Cognizant Classic 2024

PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Outside of the Majors this course always ranks among the toughest few with winning scores seldom getting into the high teens. In fact only three times in the last 11 renewals has the winning score gotten into double figures under par, and on two of those occasions it was four and five shots back to second place.

This is certainly a week where driving accuracy trumps driving distance. Last year only one player in the top 20 in driving distance for the week finished inside the top 9 on the leaderboard, whilst four of the top 6 in driving accuracy filled those spots. In 2022 Straka led the driving accuracy stat when winning so it's clear ball striking is key when it comes to making a score around PGA National.

Cognizant Classic Tips

  • 2pts each-way Cameron Young  20/1  (1/5 8) Bet365, Skybet, WilliamHill
  • 2pts each-way T.Kim  28/1  (1/5 8) WilliamHill
  • 1pt each-way D.Ghim  70/1  (1/5 8) Skybet
  • 1pt each-way A.Bhatia  70/1  (1/5 8) Skybet
  • 0.75pt each-way A.Eckroat  100/1  (1/5 8) Skybet
  • 0.75pt each-way Carson Young  125/1  (1/5 8) Skybet, WilliamHill, 888sport
  • 0.5pt each-way F.Biondi  500/1  (1/5 8) Skybet, WilliamHill, 888sport

 

Weather forecast is always important around here also as wind plays havoc with some approach shots, especially the par 3s in the 'bear trap' (holes 15 through 17). It's no surprise we have a long list of winners and contenders here who have played well at Open Championships.

Fowler, Scott, Harrington, McIlroy, Els, Hamilton, Leonard, Kuchar, Parnevik, Calcavecchia, O'Meara and Price are a handful to have won this event and either won or gone very close to winning the Open Championship. 2022 Champion Sepp Straka was runner up to Brian Harman in last year's Open Championship so there may be clues as to who could contend here looking at recent Open results.

Previous Winners / Winning Score:

  • 2023 - C.Kirk (-14)
  • 2022 - S.Straka (-10)
  • 2021 - M.Jones (-12)
  • 2020 - S.Im (-6)
  • 2019 - K.Mitchell (-9)

 

2012 Champion Rory McIlroy has already committed to playing and will be looking to improve on two disappointing efforts at Pebble Beach and Riviera. Fellow Irishman and 2022 runner up here Shane Lowry also makes the trip Florida and has made the cut in all of his six appearances here. Matthew Fitzpatrick makes his first start here in seven years whilst another Englishman Justin Rose will hope to improve upon his best finish of 3rd place here back in 2010.

Cognizant Classic Stats & Course

You can find more course information and detailed stat trends for the last three editions of the tournament (formerly the Honda Classic) as part of Niall's first look for the Cognizant Classic published late last week.

Cameron Young at 20/1 (Eight Place)

Daniel Berger has a tremendous record around PGA National without ever having gotten over the line and following a lengthy break from the tour has started back in optimistic fashion with two made cuts from three events. He has the perfect game for this place but it remains to be seen what he'd be capable of having been out of the pressure cooker of the final few groups for a long time.

Top billing though goes the way of Cameron Young who has started this year in eye catching form and it'd be no surprise to me should he get off the mark and land a victory before Major season kicks off and in turn be a steamer in those markets. A final round 74 in the Dubai Desert was another disappointing Sunday for the Florida resident but I was impressed how he didn't let his head go down during that round and he battled all the way to the finish with McIlroy.

Since then a low key effort at Pebble was followed by 8th at Scottsdale then 16th at Riviera. On all five occasions since the turn of the year Young has driven the ball extremely well, both long and accurate into the bargain which will really help around PGA National. His approach play has been off the charts too so if those two parts of his game continue to fire I see him going very close here. 2nd and 8th at the last two Open Championships also boost his credentials here given the long list of Open specialists who have won here down the years.

Most of us would have expected Young to have won on tour by now, but he is learning with each and every near miss and his time looks almost certain to arrive at some stage, I'd argue sooner than later given the way he has started 2024.

2pts each-way Cameron Young  20/1  (1/5 8) Bet365, Skybet, WilliamHill

Cameron Young - 2pts e/w @ 20/1

Tom Kim at 28/1 (Eight Places)

This will be Tom Kim's debut at PGA National but it'd be no surprise to me should he follow in fellow Korean's footsteps Sungjae Im by winning this. It was Im's second look at the course but he showed just can be achieved here by quality ball striking which is a strong feature of Kim's game.

The latest Shriners Champion has kicked off 2024 in largely the same form than what he finished 2023 in with one main difference, the putter. He has been plagued by poor form on the greens and that has somewhat undone his impressive ball striking. 17th at Phoenix then 24th at the Genesis were fine efforts with the putter behaving slightly better in Arizona.

It was a busy start to the year and I'm hoping the week off may just have given him enough time to fix some of those putting issues. His credentials for a test such as this are second to none, tremendously accurate from the tee whilst possessing a great approach game. It's a slight handicap that this is his first try here but he already has a runner up in the Open Championship and has won two tournaments on debut in the last couple of years.

