The Players Championship First Round Leader: Make Poulter a pick

England's Ian Poulter
England's Ian Poulter can start fast
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Dave Tindall looks at the opening round at TPC Sawgrass and has three picks to make a fast start...

"The Englishman is a two-time runner-up at the Pete Dye track (2009 and 2017) and he was also T11 a couple of years ago. In terms of fast starts, he was the first-round leader in 2012 while he's also twice been in the top five after day one."

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Weather forecast for Ponte Vedra, Florida: Temperatures are in the early 60s for the first to tee off and then gradually rise to a much more pleasant 80 degrees by 2pm. Winds are fairly light at around 5mph to begin with and pick up a little to nearer 10mph by 5pm.

First-round leader history:
2019 - 65 Keegan Bradley, Tommy Fleetwood
2018 - 66 Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Alex Noren, Patrick Cantlay
2017 - 67 MacKenzie Hughes, William McGirt
2016 - 63 Jason Day
2015 - 67 Kevin Na, Hideki Matsuyama, Charley Hoffman, David Hearn
2014 - 63 Martin Kaymer
2013 - 63 Roberto Castro
2012 - 65 Martin Laird, Ian Poulter
2011 - 64 Nick Watney

Strategy: There are 20 players listed above: 10 teed off in the morning wave, 10 teed off in the afternoon. The weather forecast doesn't really offer a great deal of help so I'll split my bets between morning and afternoon.

Pick Poulter to burst from the blocks

Ian Poulter hasn't been making many headlines this season but his results have been pretty solid.

In Europe, he ended his three-week stint in the desert with T16 in Dubai followed by T17 in Saudi Arabia and since returning to his Florida base he's posted T27 in the Honda Classic and T36 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

While that's rather neutral evidence, what pushes him forward as a FRL leader bet is his course form at TPC Sawgrass.

The Englishman is a two-time runner-up at the Pete Dye track (2009 and 2017) and he was also T11 a couple of years ago.

In terms of fast starts, he was the first-round leader in 2012 while he's also twice been in the top five after day one.

Last year a R1 69 put him T13 after 18 holes and he was third at halfway before a poor weekend.

At Bay Hill last week, Poulter was tied 11th after Thursday's action while he's been T23 or better after three of his last four openers.

He tees it up at 1:10pm local on Thursday and the 110/1 looks generous.

Henley can hit the heights early

I've picked Russell Henley in my outright preview and I like him in this market too.

Like Poulter, he's 110/1 and again that looks big given his credentials.

As I've argued in the outright market, he's hitting the ball superbly and that's helped him finish T8 at the Honda Classic and T17 at Riviera in his last two starts.

At the Genesis Invitational, Henley hung up a 67 in round one and that put him second after the first lap.

Rewind to November and he started with 66s at both the Houston Open and Mayakoba Golf Classic, putting him T4 and T10 respectively at the close of play.

The first-round leader at the 2018 US Open, Henley was also second after day one here on his second visit in 2014.

He heads out in the first group of the day from the 10th tee at 7:40am.

Kuchar can make early impression

Matt Kuchar has plenty of strong history at TPC Sawgrass, the highlight his victory in 2018.

Two years ago he was one of the first-round leaders and two years before that he again showed his class to finish third.

Five times in the last 10 years, Kuchar has been tied 13th or better after day one so he's very used to making positive starts in this tournament.

As for a recent thermometer check, Kuchar has played seven times in 2020. He was the first-round leader two starts ago at Riviera thanks to a 64. He shot 66 to sit second after R1 at the Singapore Open which he went on to win. And at the Sentry TOC he was third after day one after a 5-under 68.

On a Sawgrass track he clearly likes, it's reasonable to expect another quick start and 60/1 looks decent.

He starts his bid at 1:29pm.

Staked: £270
Returned: £112.58
P/L: -£157.42

Dave Tindall,

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