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Cognizant Classic tips, predictions and odds

The newly named Cognizant Classic sees the PGA TOUR commence its Florida Swing, and Mike Glasscott has three bets to follow.

Cognizant Classic tips

To Win – Russell Henley (25/1)
Top 10 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout (5/1)
Top 20 – Andrew Novak (5/1)

PGA National course guide

Returning to the USA, the Florida Swing begins at Jack Nicklaus’ PGA National Champion Course.

Formerly known as the Honda Classic, the Champion Course remains the host for the 18th consecutive season. After playing Par-70 to 7,125 for the last six years, the new sponsorship will play Par-71 (35-36) over 7,147 yards.

Previously playing 505 yards and playing to a Par-4, Hole No. 10 has added 25 yards, shifted left eight yards, and will now play as a Par-5. Players will no longer have to wait 14 holes until No. 18 to get another Par-5 opportunity.

Don’t let the word “resort” fool you. For the last 10 years the track has ranked in the top seven most difficult seven times, including five of the previous six seasons.¬

The coastal breezes, bunkers, and water being in play on 15 of the 18 holes provides a physical and mental challenge. Rating annually as a top-five three-hole-stretch on TOUR, the holes Nos 15 through 17, known as the “Bear Trap”, will give the professionals plenty of food for thought coming home. In better news, the cut of the rough this season will barely exceed two inches, and the fairways have expanded by an acre.

The return to Bermudagrass will be a welcome sight for those who grew up and live in this part of the world. Celebration Bermuda is on the menu until 7,000 square feet (on average) of TifEagle Bermuda welcomes the players on the putting surfaces. Running at a manageable 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, the greens will not be cut as short as last year due to poor winter conditions.

Ranking in the top five on TOUR in balls in the water since 2003, I’ll remind you PGA National did not host its first TOUR event until 2007.

Cognizant Classic preview

The ninth event of the PGA TOUR season returns to a familiar part of Florida. Hosting a TOUR event since 1972, the Palm Beaches have only missed one event (1976) in 43 years.

Ranking in the top five for balls in the water on TOUR since 2003, PGA National did not start hosting the event until 2007.

No player has won at the Champion Course more than once.

No winner has lifted the trophy in consecutive seasons.

Winning the 2020 edition, Sungjae Im became the youngest champion at age 21.

Padraig Harrington, also in the field this week, has won the event twice. The PGA TOUR Champions star won the 2005 event at Mirasol and the 2015 event, becoming the oldest winner at 43, in a playoff over Daniel Berger.

2013 champion Michael Thompson (not entered) is the only winner who does not have multiple TOUR victories.

The last five winners have produced three first-time champions.

None of the 17 past champions won on debut.

There have been zero wire-to-wire winners at PGA National.

Defending champion Chris Kirk ousted first-timer Eric Cole in a playoff last year. Both players set the tournament scoring record on 14-under par. The course record, 61, was last accomplished in the 2021 edition by Matt Jones.

The field of 144, including 19 of the Official World Golf Ranking Top 50, will have chances to gain eligibility into the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After the 72 holes at PGA National, the Aon Next 10 and the Aon Swing 5 will determine who advances to Bay Hill.

On the line is a purse of $9 million, with the winner taking home $1.62 million plus 500 FedExCup points.

Top of the Board

Sitting at the top of the board for his North American home game is Rory McIlroy (8/1). Fresh off his win at Captial One’s The Match on Monday, he returns to the Champion Course for the first time since T59 in 2018. The 2012 winner was eliminated in a four-man-playoff in 2014, his last top 10 at the event. I’m not into favorites outside of Signature Events and major championships, so I’ll patiently wait until next week.

Cameron Young (22/1) will note that three of the last five winners have won for the first time on TOUR. Playing in his 57th TOUR start, the big-hitting youngster will look to continue his solid form from the West Coast. Cashing T8 at TPC Scottsdale and T16 at Riviera suggests he’s ready for another demanding course.

I'm starting my card with Russell Henley (25/1) on top. Bermuda and ball-striking is a fantastic combination this week. The Georgia native cashed T3 and T8 in his previous two visits to add to his 2014 victory. He was the first of four Georgia Bulldogs to win in the last 10 events. I’m leaning on him to keep the tradition alive.

