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BMW Championship odds, predictions: Four first-round leader bets to target

Nick Hennion of The Action Network breaks down his best bets for first-round leader at the BMW Championship.

Tony Finau of the United States plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 14, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tony Finau of the United States plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 14, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)Read moreAndy Lyons / Getty Images

As we reach the conclusion of our BMW Championship betting analysis, it’s time to throw some darts.

Having broken down our favorite derivatives, longshots and matchup bets, we now turn our attention to the first-round leader market. As it stands, Rory McIlroy (+1700) is the favorite to lead after Thursday and is followed on the odds board by Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Tony Finau (all +2200). After that is a logjam of players at +2600: Cameron Young, Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler.

Which players give bettors the best value for Thursday? Here are my best FRL bets. All odds come courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook and are reflective at time of writing.

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First-Round Leader Bet #1 - Tony Finau (+2200)

Sure the odds are a bit short, but there are two key reasons to back Finau at Wilmington Country Club.

First is that, amongst the group of favorites, he’s one of the first to start his round. Although there doesn’t appear to be a wind advantage based on the weather report, there’s enough of an unknown that Finau could encounter more favorable conditions. Plus, just last week at TPC Southwind, Finau opened with a Thursday 64, which was good enough to put him only two shots back of the first-round lead.

Over his last three opening rounds, Finau has finished T-5th or better after the opening round and held the first-round lead at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

In terms of his output in my statistical model, Finau is second overall in the field over his last 12 opening rounds. In that span, he’s second in both SG: Ball Striking and SG: Approach while sitting 15th in birdies or better gained.

Based on those measures, play Finau at anything better than 20/1.

» READ MORE: BMW Championship odds, predictions: Our three best matchup bets

First-Round Leader Bet #2 - Joaquin Niemann (+3700)

Niemann has proven himself a bit of a first-round wizard this season, as backed up in my first-round statistical model.

Over his previous 12 opening rounds, the Chilean ranks eighth overall in the field, but has posted strong measures in the truly meaningful categories for this handicap. In that span, he’s third in the field in birdies or better gained and fourth in three-putt avoidance.

Translation: he’s capable of making birdies in bunches and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes on the first day. It’s also worth noting that entering this event, Niemann ranks fifth overall on tour in first-round scoring average.

Plus, Niemann ranks 19th or better in all three ball striking categories. He’s 16th in both driving distance and SG: Ball Striking while sitting 19th in SG: Approach. At a course that rewards distance and features bentgrass greens — Niemann’s preferred putting surface by a mile — expect him to find himself near the top of the first-round leaderboard.

Back the Chilean at anything better than 30/1.

First-Round Leader Bet #3 - Cameron Davis (+4200)

Out of the 68 players in the field, no one beats Cameron Davis in my first-round modeling projection.

The Australian leads the field largely because of his outputs in SG: Approach (first) and SG: Ball Striking (fourth), but is impressive across the board. He’s 19th in birdies or better gained, 12th in three-putt avoidance, 14th in Par 4 Efficiency, 20th on Par 4′s between 400-450 yards and 23rd in driving distance over his last 12 opening rounds.

Additionally, over his last four opening rounds, he has a scoring average just slightly north of 68 and has fired an under-par opening round in all of his previous seven events.

Davis also ranks in the top-25 percentile of first-round scoring average this season and, like Niemann, does his best work on bentgrass greens, gaining about 0.31 strokes/round on that surface.

Based on those metrics, back Davis, who also goes off early compared to the field, to have a strong Thursday.

» READ MORE: BMW Championship odds, predictions: Two longshots to back outright

First-Round Leader Bet #4 - Adam Scott (+4500)

This is more of a hunch on Adam Scott, who fired a Sunday 66 at TPC Southwind to snag a top-five finish.

Although he’s 51st overall in my generalized first-round model, he profiles very well over previous opening rounds on correlated courses. Over his last 12 opening rounds on Par 71′s over 7,400 yards, Scott jumps all the way up to ninth in the field.

Over that span, he’s 10th or better in all but three individual measures and fifth or better in five of those eight categories. Plus, he’s 13th overall in three-putt avoidance, so you can assume he won’t make a lot of mistakes at Wilmington CC.

Even if you eliminate the “Par 71″ qualifier to retrieve more recent results, Scott still projects ninth over his last 12 opening rounds on courses over 7,400 yards. In that timeframe, he’s eighth in birdies or better gained and three-putt avoidance while 18th or better in the three most-emphasized ball-striking categories.

Given he has an early tee time, take a flier on Scott continuing his hot putting streak from Sunday and opening with a strong start.

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