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Tom Jacobs is back with another group of First Round Leader picks. Find his Houston Open picks below, plus take a look back at historical first round data for this event, and the PGA Tour as a whole last season.

Houston Open First Round Leader Odds, Picks & Predictions: Will it be Jason's Day?

The Houston Open has moved around over the years, but over the past two years, it has found a new home at the Memorial Park Golf Course, a unique Tom Doak redesign, that hosted this event many years ago.

The idea of this course is to test players off the tee, and then punish them if they miss the greens, with run-off areas, akin to what we have seen at major courses like Augusta National and Southern Hills.

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World No.2 Scottie Scheffler is back again this week, and he is joined by Sam Burns, Tony Finau, Aaron Wise, and Hideki Matsuyama who head the list of star attractions.

Also in the field is last week’s winner, Russell Henley, who is a former winner of this event, albeit at a different course.

There is enough depth at the top of the field to provide value further down the field, but this isn’t the strongest event you will see.

We can look back at the last two First Round Leaders of this event, since it moved to this course, to see if there is anything we can gauge since the move to Memorial Park. We can also look at previous Houston Opens as well, to see if there are any familiar names that impressed in this event in the past, and continued that here in 2020 and 2021.

First Round Leader Strategy for the Houston Open

Here were the first-round leaders in round 1 of the Houston Open, over the last two renewals of the event.

All tee times below are displayed in Local Time

Houston Opens at Memorial Park

2021 –

Five players tied after round one last year, shooting a five-under 65's to take the day one lead. Three players teed off in the AM, and one in the PM wave. All five players started their round on the 1st tee.

  • Luke List (1:55 pm tee time, Started on #1)
  • Marc Leishman (10:05 am tee time, Started on #1)
  • Martin Trainer (14:30 pm tee time, Started on #1)
  • Russell Henley (9:10 am tee time, Started on #1)
  • Talor Gooch (9:32 am tee time, Started on #1)

2020 –

  • Brandt Snedeker (12:15 pm tee time, Started on #1) 65 (-5) – PM Tee Time

Just like the five co-leaders in 2021, Brandt Snedeker started his round on #1 tee, and like two of the five leaders last year, he teed off in the afternoon.

Houston Opens at Golf Club of Houston

2019 – Austin Cook, Talor Gooch 64 (-8) – Both AM

2018 – Paul Dunne 64 (-8) – PM Tee Time

2017 – Rickie Fowler 64 (-8) – AM Tee Time

2016 – Charley Hoffman 64 (-8) – PM Tee Time

2015 – Scott Piercy 64 (-8) – AM Tee Time

2014 – Bill Hass, Charley Hoffman 65 (-7) – Both PM Tee Times

2013 – D.A. Points 64 (-8) – AM Tee Time

2012 – Angel Cabrera, Carl Pettersson, Phil Mickelson 65 (-7) – 2 AM, 1 PM Tee Times

This event goes against the grain somewhat, in the fact that there has been no bias to the morning groups really, with four of the last ten Houston Opens led by a morning starter in Round 1, while six renewals have seen at least one PM starter lead or co-lead at end of play Thursday.

It looks like the winds will actually be stronger in the morning this week, which means there could be a slight bias to the afternoon starters, especially when you consider the history of this event.

In each of the past two years, an afternoon starter has either led alone or co-led after day one. On top of that, every leader or co-leader here over the past two renewals started their first round on the front nine, which is considered the easier of the two, with two par 5’s, the Par 3 2nd, which played as the easiest hole last year, and one of the short Par 4’s.

Clearly, players benefit from building a bit of confidence early in their rounds, as they get an easier go of it earlier on in their rounds. With this in mind, make sure you are checking the tee times, before making any decision on your Houston Open picks this week.

Who Are The Fastest Starters in this Field?

Here are the top-5 fastest starters in the Houston Open field, based on the 2021/22 Round 1 Scoring Average rankings.

Russell Henley

  • Ranked 4th in Round 1 Scoring Average in 2021/22
  • Round 1 Scoring Average last season - 68.38
  • Lowest Round 1 Score in 2021/22 - 62 (Sony Open)

Aaron Wise

  • Ranked 5th in Round 1 Scoring Average in 2021/22
  • Round 1 Scoring Average last season - 68.46
  • Lowest Round 1 Score in 2021/22 - 63 WWT Championship @ Mayakoba (This Event)

Scottie Scheffler

  • Ranked 7th in Round 1 Scoring Average in 2021/22
  • Round 1 Scoring Average last season - 68.70
  • Lowest Round 1 Score in 2021/22 - 63 (RSM Classic)

Wyndham Clark

  • Ranked 14th in Round 1 Scoring Average in 2021/22
  • Round 1 Scoring Average last season – 69.21
  • Lowest Round 1 Score in 2021/22 - 63 (Canadian Open)

Jason Day

  • Ranked 15th in Round 1 Scoring Average in 2021/22
  • Round 1 Scoring Average last season – 69.22
  • Lowest Round 1 Score in 2021/22 - 63 (Wells Fargo)

Until we have more data on the 22/23 PGA Tour Season, we will continue to look at last season's rankings, as that includes events right up until the TOUR Championship, with a lot of the rankings attributed to golfer's play in 2022. This means the data is still relevant enough for this event.

What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

A 64 is a great target for the Round 1 lead this week. Over the past 2 renewals, the Thursday leader(s) have finished the round with a 65 at Memorial Park, so while it is tempting to aim for a 65 again, there was a five-way tie last year, and one player can break that this time around, as some players see this course for the third-straight year.