Floridian Eric Cole (25/1) would also like to add his name to the list of first-time victors. Setting the tournament scoring record with Chris Kirk (40/1) last year on 14-under, the 2023 rookie finished second on debut after falling in a playoff. In seven events this season, he’s hit the top 14 in four of them, including two on Bermuda in Hawaii. Load it up.

Winning for the first time won’t be on the agenda for 21-year-old Tom Kim (28/1). Making his tournament debut, he will look to join his countryman and 2020 winner Sungjae Im as the youngest winner. A winner three times on TOUR, the Korean will need a better debut than his T45 at The Sentry to open 2024.

Matt Fitzpatrick (28/1) won on Champion Bermuda/TifEagle Bermuda last season at Harbour Town for his second victory on TOUR. One to keep an eye on next week at Bay Hill, the Englishman makes his first appearance since 2017 (T68). Grinding doesn’t bother him; neither will a challenge off the tee or on/around the greens.

Byeong Hun An (28/1) paved his return to the PGA TOUR via his win at the LECOM Classic on the KFT in 2022. Winning on Bermuda on the West Coast of Florida, the Orlando native has enjoyed his previous visits to PGA National. Making the cut in four of his five starts, the Korean has hit the top five twice, including T4 in 2020, his best of the lot.

Joining Tom Kim as a former winner at the Wyndham Championship, North Carolina native J.T. Poston (33/1) enjoys a challenge on Bermuda. Cashing T5 at The Sentry followed by a solo sixth at Sony, both on Bermuda, I have no problem overlooking his lack of success at PGA National. His full bag suggests fitting him in if the choices above do not move the meter.

Players to consider for Top 10, Top 20, or Top 40 action:

Stephan Jaeger (35/1): I left him alone LAST week because I thought this difficult test would fit his eye even better.

Daniel Berger (35/1): A home game for the life-long resident should evoke fantastic memories of three top-four paydays, including his last two visits.

Denny McCarthy (55/1): When presented the choice of region vs form, I’m going to rely on Bermuda fans from youth. It’s not an absolute science, but more of a tiebreaker.

Doug Ghim (66/1): Back for more! You can ride the heat of T8-T12-T13 from his last three on TOUR.

Akshay Bhatia (80/1): If it’s time to put the ball in play off the tee and into the greens, leaning on the noted wind player makes sense.

Posting only one round above par this season, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (55/1) is trending in the right direction. Fresh off a T24 with all four rounds at par or better at Riviera. Never missing the cut in two previous visits at the Champion Course, his recent ball-striking and solid putting make for a nice outsider. 

Gary Woodland (125/1): Never missing the cut in nine starts, feel free to latch on.

Greyson Sigg (150/1): Another Georgia Bulldog with a top finish? This dawg only made five bogeys last week.

Arriving off back-to-back top-10 paydays, Andrew Novak (160/1) is in the form of his life. Leading the field in scrambling last week, he was also second in SG: Approach the green.

Sam Ryder (200/1): Okay, I’ll bite. Opening with 69-63 in 2021, he claimed T8. The 2022 edition, his third consecutive cut made at the event, he pocketed another top-10 finish with T9. Florida natives will be the longshots of choice this week and the next three.

Matt NeSmith (250/1): Making his fourth visit, he’s cashed T38 or better in his first three. Giddy up.

Bud Cauley (350/1): Stretching a bit, but if you can find him for Top 40, I’d take a shot. Gambling, right?


The eight winners this season have all registered 40/1 or worse, with Jake Knapp (40/1) leading the way last week.

Hefty ball-strikers, wind players and Bermuda specialists win here.

Off the fairways, less than perfect lies will provide a challenge. The keys this week include having the strength, mentally and physically, to handle flighting shots in the wind.

Big greens again this week will allow for bailouts from uneven fairway lies, rough or sand. Remember, Nicklaus-designed courses get more difficult the closer to the hole.

Survival is more important than scoring. Birdies are few and far between this week. Grinding out pars, taking the proper medicine, and minimizing big misses will be needed.

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