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Fantasy Advice

Cognizant Classic 2024 DFS picks: This egregiously mispriced golfer is a slam-dunk play

February 26, 2024
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 22: Brandon Wu of the United States plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta on February 22, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

The Cognizant Classic marks the official start of the Florida Swing, and the start of a jam-packed three-week stretch culminating in the Players Championship. Albeit a new title sponsor, the PGA Tour will return to a familiar venue in the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., designed by George and Tom Fazio, with various renovations from Jack Nicklaus.

Known for its gruesomely challenging three-hole stretch, the Bear Trap, PGA National traditionally ranks as one of the most challenging courses on tour. Yet we experienced a bit of anomaly in scoring in 2023, as PGA National ranked outside the top-15 in difficulty for the first time in a decade, under less windy conditions. This year, I would expect that trend to continue, as the PGA Tour has made further efforts to soften up one of the most challenging tracks on the schedule. The 10th hole, previously a 508-yard par 4, will now play as a 530-yard par 5, turning statistically the most challenging hole on the course into potentially the easiest. This will not dramatically change the character of the course, but do not be surprised if you see lower scores than we are used to at PGA National this week.

PGA National Resort: Champion
Private
PGA National Resort: Champion
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
4
298 Panelists
One of five courses at PGA National, the Champion Course hosts the Honda Classic every year. Originally designed by Tom and George Fazio for tournament play, Jack Nicklaus redesigned the course in 2014, creating the infamous three-hole stretch aptly named "The Bear Trap." Routinely one of the toughest courses on Tour, The Champion is a true ball-striking test.
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Rory McIlroy, who won this event in 2012 headlines the field, and he will be teeing it up at PGA National for the first time since 2019. It will be fascinating to see how McIlroy navigates the challenge this week, as the four-time major winner is clearly taking a more tournament-heavy approach to his Masters prep this year. McIlroy will be joined in the former champion department by Chris Kirk, Keith Mitchell, Russell Henley, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im and Rickie Fowler. Matt Fitzpatrick, Cameron Young and Tom Kim will also be making the trip to PGA National, although all pale in comparison to the $12,000-priced McIlroy. On such a high variance course where water comes significantly into play on 15 out of 18 holes, it will be interesting to see how fantasy players navigate price and popularity this week. Let’s dive into the slate.

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$10,000 range

Play: Russell Henley, $10,200:

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Kevin C. Cox

Anytime we get to a Southeastern Bermuda course that emphasizes accuracy off the tee and middle-iron play, Russell Henley deserves a serious look. It should not come as a surprise that Henley boasts some of the strongest course history in this field. In nine appearances at PGA National, Henley has recorded six top-25s, including a win in 2014. The former University of Georgia standout has gained over three strokes ball-striking in four straight appearances at the Fazio design, and he is coming off another strong approach performance at the Genesis Invitational. This is an easy one.

Fade: Matt Fitzpatrick, $10,600:

While I love this golf course in theory for Matt Fitzpatrick, the former U.S. Open champion puts DFS players in a precious position due to his recent form, price tag and course history. Fitzpatrick generally plays well on harder courses and in Florida, which makes his PGA National form (MC-68th) even more confounding. The Englishman is also coming off a disappointing performance at Riviera, where he lost strokes in both ball-striking categories. PGA National is an execution course that will expose any player who is just a little bit off from tee to green. Fitzpatrick is just hard to trust right now.

$9,000 range

Play: Shane Lowry, $9,300:

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Orlando Ramirez

Shane Lowry has already experienced a number of close calls at PGA National, with a runner-up and a fifth in his past two appearances. The Fazio design has always been a comfortable spot for Europeans who thrive in tougher conditions, and Lowry fits that bill to a tee. Over the past three years, the Jupiter resident also ranks fifth in strokes gained total in Florida, and he has experienced a great deal of success at other water-heavy, challenging Bermuda courses such as Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass. I’m expecting another strong showing out of the former Open champion this week in Palm Beach.

