Workday Charity Open First Round Leader: Mickelson to strike early

American golfer Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson can make a fast start
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Dave Tindall was on the money with 85/1 selection Scott Stallings co-leading last week, and he has three selections to make a fast start at Muirfield Village...

"Just two weeks ago on his latest start we saw the five-time major winner open 64-63 to have a piece of the halfway lead in the Travelers Championship."

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

Weather forecast for Muirfield Village: The early starters are welcomed by temps already in the 80s and the thermometer gauge will hit the mid 90s around 4pm. Winds are very light while there could be some cooling rain in the afternoon. Nothing jumps out in terms of a weather bias.

First-round leader history at Muirfield Village:

2019 - 65 Ryan Moore
2018 - 65 Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama
2017 - 65 Jason Dufner, David Lingmerth
2016 - 64 Dustin Johnson
2015 - 64 Hideki Matsuyama, Bo Van Pelt

Strategy: Using the above sample and going further back, it's a pretty even split in terms of when the eventual first-round leaders teed off. The weather forecast doesn't sway me one way so I'll go two early and one late.

Make it Mickelson

News from tournament director Gary Young that Muirfield Village will be more receptive this week than next (when it stages the annual Memorial Tournament) could just play into the hands of Phil Mickelson.

A less fiery course will allow the left-hander to throw darts and the softer conditions on already wide fairways will help keep his loose drives in check.

Mickelson has eight top 25s here, including three in the last four years, and has cracked the top 10 three times. In other words, it's a course he enjoys.

The guesswork is where his game is in 2020 but just two weeks ago on his latest start we saw the five-time major winner open 64-63 to have a piece of the halfway lead in the Travelers Championship.

He faded on the weekend but there's enough there to show that he can still pour in the birdies (he racked up 14 over the first 36 holes at TPC River Highlands).

Mickelson is in one of the glamour groups alongside Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay at 1:10pm and 80/1 could look a big price.

Vote Varner III

I looked at Harold Varner III on the outrights (you can read my main tournament preview here) but I'm happy to play him for first-round leader - especially with the added news that scoring is set to be lower this week.

Varner III is 12th in R1 Scoring Average and we saw a recent example of his ability to go early when an opening 63 gave him the first-round lead at last month's Charles Schwab Challenge.

He finished T19 there and has added T32 (R1 66) at the Travelers and T30 at the Rocket Mortgage so is in decent nick.

Varner is 50th in Birdie Average this season and has been making plenty since golf returned, ranking 7th for Birdies at the Travelers and 19th at the Charles Schwab.

He's played this event twice in the last three years and posted a top 20 in one of them and hopefully the easier conditions will be even more to his liking this time.

The 80/1 shot is a morning starter at 8.40am.

Home in on Hubbard

The other name that popped up when looking for a fast starter currently making lots of birdies is Mark Hubbard and I'll play him at 100/1.

The 31-year-old is playing some fine golf this season and sits 31st in the FedExCup rankings.

He was runner-up at the Houston Open and T12 at the Rocket Mortgage last week was his sixth top 15 of the campaign.

Not worse than T37 in the four comeback events, Hubbard ranked third for Birdies at the Rocket Mortgage after draining 22 and has six in his opening 67.

His four openers since golf returned read 67-64-68-67 and that 64 at the RBC Heritage gave him the first-round lead.

Hubbard is 21st in R1 Scoring Average and his rankings of 23rd in Par 5 Scoring and 27th in SG: Putting will hopefully set him up well to do well at an easier Muirfield Village.

He heads out at 8:29am from No.10.

Staked: £390
Returned: £345.91
P/L: -£44.09

Dave Tindall,

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