Weekly PGA Preview: Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

Weekly PGA Preview: Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Preview series.

Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National - Champion Course
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

The PGA Tour heads to Florida for the newly-named Cognizant Classic.

This is the event formerly known as The Honda Classic, but obviously they have a new sponsor this year. I bring that up because The Honda Classic evokes certain images in the minds of golf fans, and it's important that we keep those in mind as we get ready for this event. Those images I speak of are mainly of water, and lots of it. There's also the stretch from Nos. 15-17 known as "The Bear Trap," which is a stingy close to each round.  The main reason? You guessed it. Water. This trio of holes -- named after course architect Jack Nicklaus -- is a problem because golfers are essentially forced to go right at the pin, and that's often an all-or-nothing proposition. There are routes to safety, but once golfers get to the next shot, they see that the shot they played safe has now put them in another unenviable spot. It is a true test of not only physical strength, but mental capacity as well. Many a golfer has come to the 15th hole in good shape, only to throw it all away on the following three holes. 

This is going to be a fun watch, and hopefully we have some star power in the mix when things wrap up Sunday.

All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook as of 7:00 PM ET Tuesday.

LAST YEAR

Chris Kirk shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Eric Cole.

FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy (7-1)

Just like this past week, we have a player at the top who appears to be some degree better than anyone else in the field. Unlike this past week, this event carries a little more cache, so I don't expect anyone to phone it in. McIlroy's track record at PGA National is all over the place, but at his best he has been really good. In fact, McIlroy won this event in 2012 and finished T2 in 2014. He hasn't played here since 2018, which is a little worrisome, and this course is a little too hit-or-miss to play anyone less than 10-1, so I'd pass on him at this price.

Cameron Young (20-1)

Young has just one start here, which came in 2022 when he finished T16. His form is okay, but not great. His position on the betting board seems to be based on his name, as he's a good ball striker, but not so much that you'd expect him to cruise through this course. I don't think the odds reflect Young's likelihood of winning and as such I'd keep him off my card.

Russell Henley (25-1)

Henley's form isn't great, but he did post a T4 just three starts ago, so he's not that far off. It's his track record here that makes him enticing, as he won this event in 2014 and finished T3 in 2021.

THE NEXT TIER

Eric Cole (25-1)

I'm fading Matt Fitzpatrick and Byeong Hun An this week, and others must agree, as Cole has jumped ahead both players on the chart. Cole was in a position to coast a bit after having so much success in his rookie season, but he's done the exact opposite. He looks like a guy determined to be a big deal on the PGA Tour, and if he keeps it up he will be soon. Cole is coming off a top-10 at the Genesis two weeks ago, and in his first trip to PGA National last year he finished in second place.

Shane Lowry (40-1)

Lowry has not missed a cut at PGA National in six tries, which when you consider the course is quite impressive. It's quite a feat to have any kind of consistency here, because with so much water in play you're always one bad shot away from a terrible round. The key is to not compound the mistakes, and Lowry is adept at that. He finished T5 and runner-up in his past two starts here.

Chris Kirk (45-1)

It's a little surprising to see Kirk this far down the odds chart. He is the defending champion and has already won on the PGA Tour this season. Perhaps it's his play since the latest victory that's driving this number, but whatever the case, this looks like a gift. Not to say he's going to win, but if you're looking for value, look no further.

LONG SHOTS

Matthieu Pavon (60-1)

The question here is, how long can he keep this up? Pavon has been a revelation on the PGA Tour, picking up his first win at the Farmers in January, then backing that up with a T3 at Pebble Beach. He also carded a T7 at the Sony earlier this year, so although this could be just a heater, he's showing some staying power. He's doing this with incredible ball striking and outstanding putting, and if he keeps up the former in particular, he could find himself in the winner's circle again.

Jake Knapp (65-1)

I mentioned earlier that Cole seems unwilling to settle, and I think Knapp falls into the same category. We'll get a glimpse of what he's made of this week. Is he the next big thing? Another good showing will go a long way toward verifying that. One reason I like him here -- outside of last week's win -- is that he's 13th on Tour in SG: Approach, which is going to be a pivotal stat with all the water around the greens.

ONE-AND-DONE LEAGUES

Highly-Chosen Pick: Eric Cole - Unlike this past week, there are a lot of good options to go with that won't cost you down the line. I'm expecting Henley to be a popular pick as well, but I think Cole will draw a lot of attention because of his runner-up here last year. I think this will be one of those weeks where OAD players pick a lot of different golfers, so there's no reason to shy away from Cole, even if a bunch will be on him.

Moderately-Chosen Pick: Matthieu Pavon - He should be pretty popular, but he's still a relative unknown. The one thing that gives me pause is probably causing others to do the same, and that's the time off since his most recent start at the beginning of February. I think he will be fine, but I can see how some would question if he's still hot.

Lightly-Chosen Pick: Lee Hodges - I spotted this one while writing the FanDuel article this morning. Hodges will not be on anyone's radar because of his recent play, but with his track record you should at least take a look. Hodges has played here twice, and he finished top-15 both times. It's not the high-end finish you're looking for, but maybe he just has a feel for this track, and it's not like you will use him anywhere else.

Buyer Beware: Cameron Champ - I know I'm not really going out on a limb, but I'm really just trying to make a point, and that's to avoid any bomber who can't control his tee shot or approach shots. This goes for anyone in that category, even those who have played well in recent weeks. This course is just different. Ball striking is by far the most important element to success at PGA National, and if you're wayward at all you won't be a factor.

This Week: Eric Cole - This was not an easy decision, as there are several good options to consider. I mulled Pavon, but the time off scares me a bit. Henley is in the mix as well, along with Lowry, but in the end I feel like Cole has the best mix of course history, form and necessary statistics -- largely ball striking -- to thrive here.

Previous Results

TournamentGolferResultEarningsRunning Total
Mexico Open at VidantaBrandon WuT13$145,125$725,714
The Genesis InvitationalMax HomaT16$329,000$580,589
WM Phoenix OpenWyndham ClarkT41$30,404$251,589
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmJordan SpiethT39$70,125$221,185
Farmers Insurance OpenHarris EnglishT64$19,080$151,060
The American ExpressSungjae ImT25$63,980$131,980
Sony Open in HawaiiSahith TheegalaMC$0$68,000
The SentryTom KimT45$68,000$68,000

FANDUEL PICKS

Upper Range: Rory McIlroy ($12,400)
Middle Range: Eric Cole ($10,800)
Lower Range: Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($8,900)

SURVIVOR LEAGUES

This Week: Shane Lowry - I had this down to Lowry and Henley and there's not a lot to separate the two, but I do question why Henley has skipped this event the past two years, while Lowry has here the past four years. Lowry has yet to miss a cut here and the past two years, he's played really well on the weekend, so I'm expecting a highly motivated version of Lowry.

Previous Results

TournamentGolferStreak
Mexico Open at VidantaPatrick Rodgers7
The Genesis InvitationalSahith Theegala6
WM Phoenix OpenHideki Matsuyama5
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmJordan Spieth4
Farmers Insurance OpenTony Finau3
The American ExpressSungjae Im2
Sony Open in HawaiiChris Kirk1

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Vara
Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the FSWA Golf Writer of the Year in 2005 and 2013. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.
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