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Tom Jacobs came close last week with +11000 Sami Valimaki, and he's back with his picks at 40-1 and bigger for the Cognizant Classic.

Cognizant Classic Sleepers and Value Picks: Bet on Mitchell, Pavon in The Palm Beaches

The Cognizant Classic is the name for the long-running, Honda Classic. This event has been played at Palm Beach Gardens, on the PGA National course since 2007, so we have plenty of knowledge of this course and the event itself.

Rory McIlroy is the heavy favorite this week, coming into the Cognizant Classic at +750, and that is because Tom Kim (#16) is the next highest-rated player in this field after the World No.3.

There are six players on the odds board between McIlroy and Kim, with Cameron Young, Russell Henley, and Byeong-Hun An all higher placed in the betting. Matt Fitzpatrick, J.T. Poston, and Eric Cole are all 30-1 and lower as well.

We are blessed with plenty of options at 40-1 and bigger, thanks to the inclusion of Rory McIlroy in this field, but can any topple the current World No.2? Let's look into the Cognizant Classic in more detail to establish who could challenge one of the best in the world at longer odds.

When it comes to making your golf picks this week, take a good look at course form, as this is an event where there have been plenty of repeat performances over the years.

Before we get into the Sleepers and Value Picks for the Cognizant Classic, check out the new FanDuel Sportsbook promotion, where new users can claim an epic bonus betting on golf this week. With the FanDuel promo code, you will bet $5, win $150 if your first bet wins.

What Skill Set is Required to Win the Cognizant Classic?

PGA National is the bipolar opposite of last week's test, where distance was king. This week, there will be a higher focus on accuracy, which is key to success around this Florida layout, and weather can make that even more of a factor as the week goes on. Let's look at the key statistics for this event.

Driving Accuracy - Rarely a stat that gets looked at on the PGA Tour, Driving Accuracy should be big this week. Last year, four of the seven players who finished T5 or better ranked inside the top 6 for Driving Accuracy for the week. Three of the top 6 players in terms of Driving Accuracy finished inside the top 9 in 2022, including Sepp Straka who led the field for fairways hit the week he won. Look for players you can trust to keep it in the fairway.

Bermuda Putting - We are back on the familiar Bermuda putting surfaces, and there will be multiple players in this field who are very excited to be back playing in Florida for this reason. If a player has been striking it well but struggling to putt, look to see if they are generally better on this surface. If they are, you might want to bet on them this week, as this is a different prospect altogether.

Par 5 Scoring - Par 4 scoring has been particularly important here over the years, but this year, the tough Par 4 10th has been converted to a short Par 5. This should affect scoring fairly dramatically, and therefore there might be a shift in emphasis to Par 5 scoring.

Do Sleepers and Value Picks Win the Cognizant Classic?

Here are the last 12 winners of the Cognizant Classic (formerly the Honda Classic) and their odds the week they won.

2023 - Chris Kirk (+2500)

2022 - Sepp Straka (+12500)

2021 - Matt Jones (+7000)

2020 - Sunjae Im (+3500)

2019 - Keith Mitchell (+30000)

2018 - Justin Thomas (+1200)

2017 - Rickie Fowler (+1600)

2016 - Adam Scott (+2000)

2015 - Padraig Harrington (+40000)

2014 - Russell Henley (+30000)

2013 - Michael Thompson (+30000)

2012 - Rory McIlroy (+900)

From 2013 to 2015 we had three winners at 300-1 or bigger, and in 2019 we had another. Two of the last three winners here would have qualified as sleepers and value picks as well, so there's plenty of chance for a winner at 40-1 or bigger this week. This tough course is a great equalizer.

Cognizant Classic Betting Trends

We can go back as far as 2007 for data for this course and event, and we have therefore built a strong bank of betting trends. Let's see what previous winners have had in common over the past 12 years.

Previous Look Essential - Since 2012, every winner of the Honda Classic has played the event for at least the second time, meaning they had previously played this course in competition. Four players had won on just their second start, but only Keith Mitchell had done it without making a cut here previously.

