The Cognizant Classic 

After last week’s Mexico Open, the PGA makes it’s next stop in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for The Cognizant Classic.

In late 2021, after losing his status on the Korn Ferry Tour, Jake Knapp took a job as a bouncer at a nightclub for nine months. The schedule afforded him daylight hours for practice plus money for mini-tour and PGA TOUR Canada events. He returned to the Korn Ferry Tour last year, and a solid season enabled him to earn a PGA TOUR card this year.This past weekend, in his ninth career start, Knapp, at a pre-tournament price of 40/1, earned his first PGA TOUR victory at the Mexico Open despite hitting just two of 13 fairways (15.4%!) in the final round. However, the 29-year-old TOUR rookie led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach to shoot 19-under, leading to a two-shot victory over Sami Välimäki, who posted his best career finish on the PGA TOUR and earned entry into the Arnold Palmer Invitational signature event in two weeks. 


Knapp now ranks No. 52 in the OWGR and earned a two-year TOUR exemption, plus Masters and PGA Championship invitations. 

Justin Lower, Stephan Jaeger, and C.T. Pan finished T-3. At the same time, Patrick Rodgers posted a third consecutive Top 10 in Mexico and finished T-6 with Robert MacIntyre, this column’s closest pursuer on the outright board. 

This week, the Florida Swing begins in Palm Beach with the Cognizant Classic. 

Tournament favorite Rory McIlroy (7/1), the 2012 event winner, is one of many players who maintain a residence in Jupiter, FL, about eight miles north of this week’s course at PGA National. 

Cameron Young (22/1) comes in with two Top 8 finishes in his last four starts. Russell Henley (25/1) is another former event champion, having won here in 2014. Matt Fitzpatrick (25/1), like McIlroy, is another Jupiter resident. 

Byeong Hun An (28/1) started 2024 with a 4th at The Sentry and a T-2 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. 

Last season’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Eric Cole (30/1) lost in the playoff at the Cognizant Classic last year to Chris Kirk (40/1). 

Middle-range prices include JT Poston (30/1), Tom Kim (30/1), Corey Conners (35/1), Min Woo Lee (35/1), 2022 event runner-up Shane Lowry (35/1), and Daniel Berger (40/1), who has lived in Jupiter since age 13, was the event runner-up here in 2015, and began his comeback earlier this season after missing 19 months with a back injury. 

Past event champions Keith Mitchell (2019) and Sungjae Im (2020) are priced at 40/1, while 2022 champ Sepp Straka is at 50/1, and 2017 champ Rickie Fowler is at 70/1. 

The Event

The Cognizant Classic was founded in 1972 as Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic and played at the Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, Florida, where Gleason had his retirement home on the course. The Honeymooners star served as the tournament’s host through 1980. American Honda Motor Company (Honda) took over the tournament sponsorship in 1982 and held it until this year. Honda’s 42 years is the longest uninterrupted title sponsor run on the PGA TOUR. They helped raise over $60 million over that time for local children’s charities, including a record $6.45 million last year.

This year, Cognizant, a multinational IT services and consulting company headquartered in Teaneck, New Jersey, takes over as sponsor. 

The tournament has been played at various venues around South Florida until moving to its current home at PGA National Resort & Spa in 2007. Since moving to PGA National, the Honda Classic has been able to attract more top players consistently. IMG has served as the event’s organizer since 2013, and the tournament’s main charitable beneficiary is the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, chaired by Jack Nicklaus’s wife, Barbara. Multiple winners of the event include Jack Nicklaus (1977, 1978), Johnny Miller (1980, 1983), Mark Calcavecchia (1987, 1998) and Padraig Harrington (2005, 2015). A host of major champions have also emerged victorious in this event, including Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Mark O’Meara, Nick Price, Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Larry Nelson and Lee Trevino.

The Field

The field for this year’s Cognizant Classic is set at 144 players and includes 19 of the Top 50 players in the OWGR. 

  • Joe Highsmith (1st alternate) replaces Chez Reavie.
  • Patrick Fishburn (2nd alternate) replaces Mackenzie Hughes.
  • Chris Gotterup and Parker Coody are now in the field on sponsor exemptions.
  • Mac Meissner (3rd alternate) replaces Vince Whaley.
  • Robert Garrigus, Chris Crawford, Jeff Overton, and Michael Gligic are the four open qualifiers. 

