Cognizant Classic 2024 First Round Leader Tips: Three to go low on Thursday

 | February 28 | 

6 mins read

PGA National florida cognizant classic

Golf Tipster Jamie Worsley has already given us his Cognizant Classic Betting Predictions but we've also asked him to cook up a few first round leader picks and he's done just that. 

Cognizant Classic First Round Leader Tips

  • 1.25 pts Cameron Young each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 35/1
  • 0.75 pts Shane Lowry each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 55/1
  • 0.75 pts Ryo Hisatsune each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 80/1
  • 1.5pts Chandler Phillips Top 20 - 6/1

PGA National’s location and exposed nature often leaves it open to potential wind-triggered weather biases. Whilst not completely foolproof it does mean that the first-round leader market looks a little more predictable for tomorrow’s opening round.

Nine of the last twelve players to hold at least a share of the first-round lead at PGA National had a morning tee-time and with the wind looking significantly stronger tomorrow afternoon, I expect the advantage to be with those morning starters.

In addition, there’s a PGA Tour rookie who’s been making steady progress in his debut season and this looks a perfect place for him to record a first top-20 finish of the year.

1.25 pts Cameron Young each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 35/1

Start time: 07:51

Cameron Young is the first of three first-round leader selections this week. After disappointing when we were on him in this same market at the Genesis Invitational, I’m hoping he can repay the faith in Florida.

Following that slow start at Riviera, Young played well for the rest of the week, shooting three consecutive rounds under-par to take him to a 16th-place finish; continuing the form he’d been showing in the early part of the year, with top-10 finishes of 3rd in the Dubai Desert Classic and 8th in the Phoenix Open.

He’d been starting quickly in those events, holding a share of the FRL in Dubai and was 8th after round one in Phoenix. Whilst at the end of 2023 he recorded first-round finishes of 3rd, 3rd, 6th and 15th in four of his final seven starts of the year.

Young’s only previous experience of this event saw him fire a 68 to sit 10th after the first round in 2022. He eventually finished 16th thanks to an excellent closing 65 (the best round of that final day), showing his ability to go low at PGA National and he should have the ideal conditions to do so again from his early tee-time.

0.75 pts Shane Lowry each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 55/1

Start time: 07:29

Shane Lowry has a terrific record at PGA National and after sitting inside the top 10 at the end of round one in each of his previous two PGA Tour starts, he looks in the type of quick-starting mood to take advantage of his early start on Thursday.

Lowry’s had a very light schedule so far in 2024 but we should expect to see a lot more of him now the tour has moved East. He made his seasonal bow with a missed cut in The AmEx but looked much better next-time-out when 25th in the Farmers Insurance Open, before finishing 60th in the Phoenix Open three weeks ago.

He started brightly enough in The AmEx with a round of 67 but was even better in the opening round at Torrey Pines, shooting a 66 to sit 4th after the first round; another opening 67 in Phoenix saw him record a second FRL top 10 in a row, as he occupied 8th spot on the leaderboard thru eighteen holes.

Lowry now comes to a place where he hasn’t missed a cut in six visits since 2016, and has recorded finishes of 2nd and 5th in the last two years. He’s managed several fast starts here, sitting 5th after round one on debut in 2016, 11th in 2020, 9th in 2021 and 14th last year; recording rounds of 65, 66 and five rounds of 67 across those six years.

0.75 pts Ryo Hisatsune each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader - 80/1

Start time: 08:35

Ryo Hisatsune has made a promising start to life on the PGA Tour and looks to have the right type of game for PGA National. He was a perennially fast starter towards the end of last year on the DP World Tour and has carried that ability over to the PGA so far.

The Japanese star has made four of his five cuts this year and recorded a best of 11th in The AmEx. He’s shown quality across most areas but has particularly impressed with his super-sharp short game.

Of those starts, he opened with a 65 to fire the 8th-best first-round score at La Quinta in The AmEx and started with even more haste at Torrey Pines, shooting a round of 65 to sit 2nd after round one; whilst a round of 69 was enough for a first-round top 30 in Mexico last week.

These swift starts had become somewhat of a habit for Hisatsune last year. He opened with a 66 to sit 4th after the opening round of the Aussie PGA; a 67 took him to 5th in the first round of the Nedbank Challenge; and he sat 5th after the opening round of the Open de France, which he then went on to win. That piece of form, on a challenging, watery and often wind-affected layout should serve him well here.

1.5pts Chandler Phillips Top 20 - 6/1

Prior to turning pro in 2019, Chandler Phillips made a name for himself as a top-10 ranked amateur. Though he was a little slow to get going in the professional game – his progress no doubt hindered by covid in 2020, as was the case for so many – he’s started to realise that potential last year and early signs are positive that he can continue this development on the PGA Tour.

Phillips finished 10th on the Korn Ferry Tour points list last year to earn an upgrade to the PGA Tour for his rookie season in 2024. A win in the opening event of the year in the Bahamas did a lot of the heavy lifting for that achievement, but he also looked strong at the end of the year, recording four top 10s in his final eight starts.

He has picked up where he left off in 2023 but this time on the heightened level of the PGA Tour. He’s made each of his four cuts and recorded two top 25s; the first when finishing 25th in The AmEx and he comes into this week after a 24th-place finish in Mexico.

The Texan is a relatively accurate driver and has looked solid on the greens but he is especially impressing in approach and around-the-greens this year. Indeed he ranked 8th and 16th in each of those respective areas last week and was the 4th-best iron player in the field for his two rounds at the Stadium Course in The AmEx; an all-round appealing statistical profile for this test.

There are no previous starts here to go off but hailing from Texas, he should be more than comfortable playing in the wind. That win in the Bahamas Exuma Classic – an event won by 2020 Honda Classic winner, Sungjae Im in 2018 – certainly goes some way to proving Phillips’ potential on similarly windy coastal courses and whilst tempting at a three-figure price in the outright market, I felt the top 20 market was a much more attractive place to play him. 

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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