While early morning starters on the PGA TOUR typically start a bit faster than the afternoon starters, I do not anticipate much of a draw bias this week. The weather on Thursday looks pretty steady throughout the day, so I think golfers from both the morning and afternoon waves can be taken for first-round leader bets.
The most important factor when considering potential first-round leader selections at TPC Craig Ranch is a golfer’s ability to go low. The first-round lead should be in the 62 or 63 range, which means making pars simply will not cut it at the Byron Nelson.
Both first-round scoring average and Birdie or Better Gained will be major factors in my selections this week.
2022 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship FRL Picks
Jordan Spieth (+4000)
As I said in my tournament preview, I absolutely love Jordan Spieth this week. I feel as though he is undervalued in all of the betting markets, including for first-round leader.
When Spieth contends, he typically does it by getting off to a hot start. The Texan ranks fifth in the field is Birdie or Better gained in the first round and shot an opening-round 63 at this course last year, which was good for a share of the first-round lead with JJ Spaun.
Spieth dominates in his home state, and I think he’s a safe bet to start fast on Thursday.
Joaquin Niemann (+4500)
Joaquin Niemann should be a great fit for TPC Craig Ranch with his ability to pound the ball off the tee and dial in with his approach shots. The course features Bentgrass greens, which is far and away the Chilean’s preferred surface. It’s actually the only surface where he gains strokes on the field on average.
“The Wonder Kid” ranks in the top seven in both first-round Strokes Gained: Total and Birdies or Better Gained. Niemann has started his tournaments with a round in the 60’s in five of his past six starts including rounds of 65 in two of those starts.
The 23-year-old is a fast starter and heading to a course that he should be able to exploit with his prolific ball striking.
Marc Leishman (+6000)
Another golfer who I tipped as an outright bet but also believe has some value in the first-round leader market is Marc Leishman. The Aussie has gone a bit under the radar this week considering how well he’s played in the state of Texas throughout his career.
At this season’s Houston Open, Leishman raced out of the gates and shot a first-round 65, which was good for a share of first place. He’ll need to do a bit better than that to capture the Thursday lead this week, but he’s shown he’s more than capable of going low. In the field, the 38-year-old ranks 10th in the field in first-round Strokes Gained: Total and first in first-round Strokes Gained: Putting.
Wesley Bryan (+14000)
Bryan has shown some signs of life lately, having finished 33rd in Mexico two weeks ago. Despite missing the cut at the Wells Fargo, he gave us a glimpse of what made him such a promising player earlier in his career with an opening-round 66 before ejecting on Friday with a disappointing 78.
What’s most encouraging about Bryan this week is the fact that he bounced back so convincingly on Monday. The 32-year-old Monday qualified for this week’s event by shooting a 64 with nine birdies and one bogey.
Bryan started the season with a medical exemption and is now playing via past champion status (2017 RBC Heritage). If he is to earn enough points to keep playing on the PGA TOUR, he needs some good results.
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