The Course

Just a few miles off Florida’s Atlantic coast, sitting halfway between Jupiter and West Palm Beach, sits the Champion course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The Champions Course at PGA National Resort & Spa was originally designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981 but has undergone several toughening renovations, most recently in 2018 by Jack Nicklaus. The course has also hosted the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship, and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982-2000. 

PGA National converts to a Par 71 from a Par 70 for this event. It is a 7,125-yard layout with water (26 hazards in all) in play on 15 of 18 holes (most on the PGA TOUR). Eight of those 15 holes have carries over water for approach shots. PGA National is susceptible to wind gusts that will push balls into the water. PGA National has had the most water balls of any course on the PGA TOUR over the last four years. The water hazards also force players to lay up more often than not, so you will not see many drivers off the tee. 

The overseeded rye rough is not all that penal (2.25 to 2.5″), but the Bermuda fairways are narrow at an average fairway width of 32 yards (16th narrowest on the PGA TOUR). The TifEagle Bermuda greens are also contoured, elevated, large (7,000 average sq ft – 10th largest on TOUR), but only slightly above average speed (12 stimpmeter). PGA National has the highest double bogey or worse percentage on TOUR. 

With fewer trees than other parkland courses and only seven miles off the Atlantic coast, PGA National is exposed to gusty conditions as winds often affect this event and make scoring that much more difficult. 

Here is the difficulty rank for PGA National in recent years:

YearScoring AverageDifficulty Rank on PGA Tour
202371.14 (+1.14)2nd
202271.34 (+1.34)7th 
202171.10 (+1.10)6th
202071.90 (+1.90)3rd
201971.02 (+1.02)5th
201872.30 (+2.30)2nd
201770.56 (+0.56)16th
201671.77 (+1.77)5th
201571.83 (+1.83)4th

It has been the toughest non-major course on the PGA TOUR in six of the past 10 seasons.

PGA National is most notable for what is known as the “Bear Trap”. The arduous stretch from holes 15, 16 and 17 is one of the most difficult three-hole stretches on the PGA TOUR. 

Water looms throughout the Bear Trap, which includes two 175-yard Par 3s and a tight dogleg Par 4 just over 430 yards. It always makes for a climactic finish with chasers taking aggressive lines at these tight pin locations over the water, while leaders have done their best to stay dry and escape into the Par 5 18th at even par.

Starting at the 179-yard, Par 3 15th, the average birdie rate is just 11%. Golfers face bunkers to the left of the green and water to the right. 

The 16th hole is a 434-yard Par 4 with a bogey or worse rate of 24%. With a dogleg to the right, the entire right side of the fairway is lined with water. The fairway landing zones slope toward the water. Hitting your ball to the left side of the fairway causes your approach shot to travel directly over the hazard.

The Par 3, 175-yard 17th hole has annually been the toughest on the course. With an average bogey or worse rate of 27%, golfers once again have to deal with bunkers on the left and water on the right.

In all, PGA National has the toughest set of Par 3’s on the PGA TOUR, averaging a score of 3.19. 

The Par 4s rank as the 8th toughest group on TOUR with only the two holes below 400 yards, the 1st and 15th playing under par.

The two Par 5s (No. 3 and No. 18) were the two easiest holes on the course last season with a combined 39% Birdie or Better rate, and could be eclipsed by No. 10, which has been converted to a Par 5 this year. 

Potential correlated courses here include Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead), Waialae (short Par 70 plus multiple winners on both tracks), Concession (Nicklaus design), Quail Hollow (Fazio design), TPC Sawgrass, TPC Southwind, and Colonial (short Par 70).

Recent History/Winners

2023: Chris Kirk (-14/266); 25/1*
2022: Sepp Straka (-10/270); 125/1
2021: Matt Jones (-12/268); 70/1
2020: Sungjae Im (-6/274); 35/1
2019: Keith Mitchell (-9/271); 300/1
2018: Justin Thomas (-8/272); 12/1**
2017: Rickie Fowler (-12/268); 16/1
2016: Adam Scott (-9/271); 20/1
2015: Padraig Harrington (-6/274); 400/1***
2014: Russell Henley (-8/272); 300/1****
2013: Michael Thompson (-9/271); 300/1
2012: Rory McIlroy (-12/268); 9/1
2011: Rory Sabbatini (-9/271); 80/1
2010: Camilo Villegas (-13/267); 30/1

