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 — this is more like a fun guessing game.
This week’s Transitions Championships is held at one of my favorite courses, Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course. I played in a tournament there when I was 14. I think I shot something like 78-80. It was the first time I’d played in Florida and the first time I ever saw an alligator outside of a zoo. I recall the tournament directors repeatedly encouraging us not to hesitate taking the “local alligator rule” — if your ball is anywhere close to one of those jaw-snapping creatures, take a drop! I also remember there were a lot (at least for Florida) pretty flowers. I think that’s because I hit my ball into a clump. Otherwise, my memory doesn’t serve me very well, but please forgive me, it was, like 12 years ago (and I’m getting old, almost 27!). I just know I loved the course and have always vowed to play there again. Someday.
Anyway, here are my picks…
Steve Stricker: Like I’ve said, always a great bet. Unlike Philly Mick, he’s taken advantage of Tiger’s absence and moved to number-two in the world rankings. He’s finished in the top-10 thrice, including a win at the NTO. Last year he placed T4 at this event. He is also suddenly one of the most insightful players on tour: “It’s amazing how good golf transpires into being a smarter person,” Stricker said. “A few years ago, nobody cared what I thought.” Yep, there’s a direct correlation between intelligence and good golf.
GROUP A BENCHER
Ryan Moore: Of course I’d like to see him play well because 1) he’s a friend and 2) I wrote a story on him for SI. But all biases aside, he’s had a decent year. He’s hitting his new custom-made Scratch irons pure, which will be key at Innisbrook. He also just needs to stop making “moving day” into “sucking day.”
Padraig Harrington: Let’s hope he didn’t drink too many pints of Guinness on his visit to White House on St. Paddy’s Day. The Irishman had a solid week at the WGC-CA Championship with a T3 finish.
Retief Goosen: The defending champ has won at Innisbrook twice. Prior to last week’s disappointing showing, he had three top-10s in four starts. And the Goose is just so smooth. I could watch him swing all day long. GOOSE!
GROUP B BENCHERS
Charles Howell III: He’s a decent sleeper pick. He’s played well at Innisbrook in the past, finishing runner-up last year and sixth in 2007. Also, he’s having a good year with three top-10 finish. He needs a win here to get into The Masters. Oh, can you feel the pressure?
Geoff Ogilvy: Since winning the season-opening SBS Championship, he’s struggled a bit. But maybe he’s finally caught up on some sleep after his wife had their third child in January.
John Senden: I know, I’m getting a little more bold this week! But he finished T11 last week at the WGC-CA Championship. He also finished runner-up at Innisbrook two of the last three years. Who knew, right?
GROUP C BENCHER
Justin Rose: The Brit carded a 64 in the final round of the Honda Classic to move up to 3rd place. Like Howell, he also needs a win to garner a Masters invite. I’m not sure he can man up for it, but hope he proves me wrong.
Alrighty, who you got this week? Treat this as your first round open thread, if you will.