British Open First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Spieth For a Fast Start
British Open First Round Leader Picks and Predictions: Back Spieth For a Fast Start
The British Open, or The Open Championship as it is known across the pond, is an event that is steeped in history, especially those that take place at St. Andrews, as this 150th renewal does.
We have seen Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus both crowned champion twice at St. Andrews, and in recent years it has been Louis Oosthuizen (2010) and Zach Johnson (2015) who have lifted the Claret Jug at this famed layout. Nick Faldo, John Daly, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead are all names that leap to your mind when thinking of the British Open at St. Andrews, but we are interested on who leads after day one this week!
There have been seven wire-to-wire champions in Open Championship history, and two have come here, in Bobby Jones (1927) and Tiger Woods (2005) but these were two of the dominant players of their respective era's.
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British Open First Round Leader Strategy
Once again, at time of writing (11:50 am ET) there is very little in the weather forecast to suggest a huge wave split, but that was the case at the time last week, and by Wednesday the forecast flipped.
With that in mind this week, I will consciously spread my bets across the AM and PM waves, so can hedge on any weather changes.
Let us also look back at the last ten First Round Leader at the British Open, to understand if there is a trend, even with the venue changes. We will also add in the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, so that we have two years of data to by, specific to this course.
Bold denotes the St. Andrews Open Championship's shown below.
All times shown below are local.
- 2021 - Louis Oosthuizen - 64 (-6) - 9:58 AM Tee Time
- 2019 - J.B. Holmes - 66 (-5) - 14:26 PM Tee Time
- 2018 - Kevin Kisner - 66 (-5) - 12:53 PM Tee Time
- 2017 - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar - 65 (-5) - Two AM, One PM Tee Time
- 2016 - Phil Mickelson - 63 (-8) - 13:26 PM Tee Time
- 2015 - Dustin Johnson - 65 (-7) - 9:33 AM Tee Time
- 2014 - Rory McIlroy - 66 (-6) - 9:26 AM Tee Time
- 2013 - Zach Johnson - 66 (-5) - 9:06 AM Tee Time
- 2012 - Adam Scott - 64 (-6) - 8:42 AM Tee Time
- 2011 - Thomas Bjorn and Tom Lewis - 65 (-5) - Bjorn 7:25 AM Tee Time, Lewis 14:32 PM Tee Time
- 2010 - Rory McIlroy - 63 (-9) - 8:20 AM Tee Time
As you can see, in as many as 8 of the 11 renewals either the leader or one of the co-leaders has teed off in the morning wave, including both times at St. Andrews.
The wind appears to drop slightly at around 4 pm local time, and the gusts drop, so afternoon players may have somewhat of a benefit, but we are talking a couple of mph at the most.
With that in mind, it looks like the morning wave could be targeted, unless the weather changes. As stated before, I am going to be opting for a split, based on the possibility of a drastic weather change, and there ultimately not being much in it throughout the day.
Who in This Field Has Started Fastest on Tour This 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. The DP World Tour does not carry these Round 1 Scoring stats, so some more manual research is required in that department. Any of my DP World Tour selections in this market will have been researched to see if they start fast generally, but I have excluded them from this list for organisation purposes.
- Rory McIlroy - (1st overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.08) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Travelers)
- Matt Kuchar - (2nd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.29) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Sony Open)
- Joaquin Niemann - (3rd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.35) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Genesis Invitational)
- Russell Henley - (4th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.44) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Sony Open)
- Patrick Cantlay - (5th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.62) - Low Opening Round - 62 (American Express)
- Cameron Smith - (6th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.64) - Low Opening Round - 64 (RSM Classic)
- Aaron Wise - (7th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.74) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Mayakoba)
- Wyndham Clark- (8th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.78) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Canadian Open)
- Scottie Scheffler - (9th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.84) - Low Opening Round - 63 (RSM Classic)
- Jon Rahm - (11th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.07) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Mexico Open)
What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?
Getting an average leading score in this event over the past ten years would prove difficult given the change in par. Generally speaking the average is around six-under-par, but given we have had a nine-under 63 lead here in 2010, and 7-under 65 lead here in 2015, I would say an 8-under 64 looks a good target.
The Favorites in This Week's First Round Leader Market
Here are the odds for the top-10 in the British Open First Round Leader Market. This will give you the best price and their implied chance on each of the top-10 in the market.
First Round Leader Selections
With three picks at +15000, I will be adding an extra selection this week, so six in total, which is not something I will do often. For the last major though, and with three longshots on the card, I am ok with it this time around!
35 times in his career, Jordan Spieth has been within two of the first round lead, including three times in this event.
He was within two of the first-round lead here in 2015, co-led the 2017 Open Championship which he won wire-to-wire and just last year he was within one of the 2021 Open Championship.
Given how close he went to winning here in 2015, I think it is a good time to back Spieth in this market again.
14 times in his career he led or co-led after day one, two of which came in 2021. Three times he led the Masters on day one, and once he led here, and he's clearly a player to repeat performances on courses he enjoys.
Jordan Spieth will tee off at 3:10 pm with Harold Varner III and Jon Rahm
Tony Finau has been 2nd, 3rd and 4th after day one of Open Championship's so far in his career, and on two of those occasions (2018 and 2019), he was within two of the lead, so he's due an opening-day lead in this one.
