 1 twice already in 2011 and 2014, opening with rounds of 66 and 63 respectively, and he appears to be in the mood to do that all over again.

In more recent years at this course, Rory has shot opening rounds of 70 and 72 here, but when shooting a 70 in the opening round in 2020, he was inside the top-10 that day.

McIlroy has been within two of the first round lead 65 times since 2008, converting almost half of those (32) into leads or co-leads, including twice here, and everything points to a quick start again.

He will be disappointed not to have followed up his first round lead at the PGA Championship, and that was also the case when cashing for us at Bay Hill in this market, but he appears capable of putting foot down in these big events on day one, and that is all that matters to us.

Rory McIlroy will tee off #1 tee at 1:00 pm with Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Reed

Joaquin Niemann +5000 (PointsBet)

Joaquin Niemann leads the Tour in Round 1 Scoring Average this season, and led this event after rounds 1 and 2 on debut in 2018, as he opened with rounds of 65 and 68.

His irons have deserted him in recent weeks, which could be a concern, but his form has remained incredibly solid in spite of that. Given the fact he has ranked 3rd and 9th in Stroked Gained Off-the-Tee in his past two starts, he will be in the position to shoot low should he find something with his irons on the range this week.

Already, at the age of 23, Niemann has sat within two of the opening-day lead 14 times in his career, and 5 of those have come this season. He obviously led after round 1 at Riviera where he went wire-to-wire, but he was also within one of the lead at both the ZOZO Championship and the Players Championship, and within two at the Heritage and the Masters.

That means in 50% of his last 8 starts, he has been within two of the first round lead, and with leading form here back on debut in 2018 and a solid round on the Saturday in 2019 (68), it seems very plausible that the Chilean can start fast again.

He has a comfortable pairing and an early tee time, and considering Cameron Smith ranks 2nd behind him in the Round 1 Scoring Average, they could spur each other on, in Thursday's round.

Joaquin Niemann will tee off #10 tee at 7:48 am with Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith.

Chris Kirk +7000 (DraftKings)

Chris Kirk shot a 67 here last year to sit 2nd behind Morikawa going into Friday, and that is the second time he has started fast, as he sat 2nd again here after round 1, back in 2014. He finished that week in 4th place, having added a final round 68 there in tough scoring conditions, and with two fast starts under his belt, I think he can poke his way out in front this time.

Kirk co-led with Scottie Scheffler after day one of the Charles Schwab last week, and was in 7th place when opening with a 68 to sit three back of Rory McIlroy, on Thursday of the PGA Championship.

He might have used up his best stuff then in terms of Thursday rounds, but he has been known as a reasonably fast starter, having been within two of the opening-day lead 32 times in his career.

You do not have to go back far for another strong opening round, as he opened with a 65 to sit one back at the Honda Classic in March, and he looks a solid option in the mid-range this week.

In 2014 he was within two of the lead six times, in 2017 four times and 2018 five times, so he can do it multiple times in a season, as evidenced throughout his career.

Of the 32 times he's been within two, he's converted a quarter of them into leads or co-leads on the opening day, and he could be set for another low one here.

Chris Kirk will tee off #10 tee at 1:36pm with Alex Noren and Brendan Steele

Scott Stallings +11000 (DraftKings)

Scott Stallings has flashed regularly on leaderboards this season, and it has been similar throughout his career at Muirfield Village.

In his first three starts at this event, Stallings finished 20th, 25th and 4th.

He opened with a round of 68 to sit 5th on debut in 2011, which was two back of Rory McIlroy's lead, and the following year he came out the blocks the fastest, shooting 66 in the PM wave, in 2012. A year later he opened with a 70 to sit 13th, and closed with a 67 to finish 4th, his best finish on this course to date.

Stallings' most recent start in this event came in 2019, when he opened with a 69 to sit 12th, and now, the guy with the earliest tee time this week looks a good shout to start fast.

25 times in his career, Stallings has been within two of the opening-day lead, not including the two times when partnered up at the Zurich Classic, and considering 9 of these occurrences have come since the start of 2019, and 4 of them have come this season, he looks like a player to rely on, on Thursday.

Stallings finished within one of the first-round lead at the Valspar Championship and Charles Schwab Challenge this season, and within two at the Phoenix Open and the Fortinet, so starting fast has been his thing of late. He was also three back at the RSM Classic, when opening with a 63, such was Sebastian Munoz's brilliance there.

Stallings ranked 2nd in SG Approach last week and 12th at the Byron Nelson, so he is obviously hitting the ball nicely and can get off to a fast start again here, if the putter cooperates.

Scott Stallings will tee off #10 tee at 7:00 am with Cameron Young and Camilo Villegas

Lucas Glover +13000 (DraftKings)

The Glove!

Lucas Glover has never finished better than his 8th place finish on debut back in 2005, and in his last 14 starts he's never been better than 33rd, but what he has done, is started fast on this golf course on multiple occasions.

Glover opened with a 67 here on debut in 2005, to sit two back of the opening-day lead, and the same score left him in the same position in both 2017 and 2018. A 68 in 2015 left him three back of the opening-day lead, as did a 69 in 2020, so all of a sudden we see a pattern of Glover starting this event fast.

He's been that sort for much of his career, sitting within two of the lead 41 times in his career, of which 9 of those were first round leads.

He tees off early this week, and is coming in with strong iron play, having ranked 3rd in the field at the PGA Championship in SG Approach, and 4th last week at Colonial, despite finishing 23rd and 40th respectively.

His lack of ability to put four rounds together here put me off in the outright market, but his day one form screams a potential first round lead, and at +13000 I think he presents good value given his tee time.

Lucas Glover will tee off #1 tee at 7:48 am with Luke List and Martin Laird

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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