Travelers Championship First Round Leader: Spieth can make early surge

American Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth can make another fast start

Dave Tindall looks at the opening round of the Travelers Championship and has three picks to make a fast start...

"Spieth won this event on debut in 2017 but had to settle for T42 when defending. However, in both those years he roared out of the blocks with an opening 63 to enjoy a piece of the first-round lead."

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Weather forecast for TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut: It's a warm and overcast day, with temperatures peaking in the high 80s in the afternoon. The wind also picks up a little after lunch although nothing too much (8-9mph).

First-round leader history:

2019 - Abraham Ancer, Ryan Armour, Bronson Burgoon, Zack Sucher, MacKenzie Hughes, K.H. Lee
2018 - Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth (63)
2017 - Jordan Spieth (63)
2016 - Jerry Kelly, Vaughn Taylor, Andrew Loupe (64)
2015 - Bubba Watson (62)
2014 - Brendan Steele (62)

Strategy: Several players suggest it's easier to make fast starts in the morning but the p.m. wave edge it. Eight of the last 13 R1 leaders had an afternoon tee-time. I'll reflect that ratio by picking one early starter and two late.

Spieth to burst from the blocks

Question marks still hang over Jordan Spieth as to whether he can keep it together over 72 holes.

But there are no doubts that he get hot over 18 and usually that's over the first couple of days.

Since golf restarted, the three-time major winner has opened with a 65 at Colonial (7th after R1) and a 66 at The Heritage (10th after R1).

In the latter, he made a triple bogey at his third hole of the day but came home in 29 after seven birdies in eight holes.

Spieth finished T10 at Colonial and down in T68 at Harbour Town but he said of last week's performance: "I really, really struggled on the greens and around the greens last week to hit it hard enough. I left everything short, whether it was a chip or a putt, and I lost 10 strokes compared to the week before to the field on and around the greens."

However, this week he's back on the much faster-paced poa/bent greens of TPC River Highlands which will suit him much better.

Spieth won this event on debut in 2017 but had to settle for T42 when defending.

However, in both those years he roared out of the blocks with an opening 63 to enjoy a piece of the first-round lead.

He starts his bid at 12:40pm and the 55/1 about him pulling off the same feat again looks generous.

Rose to bloom early

Justin rose at Colonial.jpg

The idea of a top player starting fast again at the same fast-greened course brings Justin Rose to mind.

The Englishman is in this category thanks to a series of low opening rounds at Augusta National.

Amazingly, he was R1 leader three starts in a row in the previous decade while, more recently, he's been in the top four after day one in three of the last five editions.

He has some strong history here too. Rose had the first-round lead at TPC River Highlands on his penultimate start in the event in 2010 and in his last seven starts here he's been in the top five after 18 holes on three occasions.

The former World No.1 emerged from lockdown to shoot a 63 on day one of the Charles Schwab Challenge two weeks ago, tying for the first-round lead and his game looks much sharper after finishes of third there and T14 last week at Harbour Town where he closed with 65.

Rose, also a R1 leader at the 2019 US Open, has some momentum and I'll play him at 40/1. He's also an afternoon starter at 1:00pm.

Bradley best of morning wave

I want a morning starter on my team too and the best bet could be 85/1 Keegan Bradley, who heads off at 07:55am.

This is his local event and he has some strong history - especially in round one.

Bradley laid down a 64 to be be second after Thursday's opener in 2015 and fired a R1 65 last year when finishing runner-up.

He was also in the top 10 after 18 holes in 2016.

Widening the search to all events and Bradley has three R1 leads in his last 27 starts - the 2020 Farmers Insurance, 2019 Canadian Open and 2019 Players Championship.

That's a useful strike rate and this looks like a venue where he could add to it.

Staked: £330
Returned: £112.58
P/L: -£217.42

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