At long last, we have our first winner of 2024, courtesy of the great Pat Mayo, who correctly predicted Jake Knapp’s impressive victory at the Mexico Open at odds of 35-1. That makes Knapp the biggest favorite to win on the PGA Tour so far this season. Didn’t have that one on your bingo card, did ya?

We roll on to the Florida Swing, which begins with the Honda Cognizant Classic at PGA National. Jack Nicklaus’ place remains one of the toughest tests on the tour schedule, and this year we finally get to see some serious stars like Rory McIlroy tackle the famed Bear Trap once more. Should be a fun one to watch in Palm Beach Gardens.

Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2024 Cognizant Classic.

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Cognizant Classic picks 2024: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Eric Cole (25-1, DraftKings) — Cole returns to PGA National after his runner-up finish last year having played such good golf around the country ever since. He’s most comfortable on Bermuda greens, and with him tightening up his off-the-tee game, that’ll let his elite middle-iron game and putter thrive here.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Daniel Berger (35-1, DraftKings) — Maybe it’s too early with this, but I was super encouraged by his ball-striking in Phoenix. If he can keep up his accurate driving and continue to build back to his former elite irons, the putting issues since his return might be extinguished at PGA National. In seven career starts in this event, he has lost strokes on the greens one time, gaining over three strokes putting per start in his past three appearances. He lost in a playoff to Paddy in his tournament debut in 2014 and reeled off consecutive T-4 finishes in his past two starts pre-injury. Yes, he gagged away a huge lead early Sunday in 2022, but it feels like he’ll get a win here at some point in his career. It might as well be now.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: J.T. Poston (30-1, FanDuel) — I’ve been targeting Poston a lot lately, and it’s because he’s just so good even with a subpar off-the-tee game. Poston leads the entire field (again) in strokes gained/approach, around-the-green and putting combined over the last 50 rounds. The form at PGA National hasn’t been great, but he’s a better golfer now than ever before.

Keith Stewart, Read The Line: J.T. Poston (30-1, FanDuel) — Chris Kirk began 2023 with a third, third, missed cut and win at the Cognizant (Honda) Classic. J.T. Poston just started 2024 with a fifth, sixth, 11th, 20th, MC, and 10th. The two Sea Island residents have very similar games, and Poston’s recent ball-striking has been very impressive, gaining three strokes tee-to-green in his last five events. Throw the “Postman” back on Bermudagrass where he has won, and he will deliver again.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Shane Lowry (40-1, FanDuel) — This feels like a number you have to bet. The Irishman has two top-five finishes the past two years at PGA National and is ranked fifth in SG/total on Florida courses over the past three years, per BetSperts.com. We heard how motivated he is to qualify for the majors after his hot start at Torrey, and this is a great spot to get his first PGA Tour win since The Open.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Eric Cole (25-1, DraftKings) — Would feel wrong to miss out on this at the place he came oh so close a year ago (my fellow Chris Kirk Backers thank him, though). How about that sneaky top 10 at Riviera, too? Stars could be aligning for Cole, who is the No. 3 player in this field in terms of SG/total over the past 50 rounds, behind only Rory McIlroy and J.T. Poston.

Andy Lack, Run Pure Sports and Inside Golf podcast: Shane Lowry (40-1, FanDuel) — Shane Lowry always seems to raise his baseline on challenging, Bermuda, water-heavy courses. The Jupiter resident ranks top five in this field in SG/total in Florida over the last three years, and much of that is specifically due to his success at the Cognizant Classic. In six appearances at PGA National, the former Open Champion has made every cut, with a runner-up and a fifth in his last two appearances. This course really seems to fit Lowry’s eye from tee-to-green, as he has gained over 8.5 strokes ball-striking in each of his last two appearances.

Past results: Ding, ding, we have a winner. Pat Mayo cashes our first outright ticket of the year with Jake Knapp (35-1) at the Mexico Open. Now it’s time for us to get HOT.

