Welcome to Balls in the Air, where I size up my Fantasy Golf picks of the week, featuring guys to watch (or not) and interesting story lines. Disclaimer: Don’t yell at me if my picks suck.
I swear I’m going to get better at posting this on a weekly (and more timely) basis, but mostly it’s because I haven’t come up with lyrics for a “Balls in the Air” theme song. Submissions are welcome.
Anthony Kim: Aside from the third round 76 at the Phoenix Open, Mr. Shiny Belt Buckle had a great tournament. No word whether he was hitting it hard at the Bird’s Nest on Friday night. Oh, and this is good — he’s paired with Robert Allenby the first two rounds. Fight, fight, fight!
Group A Bencher
Ernie Els: The options were slim, so it was either the Big Easy or someone like Steve Marino. Ernie is off to a quick start with two top-10 finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open and Northern Trust Open. Even though his three-year campaign to challenge Tiger Woods as the world’s number one has expired, maybe it comes with a one-year extension plan.
Rory McIlroy: Gotta love this kid. More important, he wouldn’t have laid up from 231 yards on a par 5 when he was in contention. At least I hope not.
Camilo Villegas: The flashy Colombian has been playing very well. In two starts, he finished third at the Match Play Championship and T8 at last week’s Phoenix Open, including a 9-under 62 in the first round. After complaining last year about the oh-so-grueling year-long golf schedule, he talked about his overall improvement in attitude and appreciation for the opportunity to play. They grow up so quickly!
Group B Benchers
Y.E. Yang: The defending champ is always a safe pick. He also played well last week despite a mental error, where he dunked it in the water, on the 17th hole last Sunday. But last night on Twitter, he mentioned having back pain. Not a good sign and something went wrong today — he shot (gulp) 79.
J.B. Holmes: I have a soft spot for the slow-moving long hitter after speaking with him last week at the Phoenix Open. Really nice guy. He’s also started the year hot with a runner-up finish at the A&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and third at the Northern Trust Open.
Paul Casey: In two starts, he finished runner-up at the Match Play Championship after losing to Ian Poulter in the finals, and T10 at the SBS Championship. Another safe pick. (Honestly, I’m ashamed how boring I’m getting.)
Group C Bencher
Rickie Fowler: I’m still kinda appalled with his gutless play coming down the stretch. John Hawkins summed it up very well, “Hey dude, did it ever cross your mind that you could make an eagle? You’re Rickie Freakin’ Fowler, the New Kid in Town, the second coming of Lanny…You believe, Rickie, because that’s what champions do. Better safe than sorry? Sometimes, they mean the same thing.” Lucky for him he’ll have another chance sooner than later — can’t discredit him for being able to play. As he heads into the Florida swing, it’ll be interesting to see how he does when not on familiar territory.
Alright, leaderboard check! The soft-spoken Australian, Nathan Green, leads with an early 5-under. Some guys called Alexandre Rocha and Michael Connell are tied for second along with Oliver Wilson and Villegas. Watching the telecast, looks like tough conditions with the wind blowing hard.
Someone else to keep an eye on is rookie Alex Prugh. He’s placed in the top-ten three times and made five cuts in five starts. After a few off-weeks, he’s in the clubhouse with a 68 and T10.
I realize I sound like a broken record this week with some of my picks — you know, so-and-so is playing well, which was annoying because it seemed like I have nothing more interesting to say. But if you’ve discovered a formula that doesn’t involve looking at the players’ current season results and their past performance at that tournament or simply going with your gut, then please share. Maybe next week I’ll get a little crazy and point my finger at the screen with my eyes closed and see which name it lands on.
At least Villegas is making me look smart.