2023 WM Phoenix Open First Round Leader Picks: Russell Henley Could Sneak Up On Everyone

This week’s event has just one course in play, so first-round leader bets no longer require considering multiple courses. The entire field will be teeing off in either an morning or afternoon wave on TPC Scottsdale, a longer par 71 with fun scoring holes scattered about. Scottsdale is very much a solid all-around test of golf, but players with strong off-tee stats have tended to prosper here more than others. With that in mind, let’s break down the best WM Phoenix Open first-round leader plays.

As always, this column will rely on OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to find the best value plays for first-round leader bets.

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2023 WM Phoenix Open First Round Leader Bets

Nine of the last 12 first-round leaders have come from the afternoon wave. Scoring at TPC Scottsdale remains around or below the tour average, but scores have been as low as 61 for first-round leaders. Players who are strong off the tee — with good distance and solid accuracy — as well as players with the ability to spike on these hybrid greens, will be the targets.

For 2023, the weather looks ideal, but the cooler desert mornings should give the afternoon starters a better advantage. With the afternoon starters also having the better trends, that wave is the lean this week.

Justin Thomas First-Round Leader (+3500) at DraftKings

Thomas has a solid mid-afternoon tee time for Round 1 that should see him tee off in ideal weather. He hasn’t been in contention in either of his first two starts, but he did show signs of breaking out at the Farmers before faltering for a round over the weekend. Thomas gained over three strokes on approach at the Farmers and was his usual steady self around the greens, gaining over two strokes there as well. Thomas has never had an issue driving the ball well at TPC Scottsdale and has gained strokes off the tee at the event in five straight starts. Furthermore, he has had some big spike weeks on the greens, gaining over 2.5 strokes putting each year between 2018 and 2021. With a really solid +3500 number for betting — and an ideal afternoon tee time for trends — Thomas makes sense as a player to start first-round leader cards this week.

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Russell Henley First-Round Leader (+6600) at BetMGM

Henley won’t get much buzz, but he is always someone to think about in the first-round leader market. Last season, he ranked fourth in first-round leader scoring on tour and opened with a 67 in his most recent start in Hawaii. Henley is not a long hitter, and perhaps that holds him back at TPC Scottsdale over the long term, but his elite iron play means he can still spike for a round, especially if the putter shows up early. Henley has played Scottsdale each of the past two seasons and clearly is warming up to the setup a bit. He shot rounds of 65 and 67 here in 2021 and comes into this season looking in solid form, having gained multiple strokes on approach in each of his first two starts. Henley also has an afternoon tee time, so it’s a great week to jump on him at much longer odds than usual for this market.

For a wager on BetMGM this week, Russell Henley is a first-round leader target to consider. He has solid 66-1 odds there, longer than most other places. New BetMGM users even get first bet insurance up to $1,000!

WM Phoenix Open 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.

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Wyndham Clark First Round Leader (+10000) at BetMGM

Wyndham Clark First Round Top 5 (+1800) at BetMGM

Clark is the prototypical long-hitter/elite putter to target given how well TPC Scottsdale sets up for longer hitters. Clark also has some interesting recent form and course history, which make him an intriguing target this week in various markets. He shot a 61 at TPC Scottsdale in 2019 (and was the first-round leader that season) and has played this event four times, gaining over 2.5 strokes putting in two of those four starts. Clark is coming off a 21st place at the Farmers, but he gained over 3.5 strokes on approach in that start, his best statistical start ever in the approach category. He is also +1800 in the top-5 first-round market to go along with the outright bet.

Patton Kizzire First Round Leader (+15000) at BetMGM

Patton Kizzire First Round Top 5 (+2500) at BetMGM

There are also some long odds on Kizzire this week, a player who finished 10th at this event last season and who has shot a round of 65 at TPC Scottsdale in each of the last two seasons. He can sometimes be a liability off the tee, but he’s gained strokes off the tee now in three of his last four starts and is an elite putter who has shown signs of breaking out again. After a cold stretch on the greens, Kizzire gained over 1.5 strokes putting at both the Farmers and Sony Open, and he gained over 2.5 strokes putting at TPC Scottsdale between 2018 and 2021. As a first-round leader target, he also has a great afternoon tee time and has some seriously attractive top-5 odds, which make him a solid hybrid bet in both the top-5 and outright markets for first-round leader.

Geoff Ulrich

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