2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Expert Picks & Mega Guide

2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Expert Picks & Mega Guide article feature image

Via Getty Images/Action Network Design. Pictured: Robert MacIntyre (left) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (right).

Here's everything you need to know about the 2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Picks — our PGA Tour mega guide and expert golf betting picks for this week's PGA Tour event at PGA National.

Before we look ahead to this week’s 2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches, one note from Sunday evening which summarizes the chaos we’ve seen atop PGA Tour final leaderboards in 2024:

Through eight tournaments this year, Jake Knapp – who’d made just eight previous career starts on the PGA Tour – is the winner with the shortest pre-tourney odds so far.

Let that sink in. Chris Kirk, Grayson Murray, Nick Dunlap, Matthieu Pavon, Wyndham Clark, Nick Taylor and Hideki Matsuyama each had longer odds than Knapp, who entered the Mexico Open with exactly one top-25 result at the highest level.

With that in mind, let’s get to The Tournament Formerly Known as The Honda Classic at devilish PGA National, where longshot winners are fairly commonplace. Over the past five editions of this event, we’ve seen three champions (Sepp Straka, Matt Jones and Keith Mitchell) with pre-tourney odds of 80-1 or bigger.

Partially based on that history, partially based on the odds of winners over the last two months and partially based on a few big numbers for players I really like, this week’s selection for outright winner with short odds doesn’t have odds very short, and this week’s selection for outright winner with long odds has odds that are pretty long. Let’s get right to ‘em.

2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Picks

2024 Cognizant Classic Outright Picks

One player to win the tournament at short odds

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+8000)

If there’s one player I’m buying prior to the Florida Swing, it’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout. In five starts so far this year, his Strokes Gained (SG): Approach numbers, per round, have been through the roof: +2.14, +1.38, +2.13, +1.26 and +1.16. That torrid iron play has resulted in four top-30 finishes, including a runner-up at The American Express, where he received the first-place check when Nick Dunlap won as an amateur.

Combine that with the fact that his bread-and-butter is actually putting – he’s gained strokes on the greens in three of those five starts and was just barely below field average in the other two – and being back on Bermuda surfaces in his adopted home state could be the key to another big-time result.

Considering the lengthy list of unpredictable winners this year, I shouldn’t have to do too much convincing on anyone outside the favorites, but it’s hard not to love the fact that the 29-year-old South African already knows how to win, having done so three times on the DP World Tour and four times on the Sunshine Tour. He’ll be a popular selection in my previews over the next month, but PGA National might suit him even better than the other venues.

One player to win the tournament at long odds

Robert MacIntyre (+15000)

I was skeptical at first, but I love what NBC Sports is doing with its rotating list of guest analysts, especially those still involved in the game, such as Kevin Kisner and Jim “Bones” Mackay, each of whom have been terrific.

We should have every reason to believe that level of excellence will continue over the next two weeks, as Luke Donald takes on the role. Thoughtful, well-spoken and prepared, don’t be surprised if you leave the impending fortnight wondering whom to contact at NBC, just to suggest they offer Donald a full-time gig.

Why am I writing about him in this section? Well, there’s obviously no direct correlation to the European Ryder Cup captain working as an analyst and one of his players getting into contention, but I could certainly see this turning into a win-win situation for all involved if it happens.

We’ve received more evidence that Robert MacIntyre is ready to bring his best stuff stateside, as he finished T6 last week in Mexico and has now gained strokes both off the tee and with his approach shots in three straight starts. It was a bit of a slow start for the Scotsman in his PGA Tour rookie campaign, but he’s got things going in the right direction now.

I honestly expected his number to be half of this initial price – and it might get there before Thursday’s opening round – so jump quickly at 150-1 on a player who certainly has the talent to win here.

2024 Cognizant Classic One & Done Picks

Potential selections for one-and-done pools

Eric Cole (+3000)

Here are Eric Cole’s results in the first 11 starts of his rookie campaign last year: MC, MC, MC, MC, 27th, 35th, 39th, 61st, 36th, MC and 15th. Needless to say, his playoff loss at this event in his 12th start was massive in propelling him up the reshuffle list, which in turn gave him more starts, which led to the Rookie of the Year award and a top-50 world ranking and his first Masters appearance coming up in six weeks.

