Valspar Championship First-Round Leader Tips: Back Kokrak for fast start

American Jason Kokrak
Jason Kokrak can go low early

The PGA Tour heads back to Florida and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at the Valspar Championship...

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

Weather forecast for Palm Harbor: Temperatures are already in the 70s for the very early starters and they'll peak in the high 80s during the afternoon. As for the wind, it looks a little lighter for the morning wave. The p.m. starters will have it around 12mph for their second nines.

First-round leader history:

2020 - no tournament
2019 - 66 Joel Dahmen, Sepp Straka
2018 - 67 Corey Conners
2017 - 62 Jim Herman
2016 - 67 Charles Howell, Ken Duke, Keegan Bradley
2015 - 65 Brian Davis
2014 - 68 Matt Every, Greg Chalmers, Pat Perez, Danny Lee

Strategy: Big-priced morning starters have set the pace in the last three years (Conners was way down the rankings at the time) and overall the early wave tends to provide the R1 leader. The weather forecast probably helps that thinking again so I'll go for a trio of early starters.

Count on Kokrak

Jason Kokrak bring two obvious things to the table for a first-round leader punt: he's got a great course record and has been making fast starts in recent months.

Looking at the former, he was runner-up in the most recent edition in 2019 (last year's was cancelled due to COVID) and before that was T8 in 2018, T7 in 2015 and T14 in 2014.

As for those low Thursday scores, he had a piece of the R1 lead in the Sony Open and his day one positions in his last five strokeplay starts show 4-19-4-11-8.

The middle three in that sequence came in Florida events and he went on to make the top 10 in all of them.

He's twice started with 68 here and opened with 69 last year, ending all those round ones inside the top 12.

Kokrak is an obvious FRL pick but could be a profitable one at 40/1.

He tees off at 07:50.

Kang can get off to a flyer

At a massive 175/1 it could pay to take a punt on Sung-Hoon Kang.

He's that price due to bare results which show six missed cuts and nothing inside the top 50 in his last 10 events.

But he's made the weekend in the last two and, what's more, he opened those tournaments - the Texas Open and RBC Heritage - with rounds of 66 and 68 respectively.

That put him second after the opening lap in Texas and eighth after day one in South Carolina.

Those with good memories may recall him once shooting a 60 in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am while he also fired a 61 in the 2019 Byron Nelson.

He won't produce those numbers on this track but it's one where he's performed well, finishing T22 on debut in 2016 and taking T18 in the most recent staging in 2018.

It's a bit of a punt but those recent fast starts are encouraging and he has a morning tee-time at 08:23.

Choose Charley

At 60/1 Charley Hoffman makes plenty of appeal.

That's an industry-high price and the American also has the historically favourable early tee-time: 08:45.

He's clearly in a good place with his game after five top 20s in his last seven outings; that run includes a second in the Texas Open two starts ago.

Hoffman has been a regular in the top 25 at this event (he has five of them) so ticks the course form box too.

His tee-to-green stats suggest he should thrive again so the final piece of the jigsaw is fast starts.

Hoffman was the first-round leader at the Sanderson Farms earlier this season while he's been in the top 19 after 18 holes in four of his last six events.

If he can get the odd extra putt to drop on Thursday the veteran will be into the payout places.

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