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The PGA Tour starts its Florida swing this week with the Cognizant Classic. Will Daniel Berger and Adam Svensson have a big week at Palm Beach Gardens? Andy Lack provides his best Cognizant Classic betting picks and predictions.
ANALYSIS

Cognizant Classic Betting Picks and Predictions: Can Daniel Berger, Adam Svensson Impress In Florida?

The Cognizant Classic officially marks the start of the Florida swing, and a torrid three week stretch leading into the Players Championship. Formerly known as the Honda Classic, players will return to return to the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens for the 17th straight year. Chris Kirk will return to defend his title, and he will be joined by former champions, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im, Keith Mitchell, Rickie Fowler, Russell Henley, and Rory McIlroy, who will be making his first appearance here since 2019. Due to its copious water hazards, exposure to the wind, and firm, fast, Bermuda greens, PGA National historically ranks as one of the hardest courses on the PGA Tour schedule, and is sure to provide a unique challenge.

Cognizant Classic DATE, START TIME, AND WHERE TO WATCH

  • Date: February 29 - March 3, 2024
  • Where: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • Where to Watch: Golf Channel, NBC, Peacock

Cognizant Classic: Course Preview

PGA National (Champion Course)

PGA National was originally laid out in 1981 by George and Tom Fazio, but Jack Nicklaus has been brought on multiple times to make some notable changes. Most recently, in 2018, Nicklaus expanded the green complexes and re-seeded them with a stronger strain of Bermuda, making the greens more true but also more firm. 99% of the time, renovations are in place to make golf courses longer and more challenging for professional golfers, yet Nicklaus actually shortened the golf course in 2018, because PGA National was already so difficult.

As is the case with most Florida courses, PGA National is on an incredibly flat piece of property, and its defining characteristics are its hazards. The Nicklaus/Fazio design features 26 individual water hazards, and water comes significantly into play on 15 out of 18 holes. This is an example of penal architecture in its truest sense. There is no real strategy or shot options to this course. The architect is asking you to simply hit it here, and if you hit it anywhere else, you will likely be taking a penalty stroke. Many think that water actually creates more interesting golf, but when a course features this many hazards, it actually encourages a completely homogenized strategy. Players do not have much of a choice on many holes other than to club down off the tee and hit the ball in the same spot, taking their medicine and avoiding penalty strokes at all costs.

Due to the sheer amount of water in play, firm greens, and the potential for wind, PGA National always plays as one of the hardest courses on the PGA Tour. Nine out of the last 10 years, it has played as a top-10 course in difficulty on the PGA Tour. In 2018, it played as the hardest course on the PGA Tour, including all four majors. Yet last year, it ranked just 18th out of 45 courses in difficulty, its easiest mark over the last decade by a healthy margin. Is PGA National getting easier, or was this just an anomaly? Last year, we did experience uncharacteristically low winds, which certainly plays a factor in the challenge of the course.

Unfortunately for the identity of this event, the PGA Tour is meddling even further. The 508-yard par four 10th hole has been converted to a 530-yard par five. We will undeniably continue to see a lower under par total, as the toughest hole on the course will now likely play as the easiest. Be sure to monitor the weather conditions as the week progresses, as I would not be surprised to see PGA National continue to trend in the easier direction under lower winds. Even with the notable change of the tenth hole, PGA National will unquestionably require accuracy off the tee, and elite middle iron play. I will be looking to identify players that excel in those two skills, as well as those with a proven track record on Southeastern Bermuda courses that feature a great deal of water.

Cognizant Classic Key Stats

  • Proximity 150-200 yards
  • Strokes Gained Ball-striking: Water Heavy Courses
  • Strokes Gained Total: Bermuda Courses

Cognizant Classic: Outright Picks

Daniel Berger +4500 Click here to see which sportsbook has the best odds

While I have taken a wait and see approach this year with Daniel Berger, who is coming off a major injury, the four-time PGA Tour winner is beginning to show some serious signs of life. Berger is coming off a top-30 finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he gained over five strokes ball-striking, and now he returns to one of his favorite courses on Tour. Berger has been as close to a sure thing at PGA National as it gets, with three top-five finishes in seven appearances. He’s had some incredible ball-striking performances at the Fazio design, and he has gained over a stroke putting in five straight starts here as well.

Berger always seems to play his best golf on Southeastern, water heavy, Bermuda courses, and it should not come as a surprise that he has recorded three top-15 finishes at TPC Sawgrass, and multiple wins at TPC Southwind. Over the last three years, no player in this field has been better in the state of Florida. I expect Daniel Berger to re-announce himself this week as one of the premier players on the PGA Tour.

Adam Svensson +6000 Click here to see which sportsbook has the best odds

Adam Svensson has been firmly on my radar this year, as my numbers continue to display that he is a far better player than the market would suggest. This really began to pay dividends at Riviera, where Svensson finished 10th, gaining over nine strokes from tee to green on an incredibly demanding golf course against one of the strongest fields on the PGA Tour. Now Svensson returns to a golf course where he won the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament, and he also finished ninth on the PGA Tour here in 2022.

Svensson's success at PGA National should not come as a surprise, as he is one of the most accurate drivers of the ball on Tour and is an excellent middle-iron player. The Canadian has had a tremendous amount of success on Southeastern Bermuda courses, with a win and a fifth at Sea Island and a seventh at Sedgefield. There are few players I trust more in this field to navigate the copious hazards at PGA National, as Svensson ranks third in this field in ball-striking on water-heavy courses. I expect Svensson to play a major factor once again in Palm Beach Gardens.

GOLF ODDS

Article Author

Golf

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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