Although his title contention might’ve been difficult to predict, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that his breakthrough took place on a tough track in his home state of Florida, where he competed on mini-tours for years before joining sanctioned circuits. He’ll be a popular OAD selection this week, but if you’re not too worried about duplication, he’ll be popular for the right reasons.

Byeong Hun An (+3500)

I’m admittedly conflicted here because as much as I love Ben An’s upside and believe he’s going to win a PGA Tour title at some point in the not-too-distant future, picking him on a course that has water in play on 15 holes doesn’t exactly alleviate my fear of him not being able to overcome a few big numbers.

I’ve listed him for the ceiling, as he’s certainly worth consideration, but I’m already more bearish on him than I was at the beginning of this paragraph.

Billy Horschel (+6500)

I don’t love these odds for a player who’s still trying to “find it” a little bit, but I am very bullish on Billy Horschel in general, and his native Florida is traditionally where he starts to heat up. With only one top-40 result and two MCs in his first four starts of the year, I can’t imagine he’ll be too popular in any OADs.

However, four top-25 finishes in 11 starts at PGA National, including two of the past four years, could portend good things. If you’re looking to get a little contrarian, he could be your play.

2024 Cognizant Classic Placement Bet Picks

Top Five

One player to finish in the top five

Matt Fitzpatrick (+650 for Top-five Finish)

I’ve long had Matt Fitzpatrick on the radar to win an Arnold Palmer Invitational title and expect he’ll be heavily featured in next week’s preview, but this could be a very fruitful stretch in total for him. While he hasn’t played this event since a 68th-place finish in 2017, I don’t mind buying the narrative of Fitz playing his best golf on difficult courses where pars don’t hurt.

I’ll readily admit, though, that some of my motivation here is simply a CYA in case he happens to peak one week too early, which would also chop his odds for Bay Hill.

Top 10

One player to finish in the top 10

Shane Lowry (+350 for Top-10 Finish)

Ask golf fans to name the biggest individual disappointment from last season, and most will quickly choose Justin Thomas, who failed to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs. That was a severe temporary downfall for one of the game’s top talents, but not every failure to reach the postseason should be treated equally.

Shane Lowry similarly didn’t qualify, but an examination of his results simply shows that he didn’t have enough ceiling weeks during the regular season. The truth is, the Irishman finished in the top 25 in eight of his last dozen starts of 2023 on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour combined.

I still dislike the wording of the “positive regression” oxymoron which has permeated this industry, but I can appreciate the idea – and few are due for a reversal of fortune as much as Lowry. He’s also still probably owed a little something from this tournament after a late-round rainstorm left him runner-up two years ago, yet another top-five finish last year should cement him as a course horse going into this one.

Top 20

One player to finish in the top 20

Stephan Jaeger (+210 for Top-20 Finish)

Last week, my best bet for the Mexico Open was Stephan Jaeger to finish in the top 20. He started the final round in a share for exactly 20th place, but a six-under 65 vaulted him up the leaderboard and removed any sweat from this selection. That’s now seven top-20 cashes in the last 15 starts for a player with an ever-improving floor, so there’s no reason to pivot away from this now, especially considering his T14 finish here last year.

It would hardly come as a surprise if Jaeger joins the growing list of first-time winners at some point this season, but for the time being, I’ll keep buying his floor.

Top 30

One player to finish in the top 30

Doug Ghim (+175 for Top-30 Finish)

I have a buddy who will tragically miss a five-footer for bogey, then explain it away by saying, “I’m just working on my GHINs.” In other words, he’s desperately trying to get his handicap up to a number where he can actually win some money. Well, those of us betting on PGA Tour events lately have been working on our Ghims, as Doug Ghim has finished T13, T12 and T8 in his last three starts.

