2023 Zurich Classic of New Orleans First Round Leader Picks: Back Hayden Buckley and J.J. Spaun to Go Low Thursday

The Zurich Classic team event will see players go off in regular morning and afternoon waves on Thursday. Despite there being 80 teams in the field (rather than 120 or more singles) the principles for first-round leader bets this week remain the same. The goal is to get players going off in the better waves (weather-wise) and players who are fast starters. Decent recent form and, of course, good value in the betting odds (via the OddsShopper’s golf betting tools) is also important. This is where OddsShopper’s golf betting tools will help, as they can be used to identify the best value options for first-round leader Zurich Class first-round leader picks.

As of writing, the weather on Thursday does not look bad for most of the day. It is probably better to have players go off in the morning, but the winds are not looking to get very crazy in the afternoon for day one so a little exposure to both sides of the draw this week is warranted (assuming there is value in an afternoon team).

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2023 Zurich Classic First Round Leader Picks & Bets

Hayden Buckley/J.J. Spaun First Round Leader (+3500) at BetMGM

Coming off a fifth-place finish at the RBC Heritage and a 10th-place finish at the Valero, there is little doubt that Hayden Buckley is playing some very high-end golf at the moment. He nearly won the season opener earlier this year at the Sony Open and has shown elite ball striking that will play well around any venue on the PGA. Buckley has gained multiple strokes with the putter in each of his last two events as well and currently ranks 15th on the season in first-round leader scoring.

For first-round leader bets, that makes him an intriguing golfer this week in his own right and he becomes even more intriguing given the fact he is paired with another fast starter in Spaun (16th in first-round scoring). While Buckley is playing the team event for the first time, Spaun’s experience should come in handy, and he has gained strokes off the tee and on approach in each of his last two starts. These fast starters have a nice morning tee time Thursday, which should allow them to miss the worst of the wind and get off to a good Round 1 in the low-scoring, best-ball format.

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Byeong Hun An/SH Kim First Round Leader (+4000) at BetMGM

Another fast-starting pair to target in Round 1 is the Korean duo of Byeong Hun An and S.H. Kim. Both men have flashed on leaderboards in 2023, with An coming off an impressive sixth-place finish at the Valero. An is also very experienced in both this format and at TPC Louisiana as he lost in a three-way playoff at this venue back in 2016 and landed a top-12 finish with Sungjae Im at this event last season.

Both men rank in the top 35 in first-round scoring this season as well and have been fast starters for most of their careers. There is a lot of talent around the greens with this team as both men also currently rank inside the top 15 in strokes gained around the green in long-term form, with Kim also being an elite putter. They have an afternoon tee time for Round 1 that provides exposure to the second wave, and at 40-1, this team looks like a solid value to target in the first-round leader market.

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2023 Zurich Classic First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Long-shot bets in the first-round leader market hit all the time on the PGA Tour. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

Sam Ryder/Doc Redman First Round Leader (+4500) at BetMGM

Sam Ryder/Doc Redman Top-5 after First Round (+700) at BetMGM

While the price is not huge on Redman and Ryder for Round 1, they are a duo who could see get out to a fast start on Thursday. The team played together last year as well and finished an impressive third place overall. Both men are talented and have also always been relatively fast starters with Ryder ranking 17th in first-round scoring this season. Ryder’s putter has also been a weapon all year and he has gained strokes on the greens in nine straight events.

While Redman hasn’t looked good for most of 2023 (missed cuts in six of his last seven starts) there have been positive signs with his ball striking of late and he has still managed to stay somewhat decent with the putter as well (outside of last week) — ranking 39th in this field in strokes gained putting, in long-term form. The experience of being in the mix last season should really help these two in 2023 as they will know that any slow start will make it impossible to catch up with some of the elite teams on Sunday. Look for both men to come in ready to go low to start off their 2023 Zurich Classic.

Geoff Ulrich

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