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Tom Jacobs is back to preview the First Round Leader marker for the 2022 U.S. Open. The Country Club at Brookline has not been seen for a long time, but is there something we can garner from previous U.S. Open's?

U.S. Open First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Rory McIlroy for a Fast Start

It is time for the third major of the golfing season, as we look to crown a new U.S. Open Champion. Jon Rahm will be looking to defend his title, after failing to contend in the previous two.

For us though, we are concerned with the First Round Leader market, so we are instead looking for those that will start fast, as opposed to necessarily winning outright - unless you have a candidate in mind that can go wire-to-wire.

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Leaders of the last 10 U.S. Open’s

2021 - Russell Henley (AM) and Louis Oosthuizen (PM) - 65

2020 - Justin Thomas (AM) - 65

2019 - Justin Rose (PM) - 65

2018 - Russell Henley, Dustin Johnson, Scott Piercy, Ian Poulter (AM/PM equal split) - 69

2017 - Rickie Fowler (AM) - 65

2016 - Andrew Landry (AM) - 66

2015 - Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson (Both AM) - 65

2014 - Martin Kaymer (PM) - 65

2013 - Phil Mickelson (AM) - 67

2012 - Michael Thompson (AM) - 66

Top-10 Leaders in First Round Scoring Average This Season

Cameron Smith 

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #1

First Round leads this season: 2 - Tournament of Champions, and co-lead at Memorial

Joaquin Niemann 

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #2

First Round Leads this season: 1 - Genesis Invitational

Russell Henley 

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #3

First Round Leads this season: 1 - Houston Open

Scottie Scheffler

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #5

First Round leads this season: 1 (Charles Schwab Challenge)

Patrick Cantlay 

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #6

First Round Leads this season: 1 (Co-lead American Express)

Aaron Wise

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #7

First Round Leads this season: 0

Cameron Young

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #7

First Round Leads this season: 2 (Heritage and Memorial)

Wyndham Clark

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #11

First Round Leads this season: 1 (Canadian Open)

Sungjae Im

Round 1 Scoring Average Rank #12

First Round Leads this season: 1 (Masters)

Davis Riley

Round 1 Scoring Average #14

First Round Leads this season: (co-lead Memorial)

What Score Will be Required to Lead After Round 1?

65 looks a good target based on recent round 1 scores in the U.S. Open. The first round leader at the U.S. Open is an average of 4.4 under-par over the past ten years, and that includes when four players were 1-under in 2018. 

With this being a par 70, the recent statistics suggest you need to shoot either a 66 or a 65, and I’m always tempted to go to the lower end, when looking for a target score. 65 is the score to hit!

First Round Leader Betting Favorites

Rory McIlroy +2000

Rory is a pick, so more on him below.

Justin Thomas +2500

Justin Thomas has already held 11 leads or co-leads in the opening round, and in total has been within two shots an incredible 35 times, so he likes the opening round.

One of his 11 leads came at the U.S. Open in 2020 when he led by one going into Friday, and he was also one back after day one of the 2020 Masters and two back after day one of the British Open in 2017, so he has got majors off to a fast start in the past as well.

A lack of faster starts is ironically what held him back, before the US PGA, and a fast start there, where he was two shots back on Thursday, saw him win his first major in five years.

Scottie Scheffler +2700

Scheffler recently broke the mould of his back of first round leads, and has now done it twice, but I still think he is the type to play better over the weekend, when it arguably means more.

Jon Rahm +2800

Rahm is generally a fast starter.

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.

He was two back after Round 1 of last year's US Open, which he won, and was also two behind going into Friday of the 2019 British Open. That is twice then that he has started majors relatively fast, and he will be looking for a fast one this time.

Not for me, but there is some value in betting him in this market, if you think he's in for a good week in general.

First Round Leader Selections

Rory McIlroy +2000

Regular readers of this column knew this was coming, but there is little to put me off backing Rory in this market again. 

He tees off at 7:40 am with Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele which looks a good pairing for the Northern Irishman, and we know how fast Rory tends to start, both historically and in recent starts. 

