2023 The American Express first-round leader picks and model
Fantasy Golf & Golf Betting

2023 The American Express first-round leader picks and model

A picture of golfer Xander Schauffele WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - AUGUST 21: Xander Schauffele of the United States plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club on August 21, 2022 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)


Each week of the PGA Tour season, the first-round leader market is one of the juciest and most difficult to predict. With such a small sample size of first rounds, the fickle nature of form and the vagaries of splits, tee times and weather, there's a good reason these bets pay off so well when hit.

Now, we're going to try to help you win more PGA Tour first-round leader bets. In addition to our weekly model, which has a great track record of identifying PGA Tour winners every week, we're launching a first-round leader model that looks at the players most likely to wind up with at least a share of the first-round lead.

How the rubric works

Finding a first-round leader is difficult, so our model uses several factors to identify a potential FRL.

I've started the model by looking at first-round strokes gained against the field in the last 50, 20 and 10 tournaments played. I also include first-round strokes gained in those timeframes against courses with similar first-round scoring averages in the last five years. Then I add in a player's first-round history at the host golf course. Add it all together, and that's our projected FRL number for a player.

There are plenty of factors data can't quantify, including luck of the draw, playing partners, hole locations, weather and sheer random stuff. However, all told, the model is designed to point out quality players and boost those middling players who have good current form or good course history.

2023 The American Express rankings

With this being an experimental feature subject to tweaking, it will remain available for free until I feel it's dialed in properly. Then it will only be available for GNN members.

We hit on Kirk last week in a three-way chop, but that's a good start for the model. This week is tricky to predict, though. We have a three-course rotation, with La Quinta Country Club being by far the easiest. The odds are, though definitely not guaranteed, that the leader comes from that course.

I've listed the top 20 here based on their total model score. I've put an asterisk next to all the players competing on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club and listed every player on La Quinta on Thursday below that.

Click header to sort; the better their position, the more the rubric likes them

POS PLAYER PTS
1 Wise, Aaron 1.89
2 Griffin, Ben 1.857
3 Rahm, Jon * 1.788
4 Gordon, Will * 1.423
5 McCarthy, Denny * 1.397
6 Lipsky, David 1.37
7 Schauffele, Xander * 1.309
8 Cantlay, Patrick * 1.278
9 Alexander, Tyson 1.207
10 Kim, Tom * 1.101
11 Lee, K.H. 1.099
12 Burmester, Dean 1.063
13 Dou, Zecheng 0.91
14 Taylor, Ben 0.873
15 Smalley, Alex 0.854
16 Harman, Brian 0.852
17 Young, Cameron 0.849
18 English, Harris 0.821
19 Rodgers, Patrick * 0.806
20 Rose, Justin * 0.796

Players competing on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club

  • Ryan Armour
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Stewart Cink
  • Trevor Cone
  • MJ Daffue
  • Joel Dahman
  • Thomas Detry
  • Austin Eckroat
  • Tony Finau
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Dylan Frittelli
  • Doug Gihm
  • Will Gordon
  • Brent Grant
  • Bill Haas
  • Adam Hadwin
  • Scott Harrington
  • Charley Hoffman
  • Beau Hossler
  • Sung Kang
  • Tom Kim
  • Si Woo Kim
  • Chris Kirk
  • Patton Kizzire
  • Martin Laird
  • Andrew Landry
  • Adam Long
  • Justin Lower
  • Brandon Matthews
  • Denny McCarthy
  • Max McGreevy
  • Taylor Montgomery
  • Taylor Moore
  • Matthew NeSmith
  • Andrew Novak
  • Taylor Pendrith
  • Scott Piercy
  • Jon Rahm
  • Chez Reavie
  • Davis Riley
  • Patrick Rodgers
  • Justin Rose
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Adam Schenk
  • Brendan Steele
  • Sam Stevens
  • Justin Suh
  • Nick Taylor
  • Sahith Theegala
  • Davis Thompson
  • Kyle Westmoreland

About the author

Avatar

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is a scratch golfer...sometimes.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

Ryan occasionally links to merchants of his choosing, and GNN may earn a commission from sales generated by those links. See more in GNN's affiliate disclosure.