15:20 – December 10, 2020

For the second year in-a-row a Frenchman leads the DP World Tour Championship after round one but in contrast to Mike Lorenzo-Vera last year, who led after an opening nine-under-par 63, which was the lowest first round score ever shot around the Earth Course, Matt Cooper’s excellent each-way pick, Victor Perez, leads after a five-under-par 67.

That’s the highest score posted by a first-round leader here since the tournament began in 2009 and he needed at least one chip-in and some lengthy putts to achieve the feat.

Here’s the first round leaderboard with prices to back at 15:10.

Victor Perez -5 12.5
Matthew Fitzpatrick -4 8.615/2
Robert McIntyre -4 13.012/1
Erik Van Rooyen -4 17.016/1
Tyrrell Hatton -3 7.413/2
Tommy Fleetwood -3 10.09/1
Martin Kaymer -3 28.027/1
Sami Valimaki -3 46.045/1
Patrick Reed -2 9.617/2
-2 and 28.027/1 bar

A combination of a stiff breeze, some slightly narrower fairways, marginally thicker rough and some tricky pin placements, resulted in a tougher than expected day today and it was even harder for the early starters. As they went off in reverse Race to Dubai order, one could point to the fact that the better players teed off in the afternoon, or it could have been down to warmer conditions, but whatever the reason, it was certainly noticeable that the later you started the better and there was a disparity in the scores of 1.03 strokes between the AM and PM starters.

It’s hard to make a strong case for the leader given his putter helped him out so much today, that he only ranks 28th for Greens In Regulation so far, and that only one first round leader has gone on to win here – Robert Karlsson 10 years ago.

Although first round leaders are only 1 from 11, the stats suggest you do need to be up with the pace and as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, Jon Rahm trailed by four in a tied for 16th after the opening round three years ago and that’s the furthest any winner has trailed by after the opening round. Alvaro Quiros also trailed by four after round one when he won in 2011 but he was inside the top-five places and Rahm is the only winner not to be inside the top-seven after day one.

Those stats suggest it would be folly to scan too far down the leaderboard but it’s worth highlighting how much more condensed the field is after round one this year, with as many as 25 players under-par and within five of the lead.

Although early days, I’ve backed two in-play after the opening round – Tyrrell Hatton and Andy Sullivan.

I came close to backing Hatton before the off and while he’s obviously shortened up after his three-under-par opening round, I’m more than happy to get him onside given his position. When interviewed after his round, he said he missed a few fairways on the front-nine and I wasn’t overly enamoured by the way he played 18, or what he said about the way he played it.

We saw the drive, that missed the fairway left, but not his second, which would have been an attempted lay-up. The next time we saw him he was in the rough to the right of the fairway, some 10 or so yards behind a tree. He played his third through the tree, via a few woody ricochets before he got up-and-down for par. It was a great scramble but when asked about his third shot, his response was quite surprising.

“I just couldn’t be bothered to chip out sideways.”

That’s a little disconcerting but it’s also what you get with Tyrrell. His price of 7.613/2 is no more than fair but now in-contention it makes more appeal than the 12/1 on offer before the off.

After last Saturday’s disappointment in the Golf In Dubai Championship, where he led everywhere bar the line, having been matched at 1.271/4 in-running, Andy Sullivan has done well to start this week with an under-par round and I can see him building on that nicely. He’s no bigger than 40/1 on the High Street and I thought 60.059/1 was fair given last week’s form and that he only trails by four.

Pre-Event Selections:
Bernd Wiesberger @ 32.031/1
Antoine Rozner @ 90.089/1

In-Play Picks:
Tyrrell Hatton @ 7.613/2
Andy Sullivan @ 60.059/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back Adri Arnaus 1u @ 160.0159/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back Renato Paratore 1u @ 160.0159/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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