Fade: Min Woo Lee, $9,600:

I remain incredibly bullish on Min Woo Lee’s talent, but I have a difficult time trusting his ball-striking on a course that features so many water hazards. Lee remains one of the worst overall iron players in this field, ranking 127th out of 142 qualified players, and he is coming off a 71st at the Phoenix Open, where he lost over 5.5 strokes on approach. PGA National is an incredibly penal approach course that heavily emphasizes mid- to long-iron play. Until Lee shows some more consistent form in this aspect of the game, the big-hitting Australian is an easy fade.

$8,000 range

Play: Sepp Straka, $8,600:

PGA National is the type of golf course that will give certain players fits, but Sepp Straka has demonstrated a real comfortability at the Fazio design. The 2022 champion also finished fifth last year, and he has gained over three strokes ball-striking here in his past four appearances. One of Straka’s deadliest skills is his accuracy off the tee, which continues to pay major dividends at PGA National for the two-time PGA Tour winner.

Fade: Jake Knapp, $8,400:

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Orlando Ramirez

I was just as impressed with Jake Knapp last week as anyone, but I am expecting a bit of an emotional letdown this week in Palm Beach Gardens. We saw Knapp really begin to leak oil in the final round of the Mexico Open, where he hit just two of 13 fairways. Now Knapp travels to a golf course that features a far greater consequence for offline tee balls. Knapp’s bomb-and-gauge approach was incredibly useful at a wide-open, driver-heavy course with a low missed fairway penalty such as Vidanta Vallarta, yet PGA National offers a stark contrast with its narrow fairways and copious water hazards. The PGA Tour’s newest champion may be in for a rude awakening.

$7,000 range

Play: Adam Svensson, $7,700:

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Ben Jared

I have been all over Adam Svensson this year, and after a 10th-place finish at the Genesis Invitational, my persistence is beginning to pay dividends. Svensson gained over nine strokes from tee-to-green against an elite field at Riviera, one of the more challenging tests on the PGA Tour, and now he returns to the same course where he finished ninth in 2022. Svensson’s strong play at PGA National should not come as a surprise, as he is one of the most accurate drivers of the ball in this field, and he’s an elite middle iron player, who has experienced a tremendous amount of success on Southeastern Bermuda. Time for us to double down.

Fade: Brendon Todd, $7,600:

I struggle to find any reason to give Brendon Todd a serious look this week, as he has now lost over a stroke in both ball-striking categories in each of his past two starts. Todd might have been able to get away with subpar ball-striking at less penal courses, but that will not be the case at PGA National. It should not come as a surprise that he has missed three of his five cuts and never finished inside the top 30. If Brendon Todd beats me with his putter, so be it, but his path to success is a difficult one on this golf course.

Flier: Lucas Glover, $7,000:

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Tracy Wilcox

Accuracy-laden, middle-iron specialists such as Lucas Glover have always been able to find success at PGA National. The Fazio design is so demanding from tee to green that weaker ball-strikers will be exposed and heavily penalized. While Glover is far from a perfect player, he maintains elite accuracy off the tee and is an excellent middle-iron player. If he struggles, it’s generally due to his flat-stick. The advantage Glover possesses from tee to green only grows at a course like PGA National, and it should not come as a surprise that he has recorded six top-30 finishes and two top-fives in 10 appearances.

$6,000 range

Play: Brandon Wu, $6,600:

Brandon Wu at $6,600 is one of the more egregious misprices in recent memory. Last week at the Mexico Championship, Wu was $9,100. The former Stanford standout gained strokes in all four categories en route to a 13th-place finish, and now he returns to a golf course where he finished 14th last year, gaining nearly 10 strokes ball-striking. I would have expected Wu to at least be in the high $7,000 range this week. This is an easy slam for me.

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 a data analyst and writer 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