So, why isn’t he listed higher in this preview? Three MCs in three previous starts at this event have me a little skittish, but the game looks very solid right now, so let’s bargain against that and conservatively play him for a top 30.

Top 40

One player to finish in the top 40

Sam Ryder (+190 for Top-40 Finish)

I’ve always believed this is the perfect time to buy low on some players who tend to struggle on the West Coast but play better on the Bermuda greens of the Florida Swing. There’s little about Sam Ryder’s results this year – nothing inside the top 30 in five starts – which should have us optimistic, other than the fact he’s coming home to the Sunshine State and should feel a sense of comfortability once again.

For a guy who twice last year finished top 10 directly after multiple MCs, he’s proven that he doesn’t need a wave of momentum to turn things around. With top-10 results in each of his last two starts at this event, I don’t mind playing him all the way up to that prop and will certainly have him on the short list of cheaper DFS options.

2024 Cognizant Classic DFS Picks

DFS Free Bingo Square

A safe plug-and-play option for DFS lineups

Russell Henley

Driving accuracy and strong iron play are the hallmarks of success around PGA National, and those are the best parts of Russell Henley’s game. He won this event a decade ago, finished in the top 10 the past two years and has a half-dozen top-25 finishes in nine career starts.

At a place where there aren’t too many free squares, Henley seems like the safest play of the bunch. His 25-1 outright number isn’t too appealing for a guy with traditionally low win equity, but he’ll be the first name I lock into several DFS lineups.

DFS Mid-Tier

A medium-priced option for DFS lineups

Alex Noren

It’s difficult to watch Alex Noren play for an extended period and not believe the sum of his parts is better than the recent results, as he’s 4-for-4 making cuts this year but with nothing better than 25th-place result.

That theory doesn’t carry over to this specific tournament, though, as Noren owns a pair of top fives in his last four starts here. Much like Henley, he’s a guy who will keep his ball in play and take what the course gives him – and also much like Henley, his outright number (45-1) isn’t as appealing as his DFS value.

DFS ‘Dog

A lower-priced option for DFS lineups

Andrew Novak

I’ll wonder aloud here whether we’ve already missed the boat on Andrew Novak after a pair of eighth-place finishes in his last two starts, but at seventh on the PGA Tour’s SG: Approach ranking, I’m willing to see if the roller coaster might still be hitting its apex. He was T29 here a year ago, so there’s some rationale in trying to get that recent form to mesh with a decent course history.

2024 Cognizant Classic Misc. Picks

First-Round Leader

One player to post the low round Thursday

Sepp Straka (+5000 for FRL)

After following up his 2022 Honda Classic victory with another top-five finish last year, Sepp Straka has joined a growing number of European players who seem to feel more comfortable on this track than many others on the PGA Tour schedule. Either that or he’s following in the tradition of University of Georgia products faring well here.

It’s tough to pigeonhole a guy with two distinct backgrounds, but we know that he likes it at PGA National. Based on recent form, I’m not ready to buy him for a four-round value just yet, however he’s been known to get red-hot on a Thursday, so I’ll look to him in the first-round marketplace.

Matchup Man

One player who should beat comparable players

Nick Dunlap (+18000)

Look, I get it: With each subsequent MC, Nick Dunlap’s win as an amateur at The AmEx looks even flukier from an outsider’s perspective. Instead, I’ll point out that his lack of post-victory success was largely predictable. It’s only been two missed cuts since then, and a week off was likely sorely needed as a trip closer to home on the East Coast should help matters.

Even if you don’t like any of those explanations, just take a look at his 180-1 price, then check out some of the other guys at similar numbers. I like Dunlap to make the cut for the first time as a pro this week – and that alone could have him cashing some head-to-head wagers by Friday evening.

Also Receiving Votes

Other players who should provide value

Sungjae Im (+3500), Corey Conners (+4500), Denny McCarthy (+5000), Adam Svensson (+5500), Akshay Bhatia (+6000), Ryan Fox (+8000), Greyson Sigg (+15000), Alejandro Tosti (+18000), Ben Kohles (+25000), Camilo Villegas (+30000), David Lipsky (+60000)

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