You won’t believe where Rory McIlroy and Cameron Young stand after the first round of the 2024 Cognizant Classic!

PGA National played it slow like PGA National normally plays Thursday in Round 1 of the Cognizant Classic. Part of this is due to the fact that the par 4 10th hole has been changed to a par 5, but also because the fairways on this difficult track have been widened.

And although the scoring was lower than what most are used to, the players still have to beat everyone on the field they face. The only players to do that in 18 holes were Chad Ramey and SH Kim, who shot 64 seconds and are leading a large group at 6 under after the first round.

Let's take a closer look at their rounds, who's chasing them, and what to expect in the coming days of the Cognizant Classic.

The leaders

T1. Chad Ramey, SH Kim (-7)

Ramey held the outright lead for most of the day until Kim tied him with a birdie on his final hole of the day, the par-5 18th. Ramey has not had a top 10 anywhere in the world since winning the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2022. Add in 25 missed cuts since that win, and his lead in Round 1 is a bit surprising. However, he would fit in very well with what has happened on the PGA Tour so far this year. Almost all of the winners had triple-digit odds when the week began. Ramey's number for this week? Right at 300-1.

Other contenders

T3. Andrew Novak, Ryan Moore, Austin Eckroat, Cameron Young, Chesson Hadley (-6)

T8. CT Pan, Billy Horschel, Sam Ryder, Bud Cauley, Chandler Phillips, Erik van Rooyen, Kevin Yu (-5)

Young is the fascinating name of this group. He did 10 three on Thursday in the first round and I didn't even handle it that well. He's had a strange year. Mediocre performances at The Sentry and Pebble, a third place finish in Dubai and then a top 20 finish at Phoenix and Riviera. He's my not-so-risky pick to win the Masters, and it would be nice if he found some way right now. Still, watch out for the three-plus strokes gained with the putter on Thursday. That could happen in reverse on Friday.

Rory stalks

What Rory McIlroy is doing now must be frustrating. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and led everyone in strokes gained off the tee. He's hitting driver incredibly (even for him), but he's having trouble in the approach game. He missed a hit on the field Thursday in approach play, didn't throw particularly well and still He shot a 67, 4 under par, which places him three off the lead and leaves him as a favorite.

“Some good, some not so good,” he said of his round. “Really good off the tee. That's been a really good thing. I led in strokes gained off the tee at Riviera a couple of weeks ago, and I handled it really well again today.

“But a little weak with the irons. I didn't really hole out much coming out, but I holed a couple on the back nine. Overall, a solid start. 67 around here is always a decent score. It was very benign today. You're not going to “make this course a lot easier. It probably could have been a couple of shots better, but overall it's still a decent start.”

If he can improve his iron game, it will be a big deal.

Jake Knapp, future star?

Knapp followed up his victory in Mexico last week with a 3-under 68 on Thursday while playing No. 2-ranked McIlroy. Rory put him within driving distance (two holes) by 8 yards (327 yards to 319 yards), but said he enjoyed the 29-year-old's game.

“He could definitely be a star,” McIlroy said. “It seems like he's got the complete package. He obviously has the speed. He can control that speed pretty well. He made some beautiful shots today. It seems like his short game is pretty good. He's got charisma and we kind of had a good chat for a lot of the round. He is in good shape and, if he continues to play the way he is, he is the complete package. He could be a superstar here, for sure.”

Updated Cognizant Classic 2024 Odds and Picks

Odds via SportsLine Consensus

  • Rory McIlroy: 13/2
  • Young Cameron: 2/15
  • SH Kim: 16-1
  • Beyong Hun An: 20-1
  • Chesson Hadley: 22-1
  • Andres Novak: 22-1
  • Min Woo Lee: 22-1

This is an interesting board. I like McIlroy, but probably not in that number. To be honest, I don't love anyone here. I'd rather go further down the board and look at Daniel Berger, who is 45-1 after shooting 68 and finishing near last in putting. He has a pair of top fives in his last two starts (granted, in 2020 and 2022 before his most recent injury) and at 45-1, he's a steal.

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