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This week, it is time for the Travelers Championship, and Tom Jacobs dives into the First Round Leader market, looking for good value once again. An old favorite remains among the picks, but there are big outsiders also!

Travelers Championship First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back McIlroy and Others For a Fast Start

The Travelers Championship has been a staple on the PGA Tour for some time now, and while it has had several different sponsors in its time, it has been played since 1952, in the Greater Hatford area.

This event has been hosted by its current venue, TPC River Highlands since 1984, and with that, we have a great depth of course form to go by.

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Travelers Championship First Round Leader Strategy

The weather for the most part looks the same for both waves, although this can obviously change at any time, so keep an eye on weather reports closer to the opening tee time Thursday.

To get an idea of what wave tends to produce the first round leader, let us look at the 10 most recent first round leaders, at the Travelers Championship.

  • 2021 - Kramer Hickock (AM), Satoshi Kodaira (PM) - 63
  • 2020 - Mackenzie Hughes (AM) - 60
  • 2019 - Abraham Ancer, Bronson Burgoon, K.H. Lee, Mackenzie Hughes, Ryan Armour, Zack Sucher - 64 - 2 in the AM, 4 in the PM.
  • 2018 - Jordan Spieth (PM), Zach Johnson (AM) - 63
  • 2017 - Jordan Spieth (PM) - 63
  • 2016 - Jerry Kelly (AM), Vaughn Taylor (PM) - 64
  • 2015 - Bubba Watson (PM) - 62
  • 2014 - Brendan Steele (AM) - 62
  • 2013 - Charley Hoffman (PM) - 61
  • 2012 - David Mathis (PM) - 64

As we can see, it is quite an eclectic mix of golfers that have led here after Round 1, and it suggests anyone in good form on the day could post a first-round lead here, as opposed to it suiting a certain player.

Jordan Spieth and Mackenzie Hughes have both led here after day one on two occasions, and may be worth looking at when making your selections.

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Who in this field started fastest on Tour Last Season?

Here are the 10 fastest starters in the field based on the current Round 1 Scoring Average in the 2021/22 PGA Tour season.

  • Joaquin Niemann - (2nd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.06) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Genesis Invitational)
  • Rory McIlroy - (4th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.64) - Low Opening Round - 65 (Arnold Palmer and PGA Championship)
  • Scottie Scheffler - (5th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.65) - Low Opening Round - 63 (RSM Classic)
  • Aaron Wise - (6th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.67) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Mayakoba)
  • Wyndham Clark - (8th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.81) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Canadian Open)
  • Patrick Cantlay - (10th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.91) - Low Opening Round - 62 (American Express)
  • Joel Dahmen - (11th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.00) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Wells Fargo Championship)
  • Jhonattan Vegas - (13th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.06) - Low Opening Round - 64 (RSM and Valspar)
  • Keith Mitchell - (14th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.11) - Low Opening Round - 62 (CJ Cup)
  • Mito Pereira - (17th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.19) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Byron Nelson)

What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

The average leading first round score here over the past 10 renewals is 62.6, and while I would normally round up in this situation, a score of 64 is the highest any leader has shot here in the past 10 years, and it has only been good enough three times. We have seen a 60, a 61, two 62's and three more 63's, so 63 seems like the target, and even that could be eclipsed.

The Favorites in This Week's First Round Leader Market

Rory McIlroy +2700

Guess what? Rory again.

Justin Thomas +2800

Justin Thomas has played here seven times, missed three cuts, and only finished better than 30th once.

The one time he did finish better than 30th though was in 2016, and he shot a final-round 62 to finish 3rd. He spent all week in and around the top-25 and then finally hit a home run of a round on the final day.

JT was three back of the first-round last week, and for a man that has held 11 first-round leads/co-leads in his career and been within two shots a total of 35 times, like Rory he is hard to rule out.

Rory is the better first round player at this stage and the same price, so he should be played instead.

Scottie Scheffler +2800

I am still sticking to my guns about Scheffler in round 1, despite him being more than capable of shooting a low one at any time.

In two starts here, Scheffler has missed a cut and finished 47th, but last time he shot a second round 65, to leave him 11th at he halfway stage, so overall I expect a strong performance.

