US Masters First-Round Leader Tips: Koepka to set the pace

American Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka can start fast again

It's the final major of 2020 and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at Augusta National...

"I'm tempted to back Bryson DeChambeau to do what he did last year and set the early pace. He's 14/1 to be FRL. But at 20/1 I'll go for last year's other joint-leader Brooks Koepka, who is coming in off a pair of weekend 65s at the Houston Open where he finished fifth."

Back Brooks Koepka each-way @ 20/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Weather forecast for Augusta National:
Temperatures will be higher than normal for November; in fact, they'll be closer to April - mid-70s to low 80s. Rain is forecast for Thursday and t-storms could lead to delays. Winds are very light at 5mph.

FRL history at Augusta National

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 The limited field makes it more likely but the message here is big names often hit the front early at the US Masters. Tee-times are bunched, with the 93-man field going off from the 1st and the 10th in three-balls. The first groups go off at 07:00 and the last at 12:22. I can't see any particular bias although the earlier starters at least have a better chance of getting all 18 holes in if the weather causes interruptions.

Count on Koepka

One Masters curiosity - or perhaps there's some great logic to this - is how certain players start fast and others don't.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have 10 green jackets between them but have never held a first-round lead.

By contrast, Justin Rose was the first-round leader in three successive visits and has been in the top four after day one on three further occasions.

Jordan Spieth also holds a trio of first-round leads.

I'm therefore tempted to back Bryson DeChambeau to do what he did last year and set the early pace. He's 14/1 to be FRL.

But at 20/1 I'll go for last year's other joint-leader Brooks Koepka.

Koepka is coming in off a pair of weekend 65s at the Houston Open where he finished fifth. He said later that he'd have won but for using a new different driver in the first two rounds.

No doubt he'll continue with the one that worked well over the final 36 holes in Houston.

As for other fast starts in majors, he was the first-round leader at the 2019 US PGA and was in the top three after 18 holes of that event in both 2017 and 2020.

He was also fourth after day one of the 2017 US Open.

With that history of quick starts, I'll take him at 20s to burst out of the traps from his 11:49 tee-time.

Take a chance on Fowler

Rickie Fowler's form doesn't suggest he can beat the field over 72 holes this week but he could be capable of doing so over 18.

At Augusta, he's been in the top 20 after round one on six occasions; that includes 11th the last two years and fourth in 2013.

At the US Open, he was the leader after the opening lap in 2017 and second at close of play on day one in 2019. He's also been in the top seven after 18 holes on two other occasions.

At the PGA Championship he's ended the first round in the top nine in four of the last five years.

In short, Fowler starts fast in majors.

While his game has been in and out this season, he's been in the top three after R1 on three occasions, the most recent at another big event, the WGC-St. Jude Invitational.

There are enough low rounds in his recent play to suggest he can throw another one in on Thursday.

Take the 45/1 on Fowler, who hits his first shot at 11:16.

Take a gamble on Griffin

It's not out of the question that a debutant leads the way and the one who could surprise at a big price is Lanto Griffin.

He hits it far enough (42nd in DD last season) to handle the conditions and has shown some nice form with two top 11 finishes in his last three starts.

He got hot with the putter at both the CJ Cup and ZOZO, gaining a combined 13 strokes on the greens and has built some confidence for golf at this level with T19 in the US PGA and T43 in the US Open.

As for round one performance, he's been in the top six after 18 holes in three of his last seven starts.

And in two of his last three outings, he's posted a 65 and two 66s so can make lots of birdies.

The 80/1 chance heads out at 08:06 from the 1st tee.

Dave's First Round Leader P/L

Staked: £900
Returned: £445.35
P/L: -£454.65

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