Houston Open Odds: Top 5 in the First Round Leader Market

Here are the top 5 among the Houston Open Odds, when it comes to the First Round Leader Market.

In the table below, you will find the best price and the implied chance of each of the top 5 in this market.

PlayerFirst Round Leader OddsImplied Chance
Scottie Scheffler+18005.3%
Sam Burns+28003.4%
Tony Finau +30003.2%
Aaron Wise+35002.8%
Russell Henley+35002.8%

Houston Open Picks - Who to Bet on in Round 1

Jason Day +4200 ($1000 No Sweat First Bet with FanDuel)

Jason Day has found his game, at last... It has been a while in the wilderness for the former World No.1, and one-time major champion, but the 2015 PGA Championship winner could very well find himself in the Winners' Circle again this week.

He can do so by starting hot this week, as he has found low rounds recently at the Shriners (63 Final Round), and the World Wide Technology Championship (Second Round 64), and he's also started well here both years.

In two starts at Memorial Park, Day has opened with a 67 both times, sitting two back of the first-round leader(s) both times, and now he gets to start his round from the 1st Tee for the first time. This could be significant, or it could be nothing, but given the front-nine is the easier of the two, I am willing to chance a cozier start is the difference between finishing two shots back and leading on day one.

Jason Day has won 13 times at the PGA Tour level, and on three occasions he went wire-to-wire. On another occasion, he led after round 1, sat 3rd after day two, and then led after both weekend rounds, so when he starts off fast he often keeps it going.

Day has held 10 First Round Leads on the PGA Tour and has been within two of the opening-day lead 40 times at this level. Given he is a player that used to play a limited schedule, has had his share of injuries, and only got a PGA Tour card for the first time in 2008, this is a very strong record.

The Aussie has started striking the ball incredibly well, and just last week ranked 3rd in Ball Striking, so I think he can build on his 7th-place finish here in 2020, and back-to-back opening 67s, to lead by close of play Thursday.

Jason Day tees off #1 tee at 7:24 am, with Hideki Matsuyama and Sebastian Munoz

Wyndham Clark +7000 ($50 Free Bet with DraftKings)

We bet Wyndham Clark to lead after round one last year, and he almost delivered.

Clark hit a 66 here, but was -5 thru 8 holes, so was already on the number he needed to be, and he ended the round with pars on each of the Par 5s, missed a four-foot putt for par, and made of mess of 18 when he could have tied the lead with a birdie.

All of that suggests to me that this is a good golf course for him, where he can certainly make the birdies he needs to, to lead, he just needs to hang on at the tougher holes.

9 times in his career, Wyndham Clark has been within two of the first-round lead, and given that only goes back to 2017, he's good for a run at the first-round lead almost twice a year on average!

In 2022 alone, he opened with a 68 to sit one back at the Memorial Tournament on Thursday, he then opened with a 63 to lead the Canadian Open, and then most recently at the CJ Cup, he opened with a 66 to sit one back at Thursday-end at the CJ Cup.

16th and 29th in his past two starts, Clark has impressed already this season, and in terms of statistical profile, he fits the bill here. Let's ride with the player who nearly cashed it for us last year.

Wyndham Clark tees off #10 tee at 11:25 am, with John Huh and Michael Kim

Davis Thompson +8000 ($50 Free Bet with DraftKings)

Davis Thompson has got his first full season on the PGA Tour off to a flying start, with 9th and 12th place finishes either side of a disappointing effort at the Sanderson Farms, where he finished 67th.

Rounds of 68 and 65 at the Fortinet and two 66s and a 67 at the Shriners show that he's more than capable of shooting a low round, and a 65 would almost certainly get him in the mix here.

Thompson has sat inside the top 5 in Ball Striking since the start of the season, and his driver is clearly his best asset. Given this course demands strong play off the tee, this event should be right in his wheelhouse, and a strong showing, perhaps his best yet on TOUR could be on the horizon.

He has already recorded a first-round lead, in his short PGA Tour career, opening with a 63 to lead the Rocket Mortgage Championship by two after round one, and he's since started with rounds of 64 and 65 on the Korn Ferry to co-lead at the Great Abaco Classic and sit one back at the Rex Hospital Open, the event he won last season.

Thompson has unlimited potential and could be the next best talent to make waves as a rookie on the PGA Tour, and it can start here at Memorial Park.

Davis Thompson tees off #1 tee at 1:04 pm, with Kevin Roy and Walker Lee

Martin Laird +9000 ($50 Free Bet with DraftKings)

Martin Laird is a winner in Texas, at the Valero, and he's also won at Bay Hill and finished 8th at Riviera, two courses I like as correlative courses for this one.

He's missed two cuts in two starts here, but I think he makes it to the weekend this time around, charged by a fast start.

32 times in his career he has been within two of the first-round lead, and in his three most recent starts he has shown signs of life. He shot two middle rounds of 66 at the ZOZO, opened with the same number at the Shriners, and just last week finished 15th, after opening with rounds of 65-67.

Laird's incredible longevity should be admired, and I think he can kick off the new season with an improved performance on a golf course he has admittedly struggled on so far.

Laird ranked 11th in Driving Accuracy and 4th in Greens in Regulation last week, and similar numbers can get him going early here.

Martin Laird tees off #1 tee at 12:20 pm, with Keith Mitchell and Si Woo Kim

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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