Open Championship 2021 First-Round Leader Tips: 100/1 Henley the value



Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Weather forecast for Royal St George’s: Here’s the official Met Office description issued at midday on Tuesday: “Dry with early low cloud clearing to leave a fine and pleasant afternoon. Winds: N to NW, becoming N to NE 15 mph, gusts 22-25 mph. Max temp 22 °C.” Zoning in a little on the wind and it seems to be fairly even throughout the day.

First-round leader history at the Open:

2020 – No tournament
2019 – J.B. Holmes (66)
2018 – Kevin Kisner (63)
2017 – Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brooks Koepka (65)
2016 – Phil Mickelson (63)
2015 – Dustin Johnson (65)
2014 – Rory McIlroy (66)
2013 – Zach Johnson (66)
2012 – Adam Scott (64)

First-round leader history at Royal St George’s:

2011 – Thomas Bjorn, Tom Lewis (65)
2003 – Hennie Otto (68)
1993 – Mark Calcavecchia, Greg Norman, Fuzzy Zoeller, Peter Senior (66)
1985 – Christy O’Connor Jnr (64)
1981 – Vicente Fernandez, Nick Job (70)

Strategy: Recent first-round leader history is dominated by Americans although that hasn’t been the case at Royal St George’s. I’m more likely to lean on recent evidence though as US golfers’ prices can get inflated despite their proven records. In terms of start times, at the time of writing there seems no obvious advantage but obviously keep an eye on the latest forecasts.

Home in on Henley

Russell Henley was one of the stars of the show at Torrey Pines before his US Open bid fell apart in round four, dropping him to tied 13th.

But he was the leader after 18 holes – as well as through 36 and 54.

He opened with a 67 at Torrey and he’s matched that score in his last two events, ending day one inside the top 15 and banking top 20s at both the Travelers Championship and the John Deere Classic.

Further evidence of his fast starts can be found with a 64 which gave him the first-round lead in the 2020 Northern Trust, a 66 that put him second after round one of the CJ CUP and a 64 which placed him second after lap one of March’s Honda Classic.

A good wind player, he does have some pockets of Open form too. A Friday 66 helped him make the top 20 at St Andrews in 2015, he closed with a 67 at Royal Birkdale for T37 in 2018 and he was 8th after R1 in his most recent appearance at Carnoustie in 2018.

The news gets even better when widening the focus to other majors.

So here’s a stat: Henley has been the first-round leader in his last two US Opens – 2018 at linksy Shinnecock and 2021 by the coast at Torrey Pines.

Looking at the Masters, he’s been fourth and sixth after round one in two of his last three appearances at Augusta National.

The US PGA? Yep, third after Thursday’s play in 2015 and ninth after 18 holes in 2016.

Bottom line: Henley is an in-form American with a history of fast starts in majors. That 100/1 looks a great bet.

He heads off at 14:26 with Webb Simpson and Shaun Norris.

Side with Scottie

I’ve gone for Scottie Scheffler in my outright preview and I definitely like him in this market too at the industry-best 50/1.

The big-hitting American took the smart decision to play in last week’s Scottish Open and carded a Friday 63 on the way to finishing tied 12th: an excellent warm-up for this week’s big one.

The Texan is cut out for majors golf and he’s shown that this year with tied 18th in the US Masters, tied 8th in the US PGA and tied 7th in the US Open.

Between those latter two he also banked third place at Memorial where an opening 67 put him second after 18 holes.

He’s also been in the top seven after day one in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Genesis Invitational and the Texas Open this season, events where scoring was relatively tough, as it will be this week.

Scheffler has admitted to being a fan of links golf and thoroughly enjoyed himself at The Renaissance Club last week.

He heads out at 10:31 on Thursday morning alongside Sergio Garcia and Chinese amateur Yuxin Lin and hopefully he can add to the recent string of American first-round leaders.

Noren can nail early number

Alex Noren has a very solid Open record with two top 10s and a further three top 20s in his nine appearances.

He’s started well in a number of them too, firing Thursday 68s at both Royal Birkdale in 2017 and Royal Portrush two years ago. The latter put him third after R1.

And back at Royal St George’s in 2011, the Swede set out with a 69.

As well as that links pedigree, he also knows how to go low.

Earlier this season he was the first-round leader at the Farmers Insurance Open thanks to a 64 while he was also in the top six following the first lap at The American Express and the Genesis.

In May, a 65 on day one put him seventh at close of day one at the Byron Nelson.

A fourth-round 64 secured a top-four finish at the Rocket Mortgage Classic earlier this month so he has a nice combination of strengths for this market.

Noren, an 80/1 shot for FRL, tees off at 7:08 so we have a nice spread of start times with the three tips.