Playoff win over Eric Cole – *
Playoff win over Luke List – **
Playoff win over Daniel Berger – ***
Playoff win over Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox, Ryan Palmer – ****

  • 12 of the past 13 winners of the Cognizant Classic have previously made the cut at least once in this event.
  • Each of the last 7 winners of the Cognizant Classic had finished T16 or better at least once on the recent West Coast swing.
  • Of the 17 course winners since this event moved to PGA National, 10 of them have been international players.
  • Of the 17 course winners since this event moved to PGA National, 6 of them have been major champions. 
  • Four players have won both this event and the Sony Open since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

Statistical Analysis

PGA National ranked as the toughest course on the PGA TOUR to gain strokes on approach last season. 

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Lucas Glover 37.3
  2. Sam Ryder 35.4
  3. Eric Cole 28
  4. Tom Hoge 25.5
  5. Chris Kirk 22.6
  6. Mark Hubbard 22.3
  7. Justin Lower 21.8
  8. Daniel Berger 21.5
  9. Corey Conners 20.1
  10. Gary Woodland 19.6
  11. Adam Svensson 19.1
  12. Kevin Streelman 19
  13. Alex Smalley 17.3
  14. J.T. Poston 17.3
  15. Ryan Moore 17
  16. Callum Tarren 16.8
  17. Shane Lowry 16.8
  18. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 16.3
  19. Russell Henley 15.6
  20. Doug Ghim 15.4

Sepp Straka led the field off the tee in his 2022 victory at PGA National, which is the fourth toughest course to gain strokes off the tee due to the shorter average driving distance (278 yards) with players clubbing down and a driving accuracy rate of just over 60%. 

Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 39.1
  2. Jhonattan Vegas 25.1
  3. Tyler Duncan 24.3
  4. Keith Mitchell 24
  5. Kevin Yu 23.3
  6. Corey Conners 21.7
  7. Byeong Hun An 21
  8. Doug Ghim 20.9
  9. Cameron Champ 20.4
  10. Cameron Young 20.2
  11. Stephan Jaeger 19.4
  12. Vincent Norrman 18.5
  13. Paul Barjon 18.3
  14. Akshay Bhatia 18.1
  15. Luke List 17.7
  16. Min Woo Lee 17.3
  17. Adam Svensson 14.6
  18. Garrick Higgo 14.5
  19. Erik Van Rooyen 14.4
  20. Shane Lowry 12.8
  21. Joseph Bramlett 12.8

Players will only hit greens here around 59% of the time. The Scrambling percentage on the TOUR has averaged 58% over the last five years but only 55% here at PGA National. 

Scrambling (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Aaron Baddeley 20.7
  2. Denny McCarthy 17.7
  3. Taylor Montgomery 15.7
  4. Peter Malnati 15.4
  5. Brendon Todd 14.8
  6. Bud Cauley 14.2
  7. Alex Noren 13.9
  8. Robert MacIntyre 13.8
  9. Daniel Berger 11.7
  10. Maverick McNealy 11.6
  11. Ben Griffin 10.7
  12. Thorbjørn Olesen 10.3
  13. Justin Rose 10
  14. Russell Henley 9.4
  15. Scott Stallings 9
  16. Taylor Pendrith 8.5
  17. Min Woo Lee 8.2
  18. Chesson Hadley 7.4
  19. Austin Eckroat 7.3
  20. Lucas Glover 7.1
  21. Eric Cole 7
  22. Chris Kirk 7

Pars are good scores on most holes at PGA National and there are only a select few holes in which players can attack. Big numbers on the scorecard lurk everywhere with all of the water hazards. 

Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Taylor Pendrith 26.1
  2. Alex Noren 22.5
  3. Rory McIlroy 22.5
  4. Bud Cauley 21.3
  5. Chesson Hadley 20.9
  6. Min Woo Lee 18.7
  7. Ryan Moore 18.2
  8. Ryo Hisatsune 16.4 (25 Rounds)
  9. Greyson Sigg 16.4
  10. Brendon Todd 15.8
  11. Beau Hossler 15.4
  12. Tom Hoge 15
  13. Russell Henley 14.3
  14. Taylor Montgomery 14.1
  15. Mark Hubbard 13.5
  16. Aaron Baddeley 12.8
  17. Matt Kuchar 12.4
  18. Stephan Jaeger 11.7
  19. Eric Cole 11.1
  20. Billy Horschel 11

