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Tom Jacobs picks four in the RBC Heritage First Round Leader Market.
ANALYSIS

Back Van Rooyen, Svensson in the RBC Heritage First Round Leader Market

The RBC Heritage is now a signature event, and while there may be some fatigue from last week's Masters, there should be plenty of excitement this week as well.

The First Round Leader Market presents an opportunity to win big right out of the gates at Hilton Head, and we can look at the trends, weather, and stats that could point to a Thursday winner.

This event has changed in recent years, with the strength of field first increasing in 2020, when the TOUR returned from COVID, and then again last year, when it became one of the Tour's Designated Events. Now a Signature Event, we once again get the majority of the best players in the world back in one place.

One sacrifice is a limited field, and therefore less players to choose from in this First Round Leader market, but that doesn't mean we can't find some value!

2024 RBC Heritage First Round Leader Strategy, Trends

First, let's look at every First Round Leader here since 2019.

  • 2023 – Aaron Rai (2:01 pm) - 63
  • 2022 – Cameron Young (7:10 am) - 63
  • 2021 – Cameron Smith (12:45 pm) - 62
  • 2020 – Ian Poulter (7:29 am), Mark Hubbard (8:57 am) - 64
  • 2019 – Shane Lowry (7:20 am) - 65

History slightly favors an early tee time but with fewer players teeing it up this week, there is less time between the first and last player teeing it up in the field.

With two players leading from an afternoon tee time over the past five years, there's no reason to avoid the 8 groups teeing off in the afternoon this week, especially as the weather is mild all day. The wind and gusts do pick up slightly later in the afternoon, but it is nothing to worry about.

RBC Heritage First Round Leader Trends

Former First Round Lead a Pointer: Each of the last five RBC Heritage First Round Leaders had already led after round 1 before, with Cameron Young and Aaron Rai already getting off to fast starts on the Korn Ferry and the DP World Tour respectively before making their debut here. Poulter, Lowry, Hubbard, and Smith had all led after round 1 of a PGA Tournament in the past.

Season-Ending Round 1 Scoring Average: Aaron Rai (40th), Cameron Young (9th), Cameron Smith (1st), Mark Hubbard (14th), and Ian Poulter (30th) all ended the season ranked highly in Round 1 Scoring Average the year they led here. Look for players regularly starting fast this season.

So what do we need?

  • Someone who has led after round 1 at least once in their career
  • Someone who has ranks inside the top 40 for round 1 scoring this season

Weather Forecast at the RBC Heritage

The weather looks pretty calm for the most part this Thursday. Below is a break down of the weather forecast, so you can see for yourself.

Heritage Weather

Who in this Field Started Fast on Tour Last Season?

Here are the 5 fastest starters in the field based on their Round 1 Scoring Average in the 2022/23 PGA Tour season.)

  • Scottie Scheffler (1st overall in 2022/23 – Scoring Average 67.91 – Low Opening Round – 63 (Travelers Championship)
  • Ludvig Aberg (3rd overall in 2022/23 – Scoring Average 68.54) – Low Opening Round – 65 (Rocket Mortgage Classic)
  • Xander Schauffele (4th overall in 2022/23 – Scoring Average 68.62) – Low Opening Round – 62 (US Open)
  • Max Homa (8th overall in 2022/23 – Scoring Average 69.04) – Low Opening Round – 64 (Genesis Invitational)
  • Stephan Jaeger (10th overall in 2022/23 – Scoring Average 69.16) – Low Opening Round – 65 (Mexico Open)

What Score is Required to Lead After Round 1?

Since 2019, the average leading score here in Round 1 has been 63.4, and you will be hoping your chosen player can shoot a 63 at the Heritage this week.

The Favorites in the RBC Heritage First Round Leader Market This Week

Here are the favorites in the First Round Leader market at the 2024 RBC Heritage

  • Scottie Scheffler (+1200)
  • Ludvig Aberg (+2000)
  • Rory McIlroy (+2000)
  • Xander Schauffele (+2000)
  • Patrick Cantlay (+2500)

2024 RBC Heritage First Round Leader Picks

Here are my First Round Leader selections for the 2024 RBC Heritage.

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (BetRivers)

Patrick Cantlay has finished 2nd once and 3rd here three times in his six starts, with another 7th place finish for good measure. With just one missed cut in that span, Cantlay is clearly a Hilton Head specialist.

He has opened with rounds of 67 or better on three occasions here, with his 66 two years ago leaving him in 3rd after round 1, and he was the 36-hole leader. Simply put, this is a great course for one of the best players in the world, and he played well enough last week, without threatening, so he should have plenty left in the tank here.

Already this season, Cantlay has opened with rounds of 66 (7th), 64 (5th), 65 (2nd), 64 (2nd), and 64 (1st). These came in his first five starts of the season, and the positions in brackets show where he ranked after round 1 in those respective events. He may have slowed down in the last three, but he was 14th after round 1 last year, and that was another fine effort.

JT Poston +5000 (BetMGM)

It has been Sunday rather than Thursday when JT Poston has really come alive at the RBC Heritage in the past, but I think he can start fast this time around instead.

Generally very capable of kicking off his week with a low score, Poston has posted rounds of 64, 65, and two 66s here, all I am asking him to do is find that in round 1 here instead.

Poston has already posted 5 first-round leads in his PGA Tour career, and on 18 occasions in total, he has been within two of the lead in round 1.

He hasn't shown that fast-starting nature yet in 2024, which suggests to me he is overdue, is it time he posts another low round on Thursday this week?

5th at The Sentry, 6th at the Sony Open, where he posted a final 61, and 11th at the Amex where he shot a 3rd-round 64, Poston started the season off in the fastest possible away, and while that has slowed down, I think he can pick it up again on a course he loves.

Erik Van Rooyen +6600 (bet365)

Erik Van Rooyen has played at this course on three occasions, finishing 21st and 10th in his first two starts, before missing the cut last year.

On his debut, the South African shot two rounds of 66, and a year later he backed that up with two rounds of 67, so he's clearly capable of shooting strong rounds here at this course.

He was disappointing here last year, but it's been a good season for Van Rooyen so far, and he's ready to post another low opening round this week.

Van Rooyen has already led after round 1 this season, opening with a round of 63 in Mexico, and a year later he sat 9th after a round 1 66 at the Cognizant Classic. 17th and 14th after round 1 in his past two starts, Thursday remains a good day for him and I think he can start fast again this week.

He ranks 15th in Round 1 Scoring Average this season, and he's already led after round 1 on both the Sunshine Tour and the PGA Tour, so he's ready to fire a low one on Thursday.

Adam Svensson +8000 (BetMGM)

I have backed Adam Svensson in the outright market this week, and I am happy to double down on him in the First Round Leader Market this week.

On his debut here in 2022, the Canadian opened with a 66 to sit 3rd here in 2022, and a 3rd round 67 was a good follow-up, so I am confident he's able to go low this week. A 2nd round 67 last year reaffirmed his ability to score here, and while we need him to go lower this week, there has been evidence of late that he can do exactly that.

In his last three starts, Svensson has sat 3rd, 6th, and 8th after round 1, and he also has previous of leading after round 1 already in his career. The 2022 RSM Classic winner led after round 1 on the Canadian Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour, before adding first round leads at the Sony Open and the Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour.

There is marked improvement in his iron play of late, and every reason to believe there is a low round coming. He started fast here in 2022, and I am backing him to do so again this week.

Article Author

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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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