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PGA Power Rankings: Top 5 Golfers For Cognizant Classic

The PGA Tour heads to the Sunshine State for the Cognizant Classic this week. Matt MacKay provides his top five golfers in the field with his Cognizant Classic power rankings. Who will take home the win in Palm Beach Gardens?
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PGA Power Rankings: Top 5 Golfers For Cognizant Classic

The PGA Tour finally departs from the West Coast and heads southeast to the Sunshine State ahead of the 2024 Cognizant Classic.

The last time we saw players compete at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Chris Kirk won a one-hole playoff over Eric Cole. It was Kirk's first win in eight years and he out-dueled Cole, who wound up winning Rookie of the Year. Now, both players are set to return in a field of 144 that is led by Rory McIlroy at +700 in the outright betting market.

PGA handicapper Matt MacKay is back to share his latest analysis for how to invest in this field in the outright betting market ahead of the 2024 Cognizant Classic, which tees off early Thursday morning.

COGNIZANT CLASSIC DATE, START TIME, AND WHERE TO WATCH

  • Date: February 29 - March 3, 2024
  • Where: PGA National Resort (The Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
  • Where to Watch: ESPN+, Golf Channel, NBC

COGNIZANT CLASSIC COURSE

Designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981, with several other renovations carried out by Jack Nicklaus over the past two decades, PGA National is notorious for its three-hole stretch from 15-17, named The Bear Trap. It's a par 71 that runs north of 7,100 yards, with a lot of obstacles in the form of sand traps, water, and doglegged fairways.

Water is found on all but three holes at PGA National, however, the 10th hole has been modified to play as a par 5 at 530 yards, decreasing the difficulty from playing as a par 4 last season. With the rough trimmed down nearly an inch, combined with faster putting velocity on Bermudagrass greens, measuring 12 feet via Stimpmeter, we should see a much different layout compared to most of the courses played on the West Coast.

COGNIZANT CLASSIC ODDS

GolferOdds
Rory McIlroy700
Cameron Young2200
Russell Henley2500
Eric Cole2500
Matt Fitzpatrick2800
Byeong Hun An2800
J.T. Poston3000
Tom Kim3000
Min Woo Lee3300
Sungjae Im4000
Adam Svensson4000
Corey Conners4000
Keith Mitchell4000
Shane Lowry4000
Sepp Straka4000
Stephan Jaeger4000
Chris Kirk4000

COGNIZANT CLASSIC POWER RANKINGS

1. Eric Cole (+2500) CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH SPORTSBOOK HAS THE BEST ODDS

After taking a rare week off, Eric Cole returns to PGA National in hopes to avenge his playoff loss from a year ago. We've watched Cole steadily produce in 2024, finishing T14 or better in four of six events played. Ranking 29th in strokes gained on approach and 31st strokes gained putting, the 35-year-old Californian packs a nice one-two punch to overcome most obstacles at this course. Despite +2500 odds in the outright market, his shortest of the season, Cole deserves a .25 unit wager at this price.

2. Shane Lowry (+4000) CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH SPORTSBOOK HAS THE BEST ODDS

Shane Lowry has performed very well at PGA National over the past two years, logging finishes of T5 in 2023 and runner-up in 2022. The Irishman's ball-striking ability remains solid, ranking 38th around the green and 65th on approach. Lowry also ranks 38th in total driving and 36th in fairway proximity, avoiding bad lies to set him up for success. His flat stick is good and his short game is also the best part of his game. He's ranked second in first round scoring average, so if he can build momentum in the opening round, Lowry is a sound investment at +4000 odds in the outright market, so let's place a 0.25 unit wager on him to finally take the winning podium at PGA National this weekend.

3. Sepp Straka (+4000) CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH SPORTSBOOK HAS THE BEST ODDS

The big Austrian, Sepp Straka, won the 2022 Cognizant Classic at -10-under-par, turning it up in the second and final rounds, going -4-under-par or better to overcome a +1 opening round. He's bounced between T12 and T26 finishes with a couple of missed cuts, only playing in four events so far in 2024, but Straka should settle in at PGA National. Ranking 23rd in driving accuracy percentage and 23rd for greens in regulation percentage, Straka tends to start slow and finish strong. He may be a better candidate to wager live if he starts over par like he did during his win two years ago, but even at +4000, Straka is worth staking a 0.25 unit wager to notch his third career win and second at the Cognizant Classic.

4. Matthieu Pavon (+6000) CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH SPORTSBOOK HAS THE BEST ODDS

Coming over from the DP World Tour, Matthieu Pavon remains first in the FedExCup rankings thanks to an outright win at the Farmers Insurance Open, along with a T7 at the Sony Open and third-place finish at Pebble Beach. The Frenchman ranks first in total strokes gained, including strokes gained on approach, while also sitting at third in strokes gained putting. There are very few flaws in his game and ranking first in hole proximity is the cherry on top. Sitting at second in birdie or better conversion rate, along with 18th for one-putt percentage, Pavon is extremely undervalued at +6000 odds in the outright betting market. Let's stake 0.25 units and enjoy a nice pay day if Pavon can contend on Sunday for his second win in roughly a month on the PGA Tour.

5. Akshay Bhatia (+8000) CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH SPORTSBOOK HAS THE BEST ODDS

Another golfer who bounces between T15 finishes and missed cuts is Akshay Bhatia. The 22-year-old Californian has yet to produce a T10 finish in 2024, but he's fared well in loaded fields, such as Sentry, Sony, and Farmers. Bhatia ranks 27th in strokes gained putting, 28th strokes gained off-the-tee, and 40th in driving accuracy percentage. His ability to convert over 73 percent of greens in regulation is a testament to finding fairways off the tee consistently. Bhatia can deliver birdies in bunches, so at +8000, we should invest a 0.10 unit wager on these long odds.

GOLF ODDS

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Matt is an avid writer, editor, and researcher. He enjoys analyzing the game within the game which is fantasy sports and sports betting. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his wife and three pets. He likes to read, listen to podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the sports betting industry.

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