Houston Open 2024 First Round Leader Tips: 50/1 Mitchell to go low on Thursday

 | March 27 | 

6 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

Golf tipster Jamie Worsley has already given us his Houston Open preview but he has also scoured the specials markets and given us four tips from the first-round leader and Top 20 market to get stuck into. 

Houston Open FRL/Specials Tips

  • 1 pt Keith Mitchell each-way (1/4, 5 Places) First-Round Leader @ 50/1
  • 1 pt Alex Noren each-way (1/4, 5 Places) First-Round Leader @ 55/1 
  • 1.5 pts Mac Meissner Top 20 @ 13/2
  • 1 pt Cole Hammer Top 20 @ 8/1

The Houston Open tees off tomorrow and there’s some extra selections I like to give us some added interest this week.

I avoided the first-round leader market at the Valspar but I’m back at it in Houston, with a couple of players who have proven an ability to start quickly at Memorial Park in the past.

In addition, there are two youngsters with links to Texas who have some eye-catching recent form that interested me somewhat in the outright market, but look a much more attractive proposition for a top-20 finish this week.

1 pt Keith Mitchell each-way (1/4, 5 Places) First-Round Leader @ 50/1

Start time: 08:37

I begin with those first-round leader selections and I’m taking last week’s 54-hole leader, Keith Mitchell to bounce back from his Sunday disappointments in Florida with a quick start in Houston.

Mitchell has been in good form this season, racking up four top 20s in his first eight starts before adding a fifth in nine last week. Whilst his 17th-place finish in the Valspar will not be seen as a positive to most, after entering the final round with a two-shot lead, he hit the ball excellently – as he has done for most of the season – leading the field in approach and in relation to this market, he got off to a speedy start with a 4-under 67 to sit 6th after the opening round.

He now comes to a place where he has shown that he is capable of an equally swift start in the past. After recording a missed cut in Houston in 2020, he returned to finish 41st the following year, shooting his best score of the week, a 67, to sit 9th after the opening round. He would then go even better the following year, finishing 9th and again fired his best round of the week in round one, this time shooting a 66 to sit 4th after the first round.

Mitchell plays considerably better when teeing off in the morning compared to the afternoon, ranking 4th in early scoring as opposed to 127th in late. Therefore, his 08:37 start time looks ideal and if in the right, fighting frame of mind after his disastrous Sunday display at Innisbrook, he can make another fast start this week.

1 pt Alex Noren each-way (1/4, 5 Places) First-Round Leader @ 55/1 

Start time: 13:37

Alex Noren has been in solid form this year in which he has continually started with haste, ranking 3rd in round one scoring. Add in the fact he ranks 6th in afternoon scoring and he looks in a perfect spot to once again get off to a good start in Houston.

Noren hasn’t missed a cut in six starts this year and has recorded three top 25s, going best when finishing 9th in the Cognizant Classic; with all areas of his game contributing to this consistent form.

More to the point, the Swede has fired an under par round in round one of each of those starts. Looking especially good in the opening round of The AmEx, as a 10-under 62 was enough to see him take the first-round lead.

Noren missed the cut here on debut in 2020 but made up for that in 2022, finishing 4th. He shot three rounds in the 60s that week, including a 65 in the first round to sit atop the leaderboard and with much in his favour this week, he looks well placed to do so again.

1.5 pts Mac Meissner Top 20 @ 13/2

Mac Meissner went to college in and now resides in Texas. He initially struggled at the start of this, his rookie season; however, he’s started to get the hang of things over his last trio of starts and with his strong ball-striking game a big asset here, he can achieve his best finish of the year this week.

The former #14 amateur turned professional in 2021 and took just three pro starts to record a win on the Canadian Tour. He has spent the last few years playing well on the Korn Ferry Tour, racking up five top-5 finishes in 2022/23 combined and earned his step up to the PGA Tour this season after finishing the previous KFT season at 20th on the regular season points list.

Starts have been hard to come by for many new/returning card holders this year and Meissner failed to take advantage of his first three, missing the cut in each.

He found something in approach in the Cognizant Classic, which saw him make his first cut of the year there, finishing 54th and he’s upped his game further on his next two starts; finishing 23rd in the Puerto Rico Open and he was 26th in last week’s Valspar Championship.

Meissner did everything well at some point last week, finishing the week ranking 27th in approach. This quality in approach shouldn’t come as too much of surprise, as on his two starts last year where strokes-gained data was recorded, in the US Open and AT&T Byron Nelson, he shone most in this area.

Add in his length off-the-tee and with this talented youngster’s game starting to click into place, this looks a great setup for him to record a first PGA Tour top 20.

1 pt Cole Hammer Top 20 @ 8/1

Houston’s Cole Hammer was once the best amateur in the world before turning pro in 2022. He initially struggled for consistency in starts across both the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour, however he’s played well most weeks on the second tier this year and I’m hoping that the home support can inspire him to a top 20 at Memorial Park.

Hammer only made one cut in his final eleven starts last year but has started 2024 with more life. After a couple of sluggish displays in The Bahamas, he has made his last four cuts and finished no worse than 27th; recording two top 10s when finishing 6th in the Astara Golf Championship in Colombia and 10th in the Argentina Open. Also firing eleven rounds of his last twelve in the 60s.

He made his debut in this event in 2019 at the previous host course when still an amateur and finished a commendable 61st. There we saw where his biggest asset lay, as he ranked 9th in that field in approach.

That is an area in which he’s continued to shine in following PGA Tour starts, ranking 10th in approach in his 65th-place finish in last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and more importantly for this week, he ranked 5th in approach on his only previous visit to this course in 2022; where he finished 27th and fired an excellent 65 in round two.

Coming into this with some stronger performances behind him compared to his debut start, Hammer should be relishing the week and I’m hoping the home comforts will help aid him to a top-20 finish.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips at Betfred Insights 

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