The Memorial 2023 First Round Leader Picks: Rickie Fowler Looks Primed

The Memorial kicks off this Thursday, and once again we have a shot to go hunting for some first-round leader bets. Last week we hit on a +1000 top-5 finish at Colonial for Andrew Putnam in Round 1, and we will again target some players with similar odds for solid starts this time around. This event may have an elevated field, but over the years it has produced tons of triple-digit first-round leaders. Last season had a six-way tie for first after Thursday, with three of the players in that logjam having gone off at 100-1 or greater to lead after Thursday’s round.

Muirfield Village plays quite long at over 7,600 yards, but this is still a championship course where great iron and approach play are paramount for players if they want to break 70. We will target names with both experience and great recent form, with a keen eye to golfers who have been flashing with great approach stats of late.

As always, this column will use the OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to identify the best value options as well as a few numbers to include for the Memorial first-round leader selections.

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The Memorial First Round Leader Bets

First-round leaders at Muirfield have come from both sides of the draw over the past five seasons, but there has been a clear edge to morning starters. Four of the six golfers tied after Round 1 last season were from the morning wave, and there have been three solo morning first-round leaders at this event since 2016 (compared to just one for afternoon starters). With the weather looking very calm Thursday morning, and the greens likely to be more receptive early on, look to go heavy on early starters.

Rickie Fowler First Round Leader (+4000) at BetMGM

Fowler looks to be a popular choice among bettors and daily fantasy players. While he is certainly playing well enough to contend, looking to him in the first-round leader market may make even more sense for betting. His odds to lead after Round 1 are longer than his current outright win odds on many sportsbooks, and Fowler comes in off a great week at Colonial where he finished in a tie for sixth and gained 9.3 strokes on approach and around the greens combined. He ranks 33rd in first-round scoring average this season and is no stranger to playing Muirfield Village, having finished second here in 2016 and eighth in 2018. He goes off early in the Thursday morning wave, which should give him another small advantage over the field. While betting Fowler to grab a comeback win at Jack Nicklaus’ event is fun for narrative and rooting purposes, with an elite field on tap, it is likely better to take the bigger number available for a one-round spike this Thursday.

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Russell Henley First Round Leader (+5500) at BetMGM

First Round Top 5 (+900) at BetMGM

Henley did not look great at the PGA Championship but quickly rebounded with a solid effort at Colonial where he finished in a tie for 16th. As usual, Henley’s iron play has been steady, gaining him multiple strokes in each of his last three starts. That means the rest of his game just needs to come around, and last week his putter came to life, as he gained over three strokes on Colonial’s lightning-fast greens. Muirfield may be too long for Henley to ultimately win, but he showed he can go low on longer courses this season when he grabbed a top-5 finish at Augusta. If his putting confidence spills over to this week, he could easily start fast, as he has an early-morning tee time this Thursday. Henley usually ends up with one or two first-round leader wins every season, and with his game looking sharper, backing him in the first-round leader market at a solid price makes plenty of sense.

The Memorial First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Longshots often hit in the first-round market and are worth adding to betting cards. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

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Byeong Hun An First-Round Leader (+8000) at DraftKings

First Round Top 5 (+1400) at BetMGM

All things considered, these are terrific prices on An to have a quick start in Round 1. He is playing great golf and comes in having gained over 3.5 strokes off the tee in four of his last five starts on the PGA Tour. His irons were also fantastic last week, as he gained 4.4 strokes against the field in that stat alone at Colonial, the most for him in a single event this season. An has also been a perennial fast starter most of his career and ranks ninth in first-round scoring in 2023. The main factors here, though, are his form and confidence, which seem sky-high and have him likely to come out of the gates hot once again. With one of the earliest tee times on the ledger this Thursday, An’s +1400 odds for a top-5 finish are some of the best value on the board for Round 1.

Justin Suh First Round Leader (+9000) at BetMGM

First Round Top 5 (+1500) at BetMGM

Suh is a name to keep an eye on — and for betting he makes sense as a longshot to add to first-round leader cards. He has played solid golf over his last two starts and showed progression with his irons at Colonial, where he gained 2.4 strokes on approach, his best week in that category since Bay Hill. Suh has shown good upside with his putter of late as well, having gained over 1.2 strokes putting in eight straight starts. He was striking the ball extremely well to start the season, so if his ball striking returns to the form he is capable of, then there should be some low rounds soon. Young, up-and-coming players have elevated their games at Muirfield numerous times in the past, and Suh is coming in with confidence after landing a career-best major championship finish at the PGA (26th). With an early tee time for Thursday, he is a great first-round leader target, especially in the top-5 market, where he has long +1500 odds.

Geoff Ulrich

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