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Cognizant Classic picks 2024: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win

Caddie: Davis Thompson (80-1, FanDuel) — He’s one of the young guys that us caddies are in awe of out here. It’s a matter of time before he contends again, and I love his chances on a Bermuda course like this.

Mayo: Carson Young (110-1, DraftKings) — Young gained almost two strokes on approach again in Mexico after two straight starts gaining over three strokes on approach. He hits more fairways than most and has been excellent from 175-plus yards over the past 12 rounds (23rd from 175-200; sixth 200-plus) in proximity. The putter has been wonkier than expected after his hot run on the greens most of last season, but he gained with the flat stick at Vidanta and picked up 4.2 strokes on the greens in his first start here a year ago. I’ll play him as a first-round leader, too.

Gdula: Erik van Rooyen (70-1, FanDuel) — Van Rooyen ranks fifth in SG/ball-striking and third, specifically, in approach play over the past 50 rounds. The form at PGA National isn’t great, sure, but that, in part, has his odds longer than they should be for how well he’s playing right now.

Stewart: Tom Hoge (55-1, FanDuel) — When Tom Hoge’s game is on, he is one of the best ball-strikers on tour. Hoge has four top-20 results in his last five starts and he’s gaining nearly five strokes total on the field per event during that time. The big difference I saw out west watching Tom was his ability to convert with the flat stick. He’s gained positive strokes with the putter in five straight to go along with that elite iron game. Hoge hasn’t played PGA National since he won Pebble Beach and evolved as player. He’s first in the field for approach and seventh in par-3 scoring. This is certainly a Sunday sweat in the making.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Adam Svensson (55-1, BetMGM) — Eric Cole will probably be the most popular bet, and I’ll probably add him as FOMO play. But I’ve seen a lot of chatter on Adam Svensson—and for good reason. The Canadian is coming off a 10th-place finish at Riviera, where he gained more than nine strokes tee to green in an elite field. He loves Florida golf—ranking top 20 in this field in SG/total on Florida courses over the past three years, per BetSperts.com, which includes a ninth-place in his last start at PGA National (2022).

Powers, Golf Digest: Alex Noren (60-1, FanDuel) — Take out the WMPO, which was a very wonky week, and you have a guy who was in fine form with great course history at PGA National. A fifth in 2022 and a third in 2018 tell me he loves the challenge of this place and, more importantly, just loves Bermuda. We saw him nearly win the Butterfield Bermuda in the Fall and he’s collected three top-26 finishes in five starts since.

Lack: Adam Svensson (55-1, BetMGM) — Adam Svensson is coming off a 10th-place finish at Riviera where he gained over seven strokes from tee-to-green, an incredibly impressive result against an elite field on a demanding golf course. Now Svensson returns to the site where he won the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament back in 2016, and he also recorded a ninth-place finish at PGA National in 2022. His success at this track should not come as a surprise, as the Canadian is one of the most accurate drivers of the ball in this field, and an elite middle-iron player as well. I expect Svensson to continue his momentum this week in Palm Beach Gardens.

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Cognizant Classic picks 2024: Players We’re Fading

Caddie: Rickie Fowler (66-1, BetMGM) — You might be tempted at this big number but don’t be. I’ve seen the ball-striking upclose, and it’s not in a great spot. He won’t be able to fake it around here.

Mayo: Cameron Young (22-1, DraftKings) — Literally no one ever has won money on Young in the outright market. Not a single person. Sure, there are odds where I would back him. As the second favorite in the field, no thanks.

Gdula: Cameron Young (22-1, FanDuel) — Young was 16th here back in 2021 and has top-five ball-striking over the past 50 rounds but is bogged down by a spotty short game, specifically with the wedges. With only Rory sitting at shorter odds, fades are hard to find, but I’d rather go with other options in this tier than Young this week.

