Our four best FRL bets

Here we are: our final set of best bets for the 2022 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.

We close out as always with our favorite first-round leader bets. Though we failed to cash in last week at the U.S. Open — although Webb Simpson provided a nice mini-sweat at 80/1 — I’ve identified four players primed for success Thursday in Connecticut.

So, without further delay, here are my best FRL bets for the Travelers. All odds come courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook and are reflective at time of writing.


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Best Bet #1 – Sam Burns (+2700)

Burns was a bit of a FRL darling last season and, even though his price reflects that success, I believe Burns is worth a buy for FRL.

In general, Burns doesn’t fit the statistical model when it comes to opening rounds, but that comes with a caveat. Over his last four qualifying opening rounds, Burns is 49th in the field. However, in his last four opening rounds just at TPC River Highlands, Burns jumps all the way to ninth in the statistical model.

Just in his last two rounds at this track, Burns has opened with a 68 and 66, respectively, and finished only three shots off the pace in the latter round. Shrink the data set to just those two rounds and Burns rates out seventh in the statistical model.

Sam Burns
Sam Burns
AP

In those two rounds, the LSU product ranks inside the top-20 in strokes-gained: ball striking (14th), good drives gained (fifth), GIRs gained (third) and birdies or better gained (19th). He’s also 13th in SG: approach and 25th in Par-4 efficiency in those two rounds.

For those reasons, take Burns at +2500 or better for first-round leader.

Best Bet #2 – Joaquin Niemann (+2900)

Much like Burns, Niemann has found success recently in his opening rounds at TPC River Highlands.

In his last two opening rounds at the track, the Chilean ranks out 21st in the field. However, it’s worth noting he’s 11th in SG: Ball Striking and first in good drives gained in those two rounds. Further, Niemann is giving himself a lot of scoring chances as he’s ninth in the field in GIRs gained over those two rounds.

Further, Niemann rates out very well as far as his opening round outputs go this season. Amongst the entire Travelers Championship field, he ranks first in SG: Total over his last 12 opening rounds and sits fourth in his last 12 opening rounds on courses under 7,200 yards.

golf
Joaquin Niemann
Getty Images

Plus, Niemann is seventh in the field in birdies or better gained over his last 12 opening rounds on courses under 7,200 yards and third in the same category if you remove the course length qualifier. Lastly, Niemann sits 18th on tour this season in first-round scoring average and was T-2nd at the end of the first round at the RBC Heritage, a correlated track.

As a result, I’m confident Niemann will record a strong opening round and have a chance at the lead.

Best Bet #3 – Harold Varner III (+5000)

Once again, we’re hopping aboard the Varner III FRL train.

Over his last 24 opening rounds on courses under 7,200 yards, no one in the Travelers Championship field models out better than Varner III. He’s first in the field in SG: Ball Striking, third in GIRs gained, fourth in birdies or better gained and sixth in SG: Par 4’s.

Plus, Varner III has a strong recent record in terms of his opening rounds at Dye designs. Over his last 12 such outputs, he’s 11th in the field in opportunities gained and 18th in birdies or better gained. Perhaps most importantly, Varner III ranks fifth in bogey avoidance over those 12 rounds, a key trend when picking a FRL.

Harold Varner III
Getty Images

This year at the RBC Heritage and the Players — both of which are Dye setups — Varner III fired a 67 and 69, finding himself three and four shots off the respective opening-round leads.

Add in that Varner III will be well-rested after missing the cut at the U.S. Open and I believe the North Carolina native has more a chance then these odds imply.


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Best Bet #4 – Joel Dahmen (+5000)

Dahmen found himself in contention at The Country Club after two rounds and now finds himself at a course that should suit him better.

Over his last 12 opening rounds on courses under 7,200 yards, Dahmen ranks sixth overall in my statistical model. Most impressively, he’s 15th or better in SG: Ball Striking, good drives gained and GIRs gained. Dahmen also ranks 24th in birdies or better gained and 25th in SG: Par 4’s.

Dahmen is also a player that has improved of late when it comes to his opening rounds. Over his last 12 opening rounds, he’s 16th in the field in SG: total. However, he’s 11th in the same metric over his last eight rounds.

Joel Dahmen
Joel Dahmen
Getty Images

Further, if you consider his last 12 opening rounds on courses under 7,200 yards, prospective bettors will find Dahmen ranks 16th in the field in SG: total, sixth in opportunities gained and 24th in birdies or better gained.

Finally, Dahmen potentially discovered something last year at the Travelers. After opening with a 67, he ultimately finished in a tie for 20th, his best finish in four starts at TPC River Highlands.

So, much like Varner III, I believe these odds are a bit steep on Dahmen and believe he’s worth a shot in this market.