US Masters 2018: Three to play in the First Round Leader market

England's Paul Casey
Paul Casey has a strong recent record of starting fast in majors
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Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at this week's US Masters...

"Looking at his R1 positions in 2017, he was T12 in last year's Masters, T2 at the U.S. Open, T4 at the Open Championship and T8 in the PGA Championship."

Back Paul Casey e.w. for first-round leader @ 22/1

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

Weather forecast: "The first round of The Masters will feature plenty of sunshine but temperatures lower than average for early April," says AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll. "It will start out in the 50s during the morning then reach the upper 60s in the afternoon. Spectators should plan on wearing a jacket or sweater given the expected conditions."

First-round history at Augusta National

Given that it's by far the smallest field of any major, the gap in tee-off times between the first and last groups is much smaller.

Therefore it's no surprise that over the last seven years, there has been no obvious early or late advantage. In fact, looking at the last five years, the market has been won by an a.m. starter twice, a p.m. starter twice while in 2013 it was split.

Interestingly, there seems to have been a R1 leader sweet spot both in the morning and afternoon.

Charley Hoffman (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015), Sergio Garcia (2013) and Lee Westwood (2012) all teed off between 12.57pm and 1.15pm local time when ending Thursday at the top (Garcia was tied).

Spieth (2016), Bill Haas (2014), Marc Leishman (2013) and Rory McIlroy (2011) went off between 9.24am and 10.08am.

Notably, there are some classy players in there and, of the seven named, Hoffman, Spieth, Garcia and Westwood had already posted a top 10 at the course so were comfortable around Augusta National while Rory has led the field after round one of the previous year's Open.

Only debutant Leishman (a joint leader with Garcia) and Bill Haas (68 in a tough year) were a bit of a surprise.

Looking at the Masters records of those with the ideal tee-times, three players stand out.

Casey a proven fast starter in majors

Paul Casey (10.09am) has been T8 after day one in two of his last four starts and was in second place after R1 at the Tour Championship on his last trip to Georgia.

One big pointer to his chances comes when looking at his fast starts in the 2017 majors. Looking at his R1 positions, he was T12 in last year's Masters, T2 at the U.S. Open, T4 at the Open Championship and T8 in the PGA Championship.

Taking just the Masters into account his positions after 18 holes in the last five show 12-4-8-73-14. He's broken 70 in round one twice in the last three years.

Although Casey ended a victory drought by winning the Valspar, I think this is the market that gives him the best chance of coming out on top.

With eight payout places, he's worth a punt at 22/1.

Pieters can go low at Augusta National

Thomas Pieters (1.05pm) was also tied 12th after the opening day last year when making his debut and showed he could really put a score together around Augusta National by shooting 68 in rounds two and four.

While he hasn't been able to show much four-day consistency this year, his round one scores are 69, 69, 69, 71, 65, 67.

He was in the top five on Thursday night in both Desert Swing events while he ended day one in T12 at the Honda Classic and T13 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Also the first-round leader in the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Pieters looks worth a play at 45/1.

Former champ Schwartzel in his comfort zone

Charl Schwartzel (12.54pm) is also worth a play at 60/1.

The 2011 winner also finished third in last year's Masters so can do great things on this course even when his overall form isn't anything special.

Schwartzel was T7 after round one when he won seven years ago and also opened with a 69 in 2010. He's been T29 or better after the opening lap in seven of his eight Masters.

Tied fourth after R1 in last year's Open Championship, the South African was T8 at close of day one in last month's Valspar Championship - another tournament he's won before.

With temperatures on the cool side, the ball won't fly as much as usual so, in Casey, Pieters and Schwartzel, I'm happy to have three proven Augusta performers who can give it a good thump.


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

Staked: £30
Returned: £0
P/L: -£30

(After Houston Open)

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