Stewart: Matt Fitzpatrick (28-1, FanDuel) — After watching Matt Fitzpatrick on the West Coast in person, I have to fade the recent U.S. Open winner. Since the start of 2024 he’s lost strokes on approach in four of five starts, three of five off-the-tee, around-the-green and with the putter. Fitzpatrick has a slight chance to turn things around on Bermudagrass, but the ball-striking has been seriously off. The approach game is the biggest issue with Fitz losing strokes in eight of his last 11 starts dating back to last summer. Until he fixes the irons, venues like PGA National will be a no-go zone.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Byeong Hun An (28-1, DraftKings) — Benny An’s playing his best golf in some time, but if there’s one thing we know about Benny, is that the big numbers are always lurking. He ranks 82nd in this field in SG/total on Florida courses over the past three years, and in this range I just can’t get there with one of my favorites to bet on.

Powers, Golf Digest: Byeong Hun An (28-1, DraftKings) — Good course history? Check. Good current form? Check. Good number to bet on? Nope. I love me some Benny, but not at sub 30-1. He’ll very likely contend and then break everyone’s heart with the putter, which he’s lost over three strokes with in each of his last two starts.

Lack: Min Woo Lee (30-1, DraftKings) — While I remain bullish on Min Woo Lee long-term, I have a very difficult time trusting his approach play on a course with such a robust amount of water hazards. Over his last 36 rounds, Lee ranks 129th out of 140 players in this field in overall approach play, and he is coming off a 71st at the Phoenix Open where he lost another 5.5 strokes with his irons. Until the big-hitting Australian shows some form in this category, I will gladly look in other directions.

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Cognizant Classic picks 2024: Matchups

Caddie: Sepp Straka (-120) over Beau Hossler — Hossler has a new caddie on the bag this week, which is strange given how well he’s playing. This will be a tough course to make an adjustment like that. I’ll take the better ball-striker with great course history here.

Mayo: Shane Lowry (+100) over Byeong Hun An (DraftKings) — While An is the one garnering all the attention this week, it’s Lowry who has consistently showed up during the Florida swing the past few years. He’s posted top-five finishes each of the past two years at PGA National and generally does his best work on the PGA Tour on more difficult courses.

Gdula: Beau Hossler (-105) over Chris Kirk (FanDuel) — Kirk has a big edge with approach play, which is usually crucial for me, but the rest of the skill gap is pretty big lately with how good Hossler’s short game has been.

Stewart: Byeong Hun An (-130) over Sungjae Im (BetMGM) — Similar to Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im has been riding the negative strokes gained train with his iron game. In his T-44 at Genesis, Im lost strokes in every category except putting. The former Cognizant champion lost 4.6 strokes tee-to-green at Riviera. Conversely, Ben An’s ball-striking gained over seven strokes tee-to-green at Riviera. In five starts at PGA National, he has two top fives. Ben’s comfortable in Palm Beach Gardens and Sungjae is searching.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (-125) over Beau Hossler (PointsBet) — Kirk’s the defending champion and also ranks third in this field in SG/total on Florida courses over the past three years, per BetSperts, whereas Hossler ranks 79th. Hossler’s been playing consistently in 2024, but as our caddie notes, he just fired his caddie, which puts me over the edge on fading him.

Powers, Golf Digest: Shane Lowry (+100) over Byeong Hun An (DraftKings) — Might as well copy and paste what Mayo said. Again, love me some Eggs Benny, but I trust Lowry more should they both find themselves in contention.

Lack: Sepp Straka (-120) over Beau Hossler (DraftKings) — Sepp Straka possesses one of the strongest PGA National track records out of any player in this field, with a win and a fifth in his last two appearances. Straka always possesses a leg up on water-heavy, demanding ball-striking courses due to his accuracy off-the-tee, and rock-solid middle-iron play. Beau Hossler, on the other hand, is a far less reliable ball-striker, who ranks worse than field average in both driving accuracy and middle-iron play. This is an easy one.

