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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: Cognizant Classic (2024)


After spending the better part of two months on the West Coast of the United States, the PGA Tour kicks off its month-long-stay in Florida with the Cognizant Classic.


This event, played annually at PGA National since 2007, has continued to receive the short-end-of-the-stick from the PGA in terms of scheduling.


Due to its placement following events such as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, WM Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational and directly before the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS Championship, it continues to draw a weaker field.


Due to that, one of the Tour’s longest standing sponsors, Honda, withdrew from the Tour after being a part of it since 1982.


Now, under the sponsor of Cognizant, the once prestigious event and course will continue on.


The Field

With all this talk about the event being a one-off with the way it falls on the PGA Tour’s schedule, we will see a better field than we’ve seen in some time at this event this week.


There are 19 golfers within the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings.


Among them is World No. 2 Rory McIlroy who opens as far-and-away, the odds on favorite to win.


Joining him are the likes of Cameron Young, Min Woo Lee, Russell Henley, Tom Kim, J.T. Poston, Sungjae Im and Matt Fitzpatrick.


Defending champion Chris Kirk will also be teeing it up this week after he held off eventual PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Eric Cole in a playoff.


Sepp Straka will also play this week and won this event in 2022.


Other former winners of this event in this week’s field include Sungjae Im (2020,) Keith Mitchell (2019,) Rickie Fowler (2017,) Padraig Harrington (2015 & 2005,) Henley (2014,) McIlroy (2012,) Camilo Villegas (2010) and Matt Kuchar (2002.)


The Course

PGA National plays at 7,125 yards as a par-71. Although short on paper it is anything but a typical short course with its use of tight landing areas off the tee and a heavy dosage of forced layups due to tight doglegs.


Due to this, wedge play is essentially removed from this course, with just about 11-percent of approach shots coming from within 125 yards. Those able to dial it in with mid-to-long irons from 125-200 yards will have an advantage this week. Approximately 54-percent of approach shots will come from the 125-200 yard range. This of course is well above the Tour average.


The course plays as one of the most difficult courses for approach shots from 150 yards as well. This is due to the exposure of gusting winds with a combination of firm and fast conditions.


To show the difficulty of this course, outside of two of the par-fives, all 16 of the other holes play at a scoring average of even par or worse. With the unpredictably of the wind as well, the two par-fives are no guarantee for birdies either.


However, new to this year is the changing of the former par-four tenth hole to a par-five. The tenth was lengthened by 20 yards and converted from a very difficult par-four to a more scorable par-five. The new yardage of this hole is 528-yards.


This change won’t alter the overall difficulty of this course but instead, change the winning score by up to a three-to-four stroke swing.


PGA National is known for its “Bear Trap” stretch of holes from 15 to 17 that play as the fourth most difficult three-hole stretch on the entire Tour. Only Quail Hollow (16-18,) Pebble Beach (8-10) and Muirfield Village (16-18) feature a tougher three hole stretch.


Water is heavily featured throughout the Bear Trap, which includes two 175-yard par-threes and a tight dogleg par-four.


The Bear Trap does allow for dramatic and climactic finishes down the stretch as those chasing the leaders may take an aggressive approach and take the line at the tight pin locations over the water.


Simply put, the event can be won or lost here in the Bear Trap.


PGA National annually has had a cut line above-par in each of the last ten years. The median field score has sat at even par or worse in seven of the last eight years as well.


A score of -10 or less has been enough to win the event in eight of the last eleven seasons and with another weak field this week, we can expect much of the same.


The Weather

As of the time of writing this, Sunday calls for a 25-percent chance of precipitation with a five-to-ten percent chance on the other three days. The sun won’t be shining either as forecasts are projecting a cloudy four days of golf. Temperatures are set for either 78-to-79 degrees as highs for all four days as well. Winds will be at the highest on Friday at 13 miles-per-hour and 11 miles-per-hour on Saturday. Thursday is calling for nine miles-per-hour winds and six miles-per-hour on Sunday. However, this course is known for its unpredictable wind gusts and ever changing weather conditions. Take these forecasts with a grain of salt.


Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Ball Striking

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT)

  • Total Driving (70-percent Average Driving Distance / 30-percent Driving Accuracy)

  • Proximity to the Hole from 125-200 Yards

  • Bogey Avoidance

  • Scrambling

  • Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)

  • Par Four Average Scoring

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)


DFS Suggestions

$10,000+

Once again, options are rather limited in this top price range. There are just five options between Rory McIlroy ($12,200,) Matt Fitzpatrick ($10,600,) Russell Henley ($10,200,) Tom Kim ($10,100) and my suggestion, Cameron Young ($10,700.) In his last two outings on the PGA Tour, Young has gone T16th at The Genesis Invitational and T8th at the WM Phoenix Open. He also placed third at the Dubai Desert Classic back in January where a tough final round allowed McIlroy and Adrian Meronk to leap frog him. Young played this event once prior where he placed T16th in 2022. He is currently 14th on Tour in SG: OTT, 32nd in ball striking, 47th in par four average scoring, 51st in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 54th in scrambling, 57th in SG: APP, 67th in bogey avoidance and 78th in total driving. Now, he does offer some red flags as he is currently 164th in SG: ATG and 168th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. He lost just 0.387 strokes putting at The Genesis and gained 5.214 at The WM Phoenix Open. A spike putting week like what we saw in Phoenix would catapult Young into his first PGA Tour victory. I’m playing two units on him at +2200.


