First-Round Leader Odds & Betting Guide for THE PLAYERS Championship: Six Longshot Bets for Round 1 at TPC Sawgrass (Wednesday, March 10)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Byeong-hun An
- Round 1 of THE PLAYERS Championship begins in the early morning of Thursday, March 11.
- Check out the first-round leader odds and see who we're betting to lead the field after play on Thursday.
Perhaps the most entertaining bet in all of sports, the first-round leader (FRL) play is a wager on which golfer will be atop the leaderboard after Round 1.
The reason that FRLs are quite fun is that one round of golf is so volatile that it incentivizes bettors to take some shots on players down the board. Not every player on the oddsboard can win a tournament, but practically every competitor can get hot enough to lead one for 18 holes.
Here are our favorite first-round leader bets for the 2021 PLAYERS Championship:
Chris Kirk (+9000) | Tee time: 2:06 p.m. ET
It’s always fun to play a few longer numbers for FRL, though that hasn’t been a very profitable strategy in recent years at this event.
Last year, it was Hideki Matsuyama who held the lead before it was wiped away. The year before, it was shared by Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley. Before that, it was a six-some that included Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Alex Noren and Chesson Hadley.
Kirk has been playing well, owns a nice record at this one and could bring some solid momentum into the opening round, considering he’s broken par in each of his last six Thursday rounds.
Even if you don’t like him for FRL, he should be able to cash some props/matchups and nicely fill out a DFS roster.
Tom Hoge (+15000) | Tee time: 6:56 a.m. ET
When I play first-round leaders, I generally look for players at large numbers with early tee times so they can take advantage of fresh greens and calmer weather conditions. Hoge fits that bill and has the strong approach game I’m looking for at Sawgrass. He’s also shown he’s got the ability to fire the random 63 or 64 out as well.
Hoge has gained with the approach and on the greens in both of his appearances at THE PLAYERS, so even if the overall results haven’t been there, the two main aspects of the game have been fine here. So couple that with a good tee draw and he’s capable of shooting a low round.
Brendan Steele (+12000) | Tee time: 1:22 p.m. ET
Only two players have more opening-round scores in the 60s in the last five years at TPC Sawgrass than Brendan Steele, as he has done it three times in that span. One of those was a 7-under 65 in 2015, which is the type of round needed to pay off a longshot bet like this.
Steele comes in showing some good form with an 18th-place finish at Bay Hill, where he gained nearly seven strokes on the field ball striking and I look for him to carry that momentum into this week. He has just the type of history at The Players that I am looking for to grab a quick payout with him as the leader after 18 holes at TPC Sawgrass.
Jhonattan Vegas (+15000) | Tee time: 2:17 p.m. ET
Vegas has been playing some good golf of late, as evidenced by his runner-up finish at The Puerto Rico Open in his most recent start. He’s a pretty poor putter overall, but Bermuda grass is his best surface by a wide margin where he putts pretty close to field average.
In addition to his current form, Vegas also has some great finishes in Florida. In the most recent PLAYERS Championship, the 36-year-old wound up solo third and gained 6.8 strokes from tee to green. He also finished fourth (2017) and 16th (2019) at Honda Classic in Florida.
I am high on Vegas this week and think the first-round leader market is a good place to start.
Alex Noren (+12500) | Tee time: 6:45 a.m. ET
Noren has opened two of his past three PLAYERS Championships with top-five, opening-round scores. He’s been really hot with the putter of late, ranking 13th in this field over his past four rounds in SG: Putting. He’s also coming off a strong showing at the Genesis, and had it not been for a final round 79, he would’ve finished inside the top 20 at the API.
Noren has shown a liking for this course, finishing 17th and 10th in 2018 and 2017, respectively. He is certainly worth a look in the FRL market at this price.
Byeong-hun An (+12500) | Tee time: 8:35 a.m. ET
Perhaps no player typifies the First-Round Leader Bet quite like Byeong-hun An. The affable South Korean can strike the ball with the best of them, but he’s such a wildly bad putter he can make a meal of some of the most exquisite approach shots. It’s all part of the Byeong-hun An experience.
The great thing about a FRL bet is you only need your player to have his game together for one round and An’s ball-striking always makes that a possibility. His form may not look all that impressive, but hasn’t missed a cut in 2021 and was lurking around the FRL frontrunners at last week’s API.
An has finished inside the top-30 in his last two trips to the PLAYERS, so he also seems to be relatively comfortable on this course. This all might not sound like much, but it’s enough to get me in at 125/1 odds.
Odds to be First-Round Leader at THE PLAYERS
|Si Woo Kim||+9000|
|Harold Varner III||+9000|
|Byeong Hun An||+12500|
Odds via DraftKings