There may just be some fatigue on day one, after contending on Sunday.

Patrick Cantlay +3000

Patrick Cantlay shot a 60 here as an amateur back in the day, in round 2, so he's clearly capable of a low round here.

Cantlay has multiple rounds of 66 or better here in recent years, and consistently finishes inside the top-15, so it is fair to say he can play well here, and shoot a low one on day one.

22 times in his career, Cantlay has been within two shots of the first round lead, and he's held four solo leads on day one.

With his fine record here, and general fast-starting capabilities he joins Rory as the most intriguing favorites.

First Round Leader Selections

Rory McIlroy +2700

What more can I say about Rory McIlroy in this market?

He has held 32 first-round leads in his career. Last week he increased his total from 65 to 66 occasions on which he has been within two of the first round lead, and he's also played well here in the past.

A +1000 favorite in the outright market looking this long in the First Round Leader market reminds me of Jon Rahm at the Mexico Open.. We know what happened there.

Rory McIlroy has played the Travelers three times, and opened with rounds of 67 (19th on day one), 64 (3rd on day one) and 63 (2nd on day one).

This is great value on the best first round player in the field historically.

Rory McIlroy will tee off #10 tee at 7:45 am with Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson

Davis Riley +5500

Davis Riley is still in the infancy of his career, especially on the PGA Tour, and this season he has sat one back of the opening-day lead of both the Valspar Championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge, before co-leading on day one of the Memorial.

He's in great form, he has a knack of starting fast and with two opening-day leads on the Korn Ferry Tour across 2020 and 2021 to lean on, he looks in good shape to go well again.

Riley is in the top-10 in this field in current form, and looks primed to win soon, so lets see if it comes this week, courtesy of a fast start.

Davis Riley will tee off #10 tee at 6:55 am with Max McGreevy and Sahith Theegala

Joel Dahmen +8000

22 times in his career, Joel Dahmen has been within two of the opening-day lead, and 9 of those have been leads or co-leads.

The most recent lead came at the 2021 Barracuda, but in 3 of his last 5 events, he has been within two of the first-round lead, opening with a 64 to sit one back at the Wells Fargo, 69 to sit two back at the Memorial and 67 to sit one back of the lead last week at the U.S. Open.

In four starts at this course, Dahmen has made three cuts, and last year he ended the week with a 65 to finish 20th, so the signs are there for a good week.

Those that play well at the U.S. Open tend to do well here the following week, and I think Dahmen can start fast based on his form at Brookline, and this season in general.

Joel Dahmen will tee off #1 tee at 12:50 pm with Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns

Mackenzie Hughes +9000

Mackenzie Hughes has played here five times, and made the cut every time, and on top of that he has held two first round leads here.

He shot a 60 to lead outright in 2020 and in 2019 he shot a 64 to co-lead, so starting this event fast on Thursday's is clearly something he is more than capable of.

In four of his last six events, he has started the week with rounds of 68 or better and that is another positive sign for the Canadian.

Hughes has held five leads or co-leads on a Thursday, including at the Memorial this year, and as previously stated, twice at this course. Extend that record to when he has been within two shots of the lead, and there is now 19 occasions where he has started in a quick manner.

He is inside the top-20 for course form here, and is playing solidly, if unspectacularly right now, but at 90-1 to lead on Thursday, on a course he's done it on twice? I am in.

Mackenzie Hughes will tee off #10 tee at 1:30 pm with Brandon Hagy and Kevin Streelman

Kyoung-hoon Lee +9000

Lee has played here three times, and led after round 1 in 2019 opening with a 64, and in 2021 he shot the same score in round 2 as well.

34 times in his career, Lee has sat within two of the first-round lead, including three times this year, and two times in 2021.

He co-led the Memorial after the opening day and also led the Phoenix Open by one stroke earlier this year, so he's been starting events really quickly this year.

Lee ranks T27 in Round 1 Scoring Average this season, and that is a huge plus for someone in this price range!

Kyoung-hoon Lee will tee off #10 tee at 12:40 pm with Patton Kizzire and Sepp Straka.

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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