Finau has never finished outside the top-27 at an Open Championship in five starts, and for the most part that has been powered by a fast start, and I think St. Andrews is a perfect venue for him to go low.
This year it hasn't been the case, but Finau is generally a fast starter, having sat within two of the day one lead 24 times in his career. He has converted six of those into first round leads, most of which came in very strong fields.
He is due a major lead, he is due an Open Championship lead, and I think that all comes to a head here at St. Andrews.
In what has been a down year for Finau, he still ranks 9th in Tee-to-Green, 15th in Approach and 19th Off-the-Tee for the season. If he can get the short game working here, on a golf course that requires creativity on and around the greens, which he loves, a low one could be incoming.
Despite his short game woes, Finau has still finished 2nd in Mexico, 2nd in the Canadian Open, 4th at the Charles Schwab and 13th at the Travelers last time out, all since the start of May, so his form is coming around.
Tony Finau will tee off at 10:20 am with Hideki Matsuyama and Will Zalatoris
Tyrrell Hatton is the king of the Dunhill Links, winning twice, finishing runner-up twice and 15th once in his previous five starts. It wasn't always the case that he was good in that event though, as he missed the cut on all his three starts before that win, which came in 2016.
I am inclined then to ignore his missed cut in this event at St. Andrews in 2015 then, where he actually sat inside the top-25 after the opening day anyway. He has clearly improved on the Old Course, and something very clearly clicked from 2016 and beyond.
Hatton should have finished higher last week, after a strong start, but he ranked 13th in Approach and 27th Tee-to-Green last week, with the driver just letting him down a few times.
It was a solid enough warmup for Hatton, finishing inside the top-25, and if he is ever going to win an Open Championship, St. Andrews would surely be high up on his list of places where it could happen.
He has 5th and 6th place finishes in this event already, and he sat in 3rd on day one of the 2019 renewal in Ireland.
He's led the Dunhill Links after round one once, and been one back on another occasion. He's been within two twice at the Scottish Open, and he's also co-led the British Masters and BMW PGA Championship after round one as well. So when he gets back to the British Isles, it is a green light for Hatton, who can succeed this week.
Tyrrell Hatton will tee off at 1:26 pm with Joaquin Niemann and Scottie Scheffler
Wyndham Clark is 8th on the PGA Tour in First Round Scoring Average, averaging a score of 68.78 on day one.
In his career he has been within two of the first round lead 8 times, and 50% of the time, he has converted those into leads or co-leads.
The most recent of those came, when he led after round 1 of the Canadian Open in June, a week after sitting one back after the first day of the Memorial Tournament.
He is equally adept at playing well in low and high scoring events, and last week he shot a final round 67 at the Scottish Open, which was one of the best rounds of the day, and it vaulted him into the top-16!
Clark ranked 4th for Tee-to-Green, 8th for Off-the-Tee and 12th for Approach in the Scottish Open, so I love his numbers coming into the week, and with four top-37 finishes in his last five starts, including a 7th and a 16th, he's found form at the right time.
He's only made one major cut so far in his career, and this is his first Open Championship, but I think the wide fairways will suit his strong off-the-tee game, and he can get hot on and around the greens for a round too.
Wyndham Clark will tee off at 12:31 pm with Shaun Norris and Talor Gooch
Dean Burmester has held 6 first round leads in his career, and been within two of the lead an astonishing 30 times in total.
These have of course come in lower grade, but in his Open Championship debut last year, he shot a second round 67 and after an initial struggle he has really got to grips with the test at the Dunhill Links, where he -19 for his last four rounds, including final rounds of 65 and 67 on the Old Course.
Burmester ranked 3rd Off-the-Tee last week at the Scottish Open, and led the field in the same category at the BMW International Open recently as well. This area of his game can charge a low round on day one here, especially as he goes off in the third group of the day.
He co-led the Irish Open after round 1 back in 2020, and finished 10th last week in a tough Scottish Open, so with that and his Dunhill Links emergence, he can definitely take on the task ahead of him this week.
Dean Burmester will tee off at 6:57 am with Chan Kim and Brandon Wu
Dylan Frittelli has been two back of the first round lead in each of the past two Open Championship's, and he opened up with a 67 at the Scottish Open last week, which was a great score if you exclude Cameron Tringale's 61!
Frittelli was within two of the first round lead at both the Irish and Scottish Open in 2018, which shows his links pedigree alongside his two fast starts in this event, and he also co-led the Masters in 2020 after Day One, showing further major experience.
This layout may be even better than previous venues for Frittelli as he can let loose off the tee, without fear of too much trouble given the wide fairways. This is his biggest asset in his game, and just last week he ranked 7th in Tee-to-Green and 17th in Off-the-Tee, showing his long game ability.
He can be a decent scrambler, and the last time he played this course, he shot a 68 in the final round of the Dunhill Links, so I think he is capable of shooting the 64/65 needed to lead on Thursday here.
Frittelli was one back after day one of the Charles Schwab Challenge, back in May, and while he has only co-led twice in his career on a Thursday, they were at the Masters and in Northern Ireland, both of which are appropriate here.
Dylan Frittelli will tee off at 10:42 am with Matthew Jordan and Trey Mullinax
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!