Frazzled takes a look at the first round leader market in the PGA Championship and is looking at the early starters, particularly those who will play the easier 9 holes first.
Based on the weather forecast on Thursday, it appears that conditions might play a little easier in the morning rather than the afternoon. There looks set to be little or no wind and clear skies for the early starters. The wind looks like picking up to 10-12kph for the afternoon starters and while this is by no means blustery, it could play a role in how Thursday unfolds.
In addition an examination of the hole averages from the 2005 event suggests that the inward 9 will play easier than the outward nine. The 4 hardest holes in 2005 were between holes 1 & 7 and of only 4 holes to average below par, 3 of these were on the inward 9, obviously including the two Par 5s on 17 and 18.
While this information may not lead us to selecting the First Round Leader, it does suggest that the early starters that are teeing off on the 10th hole, have a better chance to generate momentum, register a few birdies and then possibly defend on holes 1 to 9, or try and capitalise on a positive start and try and register a low round in a tournament where being up with the pace is generally very important, like it was when Phil Mickelson led wire to wire in 2005.
Keegan Bradley has an excellent record in this event. He was the winner in 2011 and he followed that up with a 3rd place finish in 2012. He also has an excellent record at Firestone, which we have highlighted as a very good guide to this event and potentially this course. He has won that event and also been 2nd and 4th in limited number of appearances and it has been his tee to green game which has excelled at that venue.
He has clearly struggled in recent times, with the change in putter from the anchored version very much affecting his game. However after missing a lot of cuts, he is showing that he is turning the corner now and 8th in The Memorial was encouraging as his 18th in The Open Championship. He started with a 68 at Muirfield Village, while he excelled on the opening two days at Troon with rounds of 67 & 68.
His tee to green game has been outstanding recently and he ranks 12th in GIR, 1st in Total Driving, 31st in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 24th in Proximity to the Hole and 49th in Round 1 Scoring. His putting issues would put us off backing him on any of the outright markets at the moment as the course will play very tough over the weekend, but with an early 8:20am tee time and starting on the easier 9 holes, he has been given a great opportunity to make a fast start to the tournament, playing with Adam Scott. At 110/1 with Betfred, who are paying 6 places each way, he looks worth an interest.
1 point each way Keegan Bradley - First Round Leader at 110/1 with Betfred (1/4 odds - 6 places)
Smylie Kaufman has fallen off the radar a little since The Masters and he has been publicised as much for his links with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas et al, as he has for his golf. However there are some sound reasons to believe that he could have a very good tournament and could make a fast start on Thursday.
Kaufman made a brilliant start to the season, winning the Shriners Hospital for Childrens Open and he was our pick for Top Debutant in The Masters. That looked to be going brilliantly, until he derailed with an 81 in the final round, but it was still a massive effort for him on his debut. After a few missed cuts, he has bounced back with a 20th in The Memorial, 10th in the Quicken Loans and a solid 27th in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The latter is encouraging given the links to Baltusrol and the fact that he got much better with experience. After a poor opening round of 75, he improved with rounds of 68-71-70.
Kaufman has a solid game and ranks 56th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 58th in GIR and 66th in Par 4 Scoring Average. He also ranks 28th in Driving Distance, 23rd in Birdie Average and 18th in Going for the Green. He has an early tee time of 9:00am and given his aggressive profile, we would hope that he will take on the course and try and post a score early. He may well fade over the 4 days on such a demanding course, but he is worth an interest at 200/1 with BetVictor in this market.
0.75 points each way Smylie Kaufman - First Round Leader at 200/1 with BetVictor
Brendan Steele is our final selection in this market. He has an afternoon tee slot, but again he starts on the 10th hole and he is a player than has made some very fast starts to tournaments this season. He should really have converted some of these starts into a win, but has faltered at some point later in the tournaments. Nevertheless, he ranks 6th in Round 1 Scoring Average with starts such as 63 in the Frys Open, 64 in the Texas Open, and 65s in The Memorial and The Players.
Steele is rock solid from Tee to Green, ranking 10th in Total Driving, 15th in GIR, and 34th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. He is an aggressive player too and ranks highly in Going For Green and Total Eagles, although it is unlikely that this venue will yield a great many of those over the 4 days.
Steele has been quietly tipped by a few people for a Top 10 and Top 20 Finish, but we will seek to catch him with a fast start and we may also look at the second round leader betting, if he is in contention after Round 1. For now, he looks decent value at 125/1 with Paddy Power, with 7 places paid each way.
0.75 points each way Brendan Steele - First Round Leader at 125/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds - 7 places)