Golf picks: Cognizant Classic predictions & best bets from Joe Champion

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Joe Champion


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Golf and soccer analyst for Pickswise, while also an avid tennis fan. One of very few Milton Keynes Dons soccer fans. For Joe Champion media enquiries, please email
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Jake Knapp secured a surprise win in the Mexico Open last week and this week there is a real lack of quality in the Cognizant Classic, with a number of top golfers missing the event in preparation for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. There is therefore an opportunity for a lesser-known name to earn a big PGA Tour win, but it won’t be easy with former Major winner Rory McIlroy still among the field. Let’s dive into our expert golf predictions and best bets for the Cognizant Classic.

Cognizant Classic golf picks and predictions

Rory McIlroy (+750)

Odds available at BetMGM at time of publishing.

McIlroy has made minimal impact in 2 PGA Tour starts this season but the Northern Irishman is unquestionably the one to beat in the Cognizant Classic at PGA National. All eyes will be on McIlroy, who bids to put 2 poor results at Pebble Beach and the Genesis Invitational behind him at PGA National, where he won his 3rd US title at the 2012 Honda Classic. Once considered one of the PGA Tour’s premier events, the Cognizant Classic has lost a lot of its luster in recent seasons – as well as its best-known sponsor – and McIlroy has struggled in 3 appearances since he was denied by Russell Henley in a 4-man playoff in 2014.

However, the Champion Course, a testing Florida layout famed for its brutal Bear Trap finish, is a great fit for McIlroy, who was able to bounce back from a sluggish start at the Genesis last time, carding rounds of 66, 69 and 70 from Friday onwards. McIlroy had +1000 odds to win that Signature Event at Riviera a fortnight ago. Two weeks later, he’s +750 — admittedly in a larger field – to claim victory in a tournament missing almost all of the PGA Tour’s leading players with Cameron Young rated his closest market rival at +2200.

PGA National is a course that demands top-quality ball-striking and McIlroy, while not at his best with his irons in his last 2 outings, is still driving the ball with his trademark brilliance and he could come alive for the switch to this Florida venue.

Eric Cole (+3000)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing.

With sharp scrambling a significant asset at Palm Beach Gardens, it’s Eric Cole who appeals as the best alternative to McIlroy. Cole is continuing to play well, chalking up form figures of 14-13-21-MC-14-49-10 in 7 consecutive PGA Tour starts prior to taking a much-needed break last week. The 35-year-old Florida resident Monday-qualified into the field for this tournament last season, where he was denied in a playoff by Chris Kirk. He’s since become a regular PGA Tour contender following that near miss.

Sepp Straka (+5000)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing.

Sepp Straka won this title in 2022 then finished 5th last season, and the Austrian can again make his presence felt. He has been typically inconsistent but he finished last year as a runner-up at the Hero World Challenge and started 2024 by finishing 12th at The Sentry.

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