$9,000-$9,900

This is going to be a very popular price range with many opting to forgo the top price range and instead begin lineup construction here. There are many intriguing names as well to split the ownership numbers. My first suggestion in this range is Chris Kirk ($9,400.) As the defending champion his ownership numbers are going to be higher but his game matches up ideally here (obviously) and I can’t ignore that. He’s currently sixth on Tour in par four average scoring, eighth in scrambling, 13th in bogey avoidance, 21st in SG: APP, 25th in SG: OTT, 33rd in both ball striking and proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 67th in SG: ATG, 97th in total driving and 101st in SG: PUTT Bermuda. On top of winning this event last year, he placed T7th in 2022 and T25th in 2021. He knows his way around this place. He did miss the cut in his last outing at The Genesis Invitational but also has a victory on the season at The Sentry Tournament of champions. I’m playing a unit on him at +4500 as well. Also consider Keith Mitchell ($9,000.) I was all over Mitchell a week ago in Mexico and I’m going back to the well this week. He’s currently third on Tour in ball striking, seventh in SG: OTT, 25th in bogey avoidance, 31st in SG: APP, 32nd in par four average scoring, 54th in total driving, 73rd in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 96th in SG: ATG, 108th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 109th in scrambling. Mitchell too is a former winner of this event, winning in 2019 and in his last appearance here in 2022, placed T9th. In his last two outings this season, Mitchell has placed T19th last week at the Mexico Open and T17th the week prior at the WM Phoenix Open. He also placed T9th at The American Express. I’m also playing a unit on Mitchell at +5000.


$8,000-$8,900

My first click this week was Matthieu Pavon ($8,700) on the betting card so you best believe he’ll be in my DFS lineups. He actually is my overall favorite this week per my model. Pavon not only won the Farmers Insurance Open about a month ago, but followed that up with a third place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He also placed T7th earlier this year at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He will be making his debut at this event and course this week. He’s currently first on the entire Tour in SG: APP, third in par four average scoring, 14th in bogey avoidance, 20th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 27th in both ball striking and proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 34th in scrambling, 35th in SG: OTT, 79th in total driving and 123rd in SG: ATG. His around the green work is his biggest weakness but with elite approach numbers, he may not find himself in too many wedge situations. I’m also playing a unit on him at +4000. Also consider Stephan Jaeger ($8,800.) Jaeger has placed T3rd at both last week’s Mexico Open and the Farmers Insurance Open this season. He played here a year ago where he placed T14th. He’s also currently seventh on Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 24th in par four average scoring, 37th in total driving, 40th in both ball striking and SG: ATG, 50th in SG: OTT, 60th in scrambling, 72nd in SG: APP, 77th in bogey avoidance and 107th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. I’m also playing a unit on him at +5000.


$7,000-$7,900

I’m going to the very bottom of this price range to kick things off with Doug Ghim ($7,000.) Ghim is currently eighth on Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 16th in ball striking, 18th in SG: APP, 25th in bogey avoidance, 30th in SG: OTT, 38th in SG: ATG, 44th in scrambling, 59th in par four average scoring and 83rd in total driving. His downfall of course comes on the greens as he ranks 150th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. However, he lost just 0.086 strokes putting at the Mexico Open, but gained 1.127 strokes at the WM Phoenix Open and 1.353 strokes at the Farmers Insurance Open. In his last three events he has gone T8th at last week’s Mexico Open, T12th at the WM Phoenix Open and T13th at the Farmers Insurance Open. I’m playing a unit on him at +8000. Also consider Adam Svensson ($7,700.) Svensson is currently 18th on Tour in ball striking, 37th in both SG: APP and proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 39th in bogey avoidance, 46th in SG: OTT, 58th in scrambling, 78th in total driving, 82nd in par four average scoring, 83rd in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 120th in SG: ATG. He placed T10th at The Genesis Invitational in his last outing. He’s played this event three times and has not missed the cut in any of those events. He also placed T9th here in 2022. 


$6,900-

My favorite play in this price range is Greyson Sigg ($6,100.) I’m certain his ownership will be minimal and with a price tag of just $6,100, is going to offer some great lineup flexibility. Sigg has played here twice and missed the cut both times but comes into this year’s installment with a T19th last week at the Mexico Open and also placed T17th earlier this season at The American Express. Sigg is currently 10th on Tour in bogey avoidance, 11th in scrambling, 15th in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 30th in ball striking, 32nd in SG: APP, 59th in par four average scoring, 69th in SG: OTT, 106th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 111th in total driving and 130th in SG: ATG. I’m playing a unit on him at +20000 as well. Also consider Jhonattan Vegas ($6,600.) Vegas has some proven success here at PGA National. He’s played in this event in each of the past seven years, making the cut in each of them. He also placed T4th here in 2017. He also comes into this week making back-to-back cuts at the WM Phoenix Open and the Mexico Open. He’s currently second on Tour in ball striking, sixth in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 24th in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 34th in SG: APP, 37th in both SG: OTT and total driving and 99th in bogey avoidance. Now, being in this price range he does have some downfalls. He’s currently 159th in par four average scoring, 168th in SG: ATG and 176th in scrambling. I’m banking on Vegas making the cut this week, as he has proven to do so at this event.


Betting Card

  • Cameron Young (+2200) - 2u

  • Matthieu Pavon (+4000) - 1u

  • Chris Kirk (+4500) - 1u

  • Keith Mitchell (+5000) - 1u

  • Stephan Jaeger (+5000) - 1u

  • Doug Ghim (+8000) - 1u

  • Greyson Sigg (+20000) - 1u

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