Houston Open: Three to play in the First Round Leader market

South African Rory Sabbatini
Rory Sabbatini can make a fast start in Houston
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Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at this week's Houston Open...

"The South African has actually made eight cuts out of eight since the turn of the year and the bedrock for some of those strong performances has been his ability to start well."

Back Rory Sabbatini e.w. @ 100/1

*EW Terms: 1/4 Odds | 5 Places

Weather forecast: As of Wednesday morning UK time, the forecast in Houston is for some spotty showers in the morning but unbroken sun in the afternoon. Temperatures are in the high 80s. Rain in the build-up suggests the course will be softened up for start of play. As for am/pm bias, there hasn't been much in recent editions with morning starters leading the way in 2017 (64 Rickie Fowler), 2015 (63 Scott Piercy) and 2013 (64 DA Points) and afternoon starters topping the R1 board in 2016 (64 Charley Hoffman) and 2014 (65 Bill Haas and Hoffman again).

Confident Rory set for another fast start

Rory Sabbatini (2.30pm) has been playing some decent golf of late, finishing T17 at the Honda Classic and jumping to T5 at the Valspar Championship.

The South African has actually made eight cuts out of eight since the turn of the year and the bedrock for some of those strong performances has been his ability to start well.

Sabbatini was tied fourth after day one at Torrey Pines, T12 after the opening lap at the Honda and T8 following Thursday's action in the Valspar. Rewind to last summer and he was in the top five after R1 in successive weeks at the John Deere Classic and the Barbasol.

He's jumped from 500th in the world after that Barbasol performance to 191st so, as he did in his pomp when winning six times on the PGA Tour, he's riding that confidence to low scores.

Fast starter Aaron a Wise choice

Aaron Wise (9.40am) has caught the eye several times this season and while he struggles for four-round consistency, he's very capable of throwing in a low 18. Crucially, for this market, that's often been on the opening day.

At the Arnold Palmer Invitational last time, the 21-year-old opened with a 65 despite seeing Bay Hill for the first time and that put him tied second, just one off the lead.

And it wasn't an isolated incident as he posted a Thursday 65 at Pebble Beach in February and a first-round 64 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January.

Add in a good start at Riviera, where he actually missed the cut, and the American has been first, second, fifth and sixth after round one in four of his seven starts.

He's too inconsistent to be posting top 10s at the moment but Wise looks ideal for this market.

Kirk another player likely to post best round on day one

With the course likely to be softer in the morning, I'm probably happier having two of my three picks with early tee-times so I'll add in Chris Kirk, who heads out from the 1st alongside Brian Stuard and another well-known fast starter, Matt Every, at 9.10am.

Kirk has done his best work early this season, topping the R1 leaderboard at the RSM Classic with a 63 on his final start of 2017 and repeating the feat with another 63 in the Sony Open.

Since then he was second after Thursday's play in Phoenix (66) and T8 after day one at both Pebble Beach and the Valspar Championship.

The American is also a runner-up in this event (2011) when he opened with a 66 so should have some good memories when he returns to the tournament for the first time since 2014.

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