Matchup Results from the Mexico Open: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Knapp (+105) over van Rooyen); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Jaeger (-110) over Grillo); Powers: 1 for 1 (B. Wu (+100) over Fox); Lack: 1 for 1 (van rooyen (-120) over Olesen); Caddie: 1 for 1 (B. Wu (+100) over Fox); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (van Rooyen (-120) over Olesen); Stewart: 0 for 1

Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 7-1-0 (up 5.92 units); Gdula: 6-1-1 (up 4.3 units); Powers: 5-2-1 (up 2.97 units); Lack 5-3-0 (up 2.09 units); Caddie: 4-3-0 (up 0.49 units); Hennessey: 4-3-1 (up 0.31 units); Stewart: 3-5-0 (down 2.14 units)

Cognizant Classic picks 2024: Top 10s

Caddie: Stephan Jaeger (+450, BetRivers) — He’s amplified his game as much as anyone has this year, coming off another top-10 finish in Mexico. Expect that to continue.

Mayo: Keith Mitchell (+400, DraftKings) — With three top-20 finishes in his last five starts, the 2019 winner may just need some comforting confines to get him over the top. The driving has been immaculate in 2024, gaining 2.5 SG/off-the-tee per start, and now the irons have started to click, too. Maybe he wasted a spike approach week in Mexico (as it’s quite unlikely he gains over eight strokes again), however, there’s a good chance he can quell his poor on and around-the-green play with the tour now in Florida. In five career starts at the Cognizant, Mitchell has never dropped strokes putting to the field. As long as the driver continues to cooperate at its current level, Mitchell can take out a lot of this course’s difficulty with aggressive strategy off the tee.

Gdula: Byeong Hun An (+320, FanDuel) — An has a top five and a top 25 at PGA National over the past five years, and he is riding a hot short game into this week. Even though that’s usually a sign for me to stay away, the putting is supported by good underlying splits, and he’s still a top-20 ball-striker over the last 50 rounds.

Stewart: Russell Henley (+280, FanDuel) — Top 10s have been an adventure this year… let’s roll with Russell Henley on the Champion Course for three reasons. Henley has been in great ball-striking form since the Sony, gaining an average of two strokes tee-to-green in his last five starts. Russell is heading to Florida where he will be putting on his favorite surface; Bermudagrass. That grainy green surface is why, and reason No. 3, he has proven success at PGA National. In nine starts, Henley has a win (2014), six top 25s, and a top 10 in each of his last two starts.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Rasmus Hojgaard (+550, Bet365) — Nicolai’s brother has been on an absolute heater with three straight top-10 finishes on the DP World Tour. He hasn’t finished outside the top 30 since last September, which includes some strong finishes in elite fields across the pond.

Powers, Golf Digest: Daniel Berger (+400, DraftKings) — Too soon to bet on a win just yet but not to soon for a top 10. Feels like he could do that here with one hand tied behind his back.

Lack: Russell Henley (+280, FanDuel) — Russell Henley will always be a threat on less than driver, Southeastern Bermuda courses, and PGA National certainly fits the bill. In nine appearances at the Fazio design, Henley has made every single cut, with six top-25 finishes, and a win in 2014. He’s gained over three strokes ball-striking in his last three appearances, and PGA National seems to fit his eye more than nearly any other player in this field. Coming off another strong approach week at the Genesis Invitational, I expect Henley to play a serious factor this week at a familiar track.

Top-10 results from the Mexico Open: Everybody: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Gdula: 2 for 8 (up 2.5 units); Hennessey: 2 for 8 (up 2 units); Mayo: 1 for 8 (down 3.5 units); Powers: 1 for 8 (down 5.1 units); Lack: 1 for 8 (down 5.5 units); Caddie: 0 for 8 (down 8 units); Stewart: 0 for 8 (down 8 units)

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME. 

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for numberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13. 

Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor for Golf Digest and founder of Read The Line, the premier on-site live golf betting insights service covering the LPGA and PGA TOUR. Subscribe to Read The Line’s weekly newsletter here and raise your golf betting acumen. Keith’s winning content can also be found on Sports Grid, Bleacher Report and The Sporting News. Follow him on Twitter @readtheline_.

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also the head of golf content for Run Pure Sports, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for RickRunGood.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports 

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com