The first round leader golf betting market is an area I've had a big interest in for a long time. It is one of the most exploitable markets I've come across in the industry. This year I decided to focus more in-depth on each way first round leader betting and it has indeed proved fruitful, with a handful of triple figure odds wins and numerous places thus far. As regular followers will know, I have had a lot of success while being a relatively small staker and the strategy I use is very much based on a low risk with potential high return policy. I will get on to this system later in the post.
I've been studying these markets now for a while and first round leader prices don't differ too much from the outright win odds. Generally the outright market leaders' prices will be pushed out somewhere in the region of 20% while the majority of the pack will remain largely the same. Rank outsider prices will be cut anywhere up to 50% but more often than not you will get at least one book offering a price close to the tournament win odds of those players in triple figures. In my opinion, which my long term results more than back up, the field is, in reality, a lot more evenly matched over 18 holes than these prices would suggest.
The odds on the outsiders have gradually been getting skinnier as compilers adapt to outcomes and the increasing popularity of the market but there is still huge value to exploit. As I write, the Italian Open leaderboard is completely dominated by players who went off at triple figure odds and you will find that this is far from an infrequent occurence.
Key variables and tips for first round leader betting
Early tee times - A huge factor in this market and one that isn't accounted for at all in the odds is the tee time. Generally speaking an early start can be worth as much as a two shot advantage on the other half of the field. In Europe especially, the wind doesn't tend to get up until the afternoon, while the greens will be smoother and more receptive in the morning. In America, conditions get faster and firmer as the day goes on and this, more often than not, leads to lower scoring for those with earlier tee times. Obviously it won't be the case every week as weather patterns change but leaderboards and scoring averages throughout the season will back up the theory in the long run.
Ability to go low / Fast starters - Studying and analysing golf in as much depth as I've been doing for many years now, you get to spot key trends and patterns developing week in, week out. You learn things about players that the stats may not portray or back up. Certain players excel in the earlier rounds and fade due to mentality and other factors that have nothing to do with their ability, while others can go extremely low on any given day but may struggle to put four rounds together. If you can pick out these players, you will gain a massive advantage in the first round leader betting market. Two Irishmen - Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie are two such players to watch. Regularly priced at triple figures in this market, both are prone to fast starts, yet rarely contend on sunday, but if you'd been backing them e/w this year for first round leader, you'd have turned huge profits.
First round leader golf betting strategy
As mentioned earlier in the post, I use a low staking strategy with potential for big returns. This involves targeting long odds and I'd recommend staying away from shorter prices in the first round leader market. I generally look for players priced at 80/1 plus, and back five players ew per event from this category. If one player places, you will get a return larger than evens on your overall tournament liability. Long term (if your picks are based on informed opinion), these place (top five) returns should go close to covering you, while any winners will rocket you into the profit zone. There's no reason why you shouldn't expect a handful of winners over the course of the year if you have an eye for under the radar players who may go well.
Below is a screenshot (click to enlarge) with some of my recent returns from the first round leader market. As you can see, it demonstrates the low risk / potential high return philosophy and these returns alone would cover me for around 24 tournaments.
Another thing worth looking at in your search to find an edge for first round leader betting is when the tournament in question involves rotating courses. In the earlier days of the first round leader golf markets, this was highly exploitable but in recent times, most sportsbooks have wised up and don't offer the market in these events. Betfair will still offer it however and the following is an experiment I did earlier in the season involving the first round leader market and Torrey Pines North and South courses at the Farmers Insurance Open
To sum up, the first round leader golf market is one very much worth focusing on and studying during the course of the season and if you take on board my staking advice and areas to look at, there's no reason why you won't profit long term.