Bounce-Back Spot - The Honda Classic (now Cognizant Classic) has proven to be a good bounce-back spot. 4 of the 12 winners had missed the cut on their last start, three of them at Riviera. Conversely, 4 of the 12 had also posted a top 10 the start before, so it's wide open this week. Some will just benefit from the change in grass type and test.

Previous Career Wins - Of the last 12 winners, only Michael Thompson and Keith Mitchell were picking up their first career wins at the Honda Classic.

Sony Open Correlation - There is so much crossover between this event and the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Mark Wilson, Ernie Els, Russell Henley, Justin Thomas, and Chris Kirk have all won both the Honda Classic and the Sony Open. Add in Ryan Palmer being a Sony Open winner, finishing 2nd here, Adam Scott winning here and finishing 2nd at the Sony Open, and Rory Sabbatini winning here and finishing 2nd at the Sony and you have some clear crossover. This is also strengthened by looking at longshot winners here. Russell Henley won the Honda Classic at 300-1, a year after winning the Sony Open and Michael Thompson also won here in 2013, a year after finishing T6 at the Sony, and has since finished 5th there again as well. Keith Mitchell won here at 300-1 and has since put together some good results at the Sony, including a T7 in 2022. Matt Jones also finished T11 at the Sony Open in the same year he won this event.

Sleepers and Value Picks for the 2024 Cognizant Classic

Here are my picks for the 2024 Cognizant Classic.

Keith Mitchell +4000 (Use Code ODDS3 to Secure a $150 Instant Win With BetMGM)

I was finally ready to give up on Keith Mitchell, but at 40-1 on a course he's won on before, a week after ranking 2nd in SG Approach and 3rd in SG Tee to Green, I must give Mitchell one last chance.

Mitchell ranks inside the top 6 for both SG Off the Tee and SG Tee to Green over the past 15 weeks, and he's not been too shabby with his approach play, ranking 17th in that span as well. He will now bring that package to Palm Beach Gardens, where he has not only won but finished 9th in his most recent start here as well.

With three top-20 finishes in his last five starts, including a 9th at the Amex, Mitchell is trending towards a big week, and if he's finally going to take full advantage of his strong play off the tee, then this course is as likely as any. He has been volatile here, with two missed cuts balancing out the win and the 9th, but the way he's playing suggests another top 10 at least is on the cards.

There's not too much else to say on Mitchell, apart from he's been very solid in Hawaii in addition to this course, so he's the total package for me this week.

Matthieu Pavon +5000 (FanDuel)

No one in this field is playing better than Matthieu Pavon right now, and that includes World No.2, Rory McIlroy. Until that changes, we have no reason to overlook the Frenchman anymore, and 50-1 looks too generous for a player in his kind of form.

Since winning his first DP World Tour title in Madrid back in October in spectacular style, Pavon has gone from strength to strength. He has six more top 15 finishes, including a win at the famous Torrey Pines, and another 3rd place finish one week later, which was also his last start. Had Pebble Beach gone to 72 holes, I am confident Pavon was in the mood to reel in Wyndham Clark as well.

When 15th at the Nedbank Challenge back in November, Pavon was 1st after 36 holes, and he also led after round 1 of the DP World Tour Championship where he finished 5th. Fast forward to 2024, and Pavon finished T7 at the Sony Open, our favorite correlating course, where he was also better placed after both 36 and 54 holes, sitting in 4th going into Sunday.

This is an epic run of form that will no doubt come to an end soon, but until it does, I am willing to bet on the best Approach player of the season, especially on a course that has suited European players over the years.

Pavon grew up playing golf under the instruction of Ken Martin, Sandy Lyle's long-term coach and caddie, just 15 minutes down the road in West Palm Beach. The Frenchman was quoted saying “I loved everything about America, the mentality, the sport, everything you guys do,” Pavon said. “It feels like I’m an American somehow.” Let's see if returning to familiar surroundings leads to another big week for Pavon, who is climbing the world rankings at a rapid rate.