Double Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Zac Blair 7.2
  2. Tyler Duncan 6.7
  3. Lee Hodges 6.1
  4. Rory McIlroy 5.9
  5. SH Kim 5.9
  6. Bud Cauley 5.7
  7. Andrew Novak 5.5
  8. Victor Perez 5.3
  9. Alex Noren 5.1
  10. Dylan Wu 5.1
  11. Greyson Sigg 5
  12. Taylor Pendrith 4.8
  13. Shane Lowry 4.6
  14. Jorge Campillo 4.6
  15. Kevin Streelman 4.5
  16. Nate Lashley 4.4
  17. Luke List 4.2

Around 2/3 of the approach shots come from anywhere from 125-200 yards. Proximity in general here is difficult due to the larger greens. 

Proximity 125-150 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Ryan Moore 9.05
  2. Chesson Hadley 8.88
  3. Robby Shelton 8.42
  4. Taylor Montgomery 7.46
  5. Nicholas Lindheim 7.2
  6. Chan Kim 7.02 (33 Rounds)
  7. Davis Thompson 6.82
  8. Chris Kirk 6.68
  9. Lucas Glover 6.34
  10. Nick Dunlap 6.28 (6 Rounds)
  11. Bud Cauley 6.03
  12. Akshay Bhatia 6.02
  13. Chandler Phillips 5.53 (19 Rounds)
  14. Jacob Bridgeman 5.47 (15 Rounds)
  15. C.T. Pan 5.41
  16. Justin Rose 5.21
  17. Shane Lowry 4.94
  18. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 4.73
  19. Corey Conners 4.67
  20. Daniel Berger 4.62

Proximity 150-175 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Lucas Glover 10.98
  2. Sam Ryder 10.1
  3. Daniel Berger 9.83
  4. Taylor Pendrith 9.64
  5. Akshay Bhatia 8.73
  6. Brandon Wu 8.67
  7. Scott Stallings 8.37
  8. David Skinns 7.93
  9. Greyson Sigg 7.75
  10. Doug Ghim 7.66
  11. Ben Martin 7.66
  12. Mark Hubbard 7.47
  13. Chan Kim 7.39
  14. Callum Tarren 7.36
  15. Matthieu Pavon 7.13 (20 Rounds)
  16. Nicholas Lindheim 6.85
  17. Chris Kirk 6.69
  18. Sepp Straka 6.61
  19. Ryan Moore 6.57
  20. Michael Kim 6.52

Proximity 175-200 Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Eric Cole 14.32
  2. Tom Hoge 13.35
  3. Sam Ryder 13.33
  4. Adam Svensson 11.3
  5. Justin Lower 11.02
  6. Greyson Sigg 9.49
  7. Ryo Hisatsune 9.21 (12 Rounds)
  8. Gary Woodland 8.54
  9. Austin Eckroat 8.41
  10. Alexander Björk 7.65
  11. Stephan Jaeger 7.24
  12. Carson Young 7.18
  13. Ben Kohles 7.17
  14. Lucas Glover 7.15
  15. Byeong Hun An 6.81
  16. Vincent Norrman 6.72
  17. Jhonattan Vegas 6.58
  18. Sami Välimäki 5.72 (21 Rounds)
  19. Shane Lowry 5.65
  20. Tyson Alexander 5.65

Note: The numbers above indicate feet gained towards the hole on an average shot from said distance. 

After weeks on Poa Annua and last week on the Paspalum, players are back to the grainier Bermuda greens this week at PGA National. 

Strokes Gained Putting Bermuda Greens (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Maverick McNealy 38.6
  2. Thomas Detry 31.8
  3. Chad Ramey 31.8
  4. Taylor Montgomery 28.1
  5. Justin Suh 28
  6. Billy Horschel 26.3
  7. Brendon Todd 23.7
  8. Ben Griffin 21.3
  9. Alex Noren 20.5
  10. Harry Hall 20.2
  11. Aaron Baddeley 18.9
  12. Chesson Hadley 18.5
  13. Eric Cole 18.5
  14. Ben Taylor 18.2
  15. Sam Ryder 18
  16. Denny McCarthy 16.9
  17. Ben Kohles 16.7
  18. Adam Schenk 15.4
  19. Ryan Fox 14.5 (24 Rounds)
  20. Matt Kuchar 13.8

PGA National has ranked Top 5 for course difficulty on the PGA TOUR in six of the last nine years. 