Rory has 32 career first-round leads, 2 of which have come this season. Sprinkle into that, that he has been within two of the first round lead 65 times in total, and it just goes to show that Thursday is his day. 

His two first round leads this season have come at Bay Hill and Southern Hills, two testing courses. McIlroy has led a major championship five times on the first day, including in this tournament when he went wire-to-wire in 2011. 

Clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder, I expect a start akin to that of his effort at Southern Hills. 

Rory McIlroy will tee off #10 at 7:40 am with Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele 

Xander Schauffele +3500

Talking of Xander Schauffele, the U.S. Open has been his jam over his career. 

Five starts. Five top-7’s. Xander loves this event and it doesn’t seem to matter which sort of test suits him best. His T3 finish which was the best of the bunch, did come on the shorter Pebble Beach, which might be worth something. 

Ridiculously, Schauffele has only ever held one first round lead as an individual (did also lead Zurich Classic), and that came as the 2019 Tour Championship, a course he loves.

While he has only converted one quick first round start in his career, Xander has been within two of the lead 22 times, since starting his pro career in 2016.

Five of those faster efforts came at major championships, and three of them came in this event, so he clearly loves starting this one fast. 

Five starts in the U.S. Open, three times he’s been within two of the lead, and he’s in good form. All adds up to an overdue first-round lead, right?

2017 U.S. Open - Xander opens with a 66, sits one back after day one.

2018 U.S. Open - Xander opens with a 72, sits three back after day one. 

2019 U.S. Open - Xander opens with a 66, sits one back after day one. 

2020 U.S. Open - Xander opens with a 68, sits three back after day one. 

2021 U.S Open - Xander opens with a 69, sits two back after day one. 

The man has never been further than three back after day one of the U.S. Open in his career, and I really feel like he’s got to get a first round lead over the line at some point. 

Let’s make it this week. 

Xander Schauffele tees off #10 tee with Hideki Matsuyma and Rory McIlroy 

Justin Rose +6000

It is not often a player would be disappointed with a final-round 60, but Justin Rose will be. 

Rose should have shot a 59 last week in Canada, but he he bogeyed two of the last three holes and the Par 5, 9th and is the only player since recording began in 1990, that shot a 60 and bogeyed the last hole. 

Anyway. On to this week. Rose has been showing a bit all season, and he always seems to be a threat to the first page of the leaderboard, at least early on, at these major championships. 

Rose led the 2021 Masters after day one, was within two of the first round lead at the 2020 Masters, and also sat one back after round 1 of the PGA Championship in the same year. At the 2019 U.S. Open, Rose led on day one, so in recent years he’s been very good at these majors on Thursday. 

His best two finishes in the U.S. Open have come at Merion where he won, and at Pebble Beach in 2019, so these shorter U.S. Open’s appear to suit his game, and he showed on what could be considered a similar test last week, what he can do. 

Rose has been within two of the first round lead 74 times in total in his career, and 25 of those have been converted into first round leads, including 5 at majors. 

Rose looks good value to start well again, especially if he can channel some of what he showed this past Sunday. 

There may be some distraction in his group with Bryson DeChambeau recently announcing his move to the LIV Tour, and Bryson just comes with his own pandemonium as it is. Hopefully that doesn’t impact Rose.

Justin Rose will tee off #10 tee at 1:47 pm with Gary Woodland and Bryson DeChambeau

Wyndham Clark +15000

Wyndham Clark loves a fast start, and he will be looking for one in a major championship this week.

This will follow up on his great performance at the Canadian Open last week, which for a decent time, he had a chance to win.

9 times in his career Clark has been within two of the first round lead, but the important number is that on four of those occasions, these have converted into a lead.

Once he has a chance on a Thursday he tends to stay aggressive, and with an early tee time again this week, he can go well.

Clark led the Canadian Open last Thursday, so people may not think lightning will strike twice, so quickly, but he was only one back at the Memorial on Thursday as well.

Wyndham Clark will tee off #10 tee at 7:07 am with Brandon Matthews and Will Besseling.

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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