PGA Tour Picks: Cognizant Classic


The PGA Tour has headed South to begin the four-week Florida Swing, which begins Thursday with the 52nd version of what is now the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches on the Champions Course at TPC National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens.

This will be followed next week by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach and the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

The first major of the year, The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Fla., is only seven weeks away.

Chris Kirk, who captured The Sentry to start this season for his sixth PGA Tour victory, won this event last season in a playoff over Eric Cole of Palm Springs by making a birdie on the first extra hole and is back to defend his title.

That was Kirk’s first title since the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

“It’s amazing just coming back on the property and a lot of good memories from last year for sure, but also a place that I’ve loved coming for years and years,” said the 38-year-old Kirk, who has bounced back after dropping off the PGA Tour in 2019 to overcome alcoholism and depression.

“To start off the year like (in The Sentry), that is just wild. I’ve felt good about my game for a while now, but that’s certainly not exactly what you expect to do your first week out after being at home for a little while.

“But I think that my win here last year definitely helped me a lot … to be more comfortable about where I was at and just to be able to stay aggressive and take it one step at a time. It definitely kind of gave me the belief that after not winning for a long time, it felt like this was where I was supposed to be.

“My mindset now at this stage of my career is I just want to play as well as I can for as long as I can.”

While there were no players in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings in the Mexico Open at Vidanta last week, second-ranked Rory McIlroy leads the field this week, and ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England also is playing.

This tournament started out as the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic in 1972, when Tom Weiskopf claimed the title, and was the Honda Classic from 1982 through last season.

Other previous winners of the event include Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Ernie Els of South Africa, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Corey Pavin of Oxnard and UCLA, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Fred Couples, Curtis Strange, Larry Nelson, Bob Murphy, Mark O’Meara, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott or Australia, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Justin Leonard, Steve Pate of Ventura and UCLA, Mark Calcavecchia and Luke Donald of England.


1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Coming off a victory over Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang in The Match 9 on Monday night, the second-ranked McIlroy is playing in this event for the 10th time. He claimed one of his 24 PGA titles here in 2012 and tied for second in 2014. He won the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and tied for second in the Dubai Invitational in January.

2. Chris Kirk, United States – The defending champion this week, Kirk captured The Sentry in Hawaii to start this season for his sixth PGA Tour victory and also tied for 18th in the Sony Open in Hawaii, rising to No. 27 in the World Golf Rankings. This will be his 13th start in this tournament, and he also tied for seventh two seasons ago and tied for 12th back in 2014.         

3. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 2022 U.S. Open champion at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., has tied for 14th in The Sentry and tied for 15th in the WM Phoenix Open to start this season. The ninth-ranked Fitzpatrick, who has won 10 times as a professional, including the 2023 RBC Heritage in a playoff over Jordan Spieth, is making his debut in this tournament.

4. Min Woo Lee, Australia – By winning the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and finishing solo third in the ISPS Handa Australian Open last December, Lee has risen to No. 42 in the World Golf Rankings. He also tied for 21st recently in The American Express on the PGA Tour and Lee is making his second start in this tournament after tying for 26th last season.  

5. Shane Lowry, Ireland – The 2019 winner of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland has started a bit slowly this season, with his best result a tie or 25th in the Farmers Insurance Open. A six-time winner as a professional, Lowry finished solo second in this tournament, one shot behind Sepp Straka two years ago, and also tied for fifth last season.

6. Cameron Young, United States – The 26-year-old Young has four victories as a pro, two on the Korn Ferry Tour, and finished in the top-10 four times in major championships, but has yet to win on the PGA Tour. He has tied for eighth in the WM Phoenix Open and tied for 18h in the Genesis Open this season. Young also tied for 16th in his debut in this tournament last season.  

 7. Russell Henley, United States – Henley claimed one of his four PGA Tour victories in this event in 2014 with a birdie on the first extra hole to win a four-man playoff. He is making his 10th appearance in this tournament and also tied for third in 2021 and tied for eighth in 2020. Henley tied for fourth in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for 24th in the Genesis this season.  

8. Sungjae Im, South Korea – The 25-year-old Im has won six times as a pro, including this tournament in 2020 for one of his two victories on the PGA Tour. He is playing in the event for the sixth time and also tied for eighth as defending champion in 2021. This season, his best finishes were a tie for fifth in The Sentry and a tie for 25th in The American Express.      

9. J.T. Poston, United States – Even though he has yet to win, Poston has gotten off to a strong start this season with a tie for fifth in The Sentry, a solo sixth in the Sony Open in Hawaii, a tie for 11th in The American Express, a tie for 20th at Pebble Beach and a tie for 10th in the Genesis. He has not yet finished in the top 25 in five appearances in this tournament.

10. Eric Cole, United States – Afte winning 12 times on the Minor League Golf Tour, the 2022-23 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year lost to Chris Kirk on the first playoff hole in this tournament last season. So far this year, Cole has tied for 10th in the Genesis Invitational, tied for 13th in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for 14th in both The Sentry and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tom Kim, South Korea; Rasmus Højgaard, Denmark; Keith Mitchell, United States; Matthieu Pavon, France; Byeong Hun-An, South Korea; Corey Conners, Canada; Sepp Straka, Austria; Daniel Berger, United States; Stephan Jaeger, Germany; Beau Hossler, United States; Justin Rose, England.


1. Justin Suh, United States – The 2022 Korn Ferry Tour champion tied for fifth in this event last season. Suh’s best result this year was a T-22 in the WM Phoenix Open.

2. Kevin Yu, Taiwan – Yu has tied for third in The American Express and tied for sixth in the Farmers Insurance Open this season. He will be making his debut in this tournament.      

3. Austin Eckroat, United States – Eckroat showed what he is capable of when he tied for 10th in the U.S. Open and tied for second in the Byron Nelson last year. T-24 in The AmEx recently.

4. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – A 10-time winner as pro, Bezuidenhout has been second in The AmEx, third in the Alfred Dunhill and T-9 in the Joburg Open this season.

5. Ben Griffin, United States – Winner of the 2018 Staal Foundation Open on the PGA Tour Canada, Griffin was T-9 recently in The AmEx and T-3 last year in the Butterfield Bermuda.

For first-round tee times and complete results once the tournament starts, visit:

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