Adam Svensson +5500 (Use Code ODDS3 to Secure a $150 Instant Win With BetMGM)

Adam Svennson has been in the mix here multiple times, sitting inside the top 4 after 36 holes in each of his first two visits, finishing 9th in 2022. On debut, when he finished 59th, he shot a 2nd round 64 to sit 4th after 2 rounds, and even last year when 49th he was inside the top 16 after rounds 2 and 3, so he's clearly a fan of this layout.

This might not come as a surprise to those who have studied the Sony Open correlation, an event he has impressed at in the past as well. Svensson finished T7 in Hawaii in 2022, and now he can build on his form at both events at contend this week.

Svensson finished 10th last time out at Riviera, his best finish since his 5th at the RSM Classic in his last start of 2023. He was defending champion that week and closed with a 62, and while it had been a slow start to 2024, signs were there before his 10th at the Genesis.

The Canadian ranked 17th or better in SG Approach in 3 of his first 4 starts of 2024 and did so again at the Genesis. 15th and 6th in SG Tee to Green in his last two made cuts, Svensson is finding his ball striking again, just in time to contend in Florida again.

Svensson's scoring average is lowest when playing on Bermudagrass Greens, so he should be full of confidence heading to Palm Beach this week.

Tom Hoge +5500 (FanDuel)

Why Tom Hoge has struggled so much at the Honda Classic is a mystery, because on paper it is the perfect course for him, and his previous efforts at the Sony Open also suggest he should like it here.

Hoge did finish 37th here on debut many moons ago, but three missed cuts since leave me scratching my head, so I am hoping he can come into this week with fresh eyes on this test. He has not played here since winning the 2022 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, so I am willing to bet that he can post a career-best finish at this course amidst his field-leading SG Approach run.

Hoge ranks 1st in SG Approach in this field over the past 15 weeks, and he ranks 4th overall on Tour this season. He has ranked inside the top 8 in SG Approach in 4 of his last 7 starts, and inside the top 25 on the two other occasions he made the weekend in that span. His irons and wedges won't be the problem here.

Looking at his stats over the years here, it seems Hoge might have had some water trouble both with his approaches and his driver, based on the amount of strokes he has lost on approach and off the tee here. A few years wiser, and more experienced around this course, I am hoping Hoge can clean that up. Avoid disaster, and this is a great chance for Hoge to post a third top-10 finish in his last four starts, and compete for a second win on TOUR.

We are getting a great price on Hoge, which will largely be down to his course form, but I think he's playing plenty well enough to overcome that.

Robert MacIntyre +12500 (Bet365)

I generally feel that Robert MacIntyre is overrated in the market each week, and that is typically because he's short odds to win on the DP World Tour. This week though I was pleasantly surprised to see him still available in excess of 100-1, after a big week in Mexico.

MacIntyre was the player you knew would struggle with the culture change that comes with joining the PGA Tour, but the Scotsman knows he needs to make this move. Now choosing to base himself in Florida, I am confident he can play well on his first visit to PGA National.

MacIntyre can follow in the footsteps of other European winners, who have excelled at the Open Championship before winning here. Sepp Straka (2nd 2023 Open), Padraig Harrington (2x Open winner), and Rory McIlroy (1 x Open Champion) have all won here and played well in an Open, and the same can be said for Adam Scott, two-time Open winner, Ernie Els, and Rickie Fowler (T2 2014 Open). Runners-up in this event include Sergio Garcia, who has also been a runner-up in the Open, and Shane Lowry, who won the Clarey Jug in 2019.

While MacIntyre has got a long way to go to put himself alongside a lot of these players, he will take particular confidence from Sepp Straka and Shane Lowry, and as a player who has finished inside the top 8 of two Open's, finished 12th in the Masters, and cruelly lost out to Rory in front of a home crowd at the Scottish Open last year, MacIntyre can kick on here.

A fine links player. MacIntyre will enjoy the conditions here at the Honda Classic, and after ranking 3rd in SG Off the Tee, 4th in SG Tee to Green, and 15th in SG Approach last week en route to a 6th place finish in Mexico, he should be raring to go.

MacIntyre tweeted about the importance of having his Dad over in Florida before his 6th in Mexico, and now he will have that same support system at his base, as he looks to contend in back-to-back weeks. At 125-1, I think he's worth a punt.

Article Author


Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!


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