For much of the first day in Ohio, Dave Tindall's excellent First Round Leader pick, Kyle Stanley, looked likely to oblige at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It's very often the case that the morning starters enjoy the best of the conditions and if someone posts a great score in the morning, nine times out of ten it's enough for backers to collect but not yesterday. The afternoon starters at Firestone averaged fractionally less than those that started early and it was agonising to watch Ian Poulter get up-and-down successfully from a greenside bunker on 18 to pip him. Here are the standings after round one with prices to back at 11:45.
Ian Poulter -8 14.50
Rickie Fowler -7 6.60
Kyle Stanley -7 30.00
Jon Rahm -6 10.00
Patrick Cantlay -6 26.00
Si Woo Kim -6 55.00
Rory McIlroy -5 9.20
Justin Thomas -5 13.00
Jason Day -5 15.00
Marc Leishman -5 38.00
Luke List -5 60.00
Kevin Na -5 80.00
Anirban Lahiri -5 160.00
Tiger Woods -4 16.00
-4 and 28.00 bar
There was a time when I'd be concentrating hard on the early leaders at Bridgestone. Between 1999 and 2005, four first round leaders went on to win and Jim Furyk lost a playoff in 2001 having been tied at the top after day one, but it's been a very different story of late...
Adam Scott won wire-to-wire in 2011 but here are the positions after round one of the last dozen winners.
2006 - Tiger Woods - fourth, trailed by four strokes
2007 - Tiger Woods - fourth, trailed by a stroke
2008 - Vijay Singh - second, trailed by a stroke
2009 - Tiger Woods - eighth, trailed by four strokes
2010 - Hunter Mahan - 37th, trailed by seven strokes
2011 - Adam Scott - led by a stroke
2012 - Keegan Bradley - ninth, trailed by four strokes
2013 - Tiger Woods - third, trailed by two strokes
2014 - Rory McIlroy - 14th, trailed by five strokes
2015 - Shane Lowry - 22nd, trailed by five strokes
2016 - Dustin Johnson - ninth, trailed by five strokes
2017 - Hideki Matsuyama - 15th, trailed by four strokes
Those stats make the price on Poulter look skinny and they make one or two on -4 and only four adrift look tempting. There are some top-class players inside the top-13 but I'm not convinced many of them represent value towards the head of the market. The new favourite, Rickie Fowler, is always too short for my liking and I'm not at all sure Jon Rahm has the patience for this course over four rounds.
Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas look fairly priced but I've taken a small chance on two of this year's three major winners at juicy prices from four back - US Masters winner, Patrick Reed, and US Open Champ, Brooks Koepka, at 42.00 and 28.00 respectively.
My pre-event picks were disappointing. Justin Rose, who was my main fancy, pulled out before the off with a back injury so I was only left with modest bets on Dustin Johnson and Francesco Molinari and they ended round one on -1 and level par respectively. I was a bit disappointed with their performances but I was really dissatisfied with my main fancy in the Barracuda Championship - Brandon Harkins.
Starting on the 10th hole, Harkins began the event very well, eagling 13 and birdying 14 and I forgave him his missed birdie put from five feet on 16 when he birdied the 18th, just as I went to bed. Nine points was a nice start and an important start given that up with the pace has been the place to be in this event most years so if I could wake up to see him on 15 or so points I'd be more than happy. He ended the round with five.
The first round ended with Ollie Schniederjans in front and bizarrely as it sounds, given he missed the cut in Canada last week, he's picked up from where he left off! After two rounds in Ontario, nobody had made more birdies than Ollie (15!) but he managed to also record eight bogeys, one-double bogey and one triple! Yesterday he made six birdies and an eagle but he didn't drop a shot. He'll begin his second round with 17 points already in the bag and at first glance he looks fairly priced at 6/1 but he's led twice before after round one on the PGA Tour and he went on to finish 54th and 39th.
The one I like at this stage is Aussie vet, Arron Baddeley, who sits tied for second and just three points adrift of Schniederjans. As a 37 Australian in search of his first win in a couple of years (and his second in seven years), he fits the profile of a Barracuda winner quite nicely and I can see him emulating his countrymen, Geoff Ogilvy and Greg Chalmers, who won here in 2014 and 2016.
New Zealander, Ben Campbell, who won the New Zealand PGA Championship in February, leads the Fiji International at the halfway stage by four strokes over Aussie vet, Andre Dodt, but I haven't given up on my sole selection, Justin Harding, just yet. The in-form South African started slowly and he's still eight off the lead but that could all soon change if Campbell wobbles at all.
The presence of Dodt is an irritation given he was very much considered before the off so I've had a tiny bet on him at 8.80 because I'd kick myself if he won totally unbacked.
I'll be back tomorrow with a good look at the Bridgestone at halfway.
WGC Bridgestone Invitational Pre-Event Selections:
Dustin Johnson @ 9.00
Justin Rose @ 16.50 (Non-Runner)
Francesco Molinari @ 30.00
In-Play Picks:
Brooks Koepka @ 28.00
Patrick Reed @ 42.00
Barracuda Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Steve Wheatcroft @ 90.00
Brandon Harkins @ 95.00
Ben Crane @ 130.00
In-Play Pick:
Arron Baddeley @ 19.00
Fiji International Pre-Event Selection:
Justin Harding @ 17.00
In-Play Pick:
Andrew Dodt @ 8.80

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