Valero Texas Open: Three to play in the First Round Leader market

American Billy Horschel
Billy Horschel can go low again in round one

Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at this week's Valero Texas Open...

"Horschel kicked off with a 66 at Hilton Head to lie second after 18 holes and, just two starts earlier at Bay Hill despite finishing T54, he was T7 at close of play on Thursday."

Back Billy Horschel each-way @ 40/1

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 6 Places

Weather forecast: Winds are described as "omnipresent" at TPC San Antonio but Thursday's hour-by-hour forecast suggests there's nothing too extreme on day one. It's fairly steady at 13mph throughout the day but could just drop a little in the afternoon. Temperatures start off in the mid-60s but the afternoon wave get the best of it and the mercury should hit 75 degrees for those teeing off around 1pm.

History: Branden Grace led the way from an early tee-time last year but from 2013-2016 the R1 leaders all came from the p.m. wave.

Combining the latest weather forecast and recent history, the afternoon starters look to have an edge.

Horschel can hit stride early

Billy Horschel is popular in the outright betting this week after returning to form with tied fifth in the RBC Heritage on Sunday.

I think it's asking a lot for him to now go out and win but I can certainly see the American star riding last week's momentum and making a mark early here.

Horschel kicked off with a 66 at Hilton Head to lie second after 18 holes and, just two starts earlier at Bay Hill despite finishing T54, he was T7 at close of play on Thursday.

Rewind a little and he was also tied second after day one at TPC Scottsdale despite going on to finish outside the top 40.

Combine these recent fast starts with some excellent course form - three top fours - at this week's venue, TPC San Antonio, and Horschel looks to have a powerful combination of assets.

He starts out at 12.50pm so, hopefully, has the ideal tee-time too. Back him for first-round leader at 40s.

Kim can shake off Heritage heartache

There are those who will get silly about Si Woo Kim after he somehow failed to land the 100/1 at Hilton Head.

Having put him up in my outright column I felt the pain too but it's worth remembering that he played some superb golf there and a few dodgy putts when the weather changed doesn't put me off.

In any case, this venue has been kind to those we might class as questionable putters and Kevin Chappell was outside the top 200 in SG: Putting when taking victory last year.

Kim is mentally very tough - as he showed when winning last year's Players Championship - and I don't expect him to carry demons, especially in round one when there's no added pressure.

Therefore, it's perfectly reasonable to expect him to continue to play good golf and that means he's an attractive R1 leader bet at 50/1.

The Korean was T22 here last year so can play the course and was in the top 10 after day one last week.

T7 after the opening lap when he won at Sawgrass, Kim is actually paired with Horschel over the first two rounds so I'm hoping they can spur each other on.

Sergio Garcia is also in that three-ball so I'm hoping it'll be the hottest on the course. Incidentally, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Sergio shakes off his horror show at Augusta National and comes out all guns blazing. He's 25/1 for FRL.

Gooch can open up well

Not Graham, but Talor Gooch and I'm hoping the latter can also thrive when going into battle on day one.

Gooch grew up and went to University in windy Oklahoma so knows how to play in the breeze.

Looking at his scorecards this year shows a real mixed bag but what stands out for this market is that he's very capable of going low when he gets on a roll.

We saw that when he teed off with a 65 to sit second after day one of the Arnold Palmer Invitational two starts ago and that followed another R1 65 at the CareerBuilder Challenge and an even better 64 in round one of the Sony Open.

Even when he missed the cut at Pebble Beach, Gooch had posted a 67 on Thursday to lie tied eighth.

While not in the first round, but back in November he shot 77-64 on the weekend to again highlight his ability to shoot the lights out despite a poor previous 18.

The fact that he throws in plenty of 74s, 75s and 76s doesn't seem to bother him so let's hope he can make another early impression from his 1.40pm tee-time.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £90
Returned: £0
P/L: -£60
(After RBC Heritage)

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