Already a three time PGA Tour champion at just 21 years of age, this lad is capable of anything and should not be underestimated here this week.

2pts each-way T.Kim  28/1  (1/5 8) WilliamHill

Tom Kim - 2pts e/w @ 28/1

Doug Ghim at 70/1 (Eight Places)

Doug Ghim is telegraphed somewhat having posted three really impressive finishes on the spin, the latest coming last week in Mexico when finishing 8th. Prior to that 12th at Scottsdale and 13th at Torrey Pines were great results, especially given the fact he doesn't hit the ball as far as the majority in the field.

PGA National you'd think is a much better fit for someone whose accuracy from the tee is a strength as well as his mid to long irons. I mentioned last week about the importance of approach play from 200+ yards and those coming from Mexico may indeed be at an advantage as there are very little wedges played here. 150-200 yards is where the majority of approaches come from and once again this should suit Ghim.

A former college teammate of Scottie Scheffler this may just be the time that he is realising that potential. Following three really good finishes I was slightly reluctant to get involved as another is a lot to ask, but despite the missed cuts here in recent years I think this course sets up perfect for his current game and it'd be no surprise should he go close once again. 

1pt each-way D.Ghim  70/1  (1/5 8) Skybet

Doug Ghim - 1pt e/w @ 70/1

Akshay Bhatia at 70/1 (Eight Places)

Shane Lowry will always be interesting around this venue and the fact he arrives here as accurate as he ever has been from the tee makes him a danger to the entire field. His iron play hasn't quite hit the heights we know he is capable of so far this year but that could arrive at any moment. No bigger than 33/1 is out there and that just about tempers my enthusiasm.

Instead at more than double the Irishman's odds Akshay Bhatia looks a better play. The Californian has had an impressive start to the season with top 15 finishes at the Sentry, Sony Open and Farmers.

He will need to recover from a horrific performance with the irons at Scottsdale and although I expect him too, the risk at greater than 66/1 that he does certainly seems worth it.

He is extremely accurate from the tee, a stat that is often underestimated a little here. He also ranks inside the top 25 in the last 12 months for distance missing the fairway. That bodes well for a good trip around here and the price is just a little too big to turn down. 

1pt each-way A.Bhatia  70/1  (1/5 8) Skybet

Akshay Bhatia - 1pt e/w @ 70/1

Austin Eckroat at 100/1 (Eight Places)

Austin Eckroat is hitting his mid to long irons better than he has done in a long time and it could see him go well here at PGA National. 5th on approach last week in Mexico should have given him every chance to compete but another nightmare week on the greens, just like in Phoenix, put pay to his chances.

Eight months ago Eckroat managed a top ten in the US Open at LA Country Club, a course of a similar degree of difficulty to the one we see this week.

Eckroat is a good all rounder which gives him every chance of scoring here and I believe he is playing a shade better than what his results may suggest and makes him playable at triple figure odds.

0.75pt each-way A.Eckroat  100/1  (1/5 8) Skybet

Austin Eckroat - 0.75pts e/w @ 100/1

Carson Young at 125/1 (Eight Places)

Carson Young is another who performed well enough last week to get a mention and at triple figures I'm happy to get involved.

Undoubtedly he is up against it on the longest venues as accuracy certainly trumps distance in his game, but he fared well in Mexico once again with his long irons and that makes it six PGA tour starts in a row where he has gained on approach.

Ball striking is where he gains on the field and that should pay dividends around PGA National, especially given his accuracy from the tee. He also ranks 10th in the field in the last 12 months in distance measured from the fairway when the player misses the fairway from the tee.

That bodes well for missing the numerous water hazards around here and his top 30 finish here last year was eye catching given he ranked 70th in approach play for the week. He is capable of much better and must be happy with how he's hitting the ball. 

0.75pt each-way Carson Young  125/1  (1/5 8) Skybet, WilliamHill, 888sport

Carson Young - 0.75pts e/w @ 125/1

Fred Biondi at 500/1 (Eight Places)

Finally I'll add a small bet on Fred Biondi. The Brazilian boldly turned professional having won the NCAA Championship and in turn sacrificing a place at this years Masters. His goal was to get on tour as quickly as possible, and so far he has made a good fist of things.

13th in Bermuda in November was followed by a top 25 at the RSM Classic. Back on the Korn Ferry Tour since he managed 7th in the Bahamas and a top 25 in Panama. As well as winning the NCAA Individual title, he led the Florida Gators to their first NCAA title in over 20 years.

Back in his college state I believe Biondi will be most dangerous here and he'll no doubt have had plenty of golf around this track over the past number of years.

It was a bold, confident decision to forego his place in the Masters and it may look foolish should he not get a tour card in the next year or two. At 500/1 I'm happy to have a small bet that he sneaks into the places here at the weekend.

0.5pt each-way F.Biondi  500/1  (1/5 8) Sky Bet, William Hill, 888sport

Fred Biondi - 0.5pts e/w @ 500/1