Total Strokes Gained Difficult Scoring Conditions (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 89
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick 57.2
  3. Tom Kim 52
  4. Denny McCarthy 48.5
  5. Rickie Fowler 44.3
  6. Daniel Berger 43.9
  7. Justin Rose 43.1
  8. Justin Suh 40.8
  9. Sungjae Im 37.3
  10. Thomas Detry 35.4
  11. Shane Lowry 34.4
  12. Min Woo Lee 33.1
  13. Brendon Todd 32.3
  14. Gary Woodland 30.4
  15. Adam Schenk 29.4
  16. Austin Eckroat 29.3
  17. Ryan Fox 27.8
  18. Thorbjørn Olesen 27.4
  19. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 26.8
  20. Robert MacIntyre 26.4
  21. Keith Mitchell 26

PGA National and Comp Course History (Last 36 Rounds)

  1. Daniel Berger 66
  2. Russell Henley 48.8
  3. Corey Conners 44.1
  4. Shane Lowry 40.7
  5. Sungjae Im 39.4
  6. Rory McIlroy 38.5
  7. Byeong Hun An 32.5
  8. Alex Noren 31.6
  9. Sepp Straka 30.9
  10. Brendon Todd 28.7
  11. Chris Kirk 28.4
  12. Ben Griffin 28.3
  13. Stephan Jaeger 28.3
  14. Adam Schenk 27.6
  15. Adam Svensson 25
  16. Dylan Wu 24.6
  17. Denny McCarthy 24.6
  18. Davis Riley 23
  19. Ben Kohles 22.2
  20. Keith Mitchell 21.7
  21. KH Lee 21.6

Note: Courses included in the above rankings include PGA National, Bay Hill, Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead), Colonial, Concession, Quail Hollow, TPC Sawgrass, TPC Southwind, Waialae. 


Cameron Young 26/1 Circa Sports
After a disappointing 2023 where much was expected, Young looks like he is returning to form in 2024 with two Top 10 finishes already this season. In his past 24 rounds, Young ranks 1st in Total Driving. He also has a win on this course when he was 16 years old as the winner of the 2013 AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic. 

Byeong Hun An 31/1 Circa Sports
An has had plenty of success at PGA National. He finished T-4 at the course in 2020 and T-5 in 2018. Benny ranks 7th for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee over the last 36 rounds. He began 2024 with two Top 4 finishes in Hawaii including a playoff loss at Waialae which has strong correlation with PGA National. 

Daniel Berger 40/1 DraftKings
There are many players that reside in nearby Jupiter, including Daniel Berger, who has lived there since age 13. This week is his home game. Berger first made his name here in 2015 when, as a 21-year-old rookie, he lost a play-off to Padraig Harrington. Since then, he has finished fourth in his last two visits (2020 and 2022). While he has made two of three cuts thus far in 2023 on the comeback trail from missing nearly 18 months with an injury, Berger looks like a contender this week, similar to Zalatoris two weeks ago at Riviera. 

Keith Mitchell 41/1 Circa Sports
2019 champion Mitchell finished just T-19 in Mexico last week, but ranked 2nd for Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd for Greens In Regulation, 8th for Driving Distance, and 10th for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. He was the second-best overall ball striker in the field behind last week’s winner Knapp. Mitchell also finished in the Top 10 here last year.

Adam Svensson 55/1 BetMGM
Berger is not the only player with a home game this week as PGA National is also Svensson’s home course. He dominated Qualifying School here in 2015 and won here on this course during his time at nearby Barry University. On his first two PGA TOUR events Svensson was 4th at halfway and he has a best of 9th in 2022.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout 60/1 FanDuel
While Bezuidenhout took home the first-place check at The American Express earlier this year, he still finished 2nd to then-amateur Nick Dunlap and is still looking for that maiden PGA TOUR victory. Bez has played his best stateside golf in Florida recently having made nine of his 10 cuts in the Sunshine State, recording a 7th and two other top 20s at Bay Hill and a 13th in last year’s Players Championship when he was in the top five after each of the first three rounds. 

Taylor Montgomery 150/1 Circa Sports
Montgomery makes his debut at PGA National this year. He ranks top four in both Scrambling and Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda greens over the last 36 rounds, plus his approach play has picked up to start 2024.