Australian PGA Championship First Round Leader: Fox can fly out of the blocks

New Zealand's Ryan Fox
New Zealand's Ryan Fox can start fast

Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at RACV Royal Pines Resort this week...

"His fast start in Scotland put him second after 18 holes while, two tournaments later, he was the first-round leader at the Open de France thanks to a 65."

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 6 Places

Weather forecast for Thursday: It's a pleasant 70 degrees at 07:00 before temps rise to a peak of 84 degrees at 1pm. There's hardly any wind to go with the morning sunshine but it does pick up a little (7-8mph) in the afternoon.

FRL history at RACV Royal Pines Resort

2018 - 66 Matt Jager, Jake McLeod
2017 - 66 Jordan Zunic, Richard Bland
2016 - 65 Harold Varner, Andrew Dodt, Ashley Hall
2015 - 67 Zander Lombard
2014 - 65 Jin Jeong
2013 - 63 Rickie Fowler

Strategy: There's a decent international presence there, with two Americans, an Englishman, a South African and a South Korean so taking the angle that the locals will have an edge on day one doesn't really play out. The very early starters should get the best conditions so I'm going to play two of those.

Fox could be a cunning play

If the weather forecast is correct, Ryan Fox has the chance to play all 18 holes in the flat conditions as he's in the first group out from the 10th tee at 06:00.

He's been paired with double defending champion Cameron Smith and monster-hitting American Cameron Champ which means big crowds.

And given how well he's played in front of packed galleries in the Open Championship and Scottish and Irish Opens (R1 leader in 2018), I'm hoping it might give Fox some extra adrenaline.

Apart from tied 16th at Royal Portrush, he'd been off his game for a while but that's changed in the last couple of months and, since opening with a 64 at the Alfred Dunhill Links, he's reeled off four top 25s in six starts, including T21 in the recent Aussie Open.

His fast start in Scotland put him second after 18 holes while, two tournaments later, he was the first-round leader at the Open de France thanks to a 65.

A winner of his first European Tour title at the World Super 6 on another visit to Australia earlier this year, Fox also has some decent form here at Royal Pines.

He was in the top five after day one when T9 in 2016, finished T11 in 2014 and was T10 at close of play in R1 last year.

Overall, he has some good credentials at 40/1.

Hojgaard at the double

After admitting that watching twin brother Rasmus capture the Mauritius Open two weeks ago has given him some extra motivation, I'm going to take a punt on Nicolai Hojgaard getting off to a fast start.

It was Nicolai who first made us sit up and notice when finishing runner-up to Sergio Garcia in September's KLM Open.

The Dane had started that week with a 67 which put him tied second and, although his results haven't been anything special since, he did make another fast start in the Open de France as another 67 put him tied sixth after Thursday's play.

Add in his Challenge Tour events and he's been in the top six after day one in four of his last 13 starts which is a decent strike-rate.

Hojgaard (Rasmus isn't playing this week incidentally so no need to worry about backing the right one) is 80/1 for FRL and hopefully he has the ideal slot - first group out from No.1 at 06:00.

Pick Papadatos

I'll go with a home player for my final pick and select Dimitrios Papadatos.

He's in the very first group out of the second wave (tees off at 11:00 local) and 70/1 looks good for someone with a history of fast starts.

In his last 35 tournaments, he's ended round one in the top four on eight occasions. That includes his last two.

Papadatos fired an opening 65 at the New South Wales Open and a 67 in round one of the Australian Open put him in the top three.

He was also third after day one in this event last year when tied 19th while in the 2015 edition the Aussie finished sixth so he clearly gets on well with the course.

Dave's 2019 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £1410
Returned: £1142.81
P/L: -£267.19

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