US Masters 2021 First-Round Leader Tips: Cantlay can cash in on golden slot

American Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay can come out of the blocks fast

It's the opening major of the season and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at Augusta National...

"Cantlay is ranked 1st for Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season."

Back Patrick Cantlay E/W @ 28/1

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

Weather forecast for Thursday: It's a mixture of sunshine and cloud on day one and there's a 10% chance of rain in the afternoon. Temperatures start in the mid-60s but peak in the mid-80s around 4-5pm. Winds look modest at around 6-9mph.

FRL history at Augusta National

2020 Dustin Johnson, Dylan Frittelli, Paul Casey (65)
2019 Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau (66)
2018 Jordan Spieth (66)
2017 Charley Hoffman (65)
2016 Jordan Spieth (66)
2015 Jordan Spieth (64)
2014 Bill Haas (68)
2013 Marc Leishman, Sergio Garcia (66)
2012 Lee Westwood (67)
2011 Rory McIlroy, Alvaro Quiros (65)
2010 Fred Couples (66)

Strategy: Gather up all the money you're intending to bet on this market and Put it on Jordan Spieth at 16s. Seems fair enough, right?! Well, maybe. There's the odd surprise name but, in general, this is a pretty classy looking list so I'm more inclined to consider the leading lights.

Later tee-times have dominated and, remarkably, six of the last seven first-round leaders have come from Groups Nos. 26-28.

Obviously some big names occupy those 'golden slots' so it makes sense. The weather forecast does nothing to dissuade me from such a tactic.

Count on Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay is ranked 1st for Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season which is a pretty good opening reason for backing him.

The Californian averages 68.10 per round and a 62 helped him post the first-round lead at Pebble Beach earlier this season.

Six tournaments earlier he fired a Thursday 62 at the Shriners in Las Vegas to lie second after 18 holes.

While he hasn't yet started fast at the US Masters, Cantlay has shown he can go low at Augusta National: he shot a 64 in round three in 2019 and hung up a 66 in round two in November.

Those two laps helped him finish T9 and T17, and it's a tournament he feels he can win.

Playing with Masters specialist Fred Couples has added to his course knowledge and he spoke extremely well in Monday's press conference about knowing how to tackle Augusta on his own terms rather than doing what he conventional wisdom says.

And.... drumroll.... he's in Group 27 so that 1:24pm tee-time (local) looks perfect.

He's 28/1 to lead after day one and I'm happy to snap it up.

Side with Scott

Adam Scott heads out in Group 28, 12 minutes after Cantlay, and looks a decent price at 55/1 to make a strong start.

Scott won the Green Jacket in 2013 but has also made some fast starts.

He was second after day one in 2014 and sixth following the opening lap in 2019 before taking the halfway lead.

The Aussie returns to Augusta in perhaps his best form for some while after shooting three fine laps at the Honda Classic to finish tied 13th.

Scott ranked 4th for both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and SG: Approach so, as was the plan, looks to be peaking again for Augusta National.

Talking about his preparations on Monday, he said: "It's been good. I've had a couple of weeks to really do what I want with my game (he skipped the WGC Dell Match Play), and the test will be on Thursday, but there's certainly been a focus on my long game.

"It was getting better at Honda, which was good, but I'd like to drive it a bit better again here, and if I can do that, I think that sets me up for a little bit more stress-free golf."

Scott appeals at the joint industry-best of 55/1.

Make it Matt

Matthew Fitzpatrick in Dubai.jpg

Let's mine this golden slot idea to the hilt and try another player from Cantlay's Group 27 by backing Matt Fitzpatrick.

I've gone for the Englishman in my outright preview but also like him for FRL.

Basically, he's a quick starter. Fitzpatrick's last four opening rounds on the PGA Tour read 68, 69, 66, 66. Those scores, compiled at Sawgrass, Bay Hill, The Concession and Riviera, gave him first-round positions of 3-7-1-2 and helped him finish in the top 11 in all four events.

As mentioned in my each-way piece, I also like the fact that he's posted three laps of 5-under 67 at Augusta National, showing he can keep it going when making early birdies.

Combined together, he makes for a good each-way first-round leader punt at 40/1.

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