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 my if my picks suck — I’m not an expert. There’s no mathematical formula to my attempt at predicting something as random as golf scores.
After a few weeks respite, Balls in the Air is back. Totally exciting, I know! I’m proud to announce that my well thought out attempt to make good picks is paying off. I started the season a few tournaments late, but now that it’s “spring season,” my team is kicking butt. Uh oh, there goes the Wei jinx. I’m doomed for the rest of the year. My preemptive apologies to all my picks.
Moving on! Steve Stricker and Ian Poulter — the two players in the field who were ranked in the top-50 — withdrawing because of injuries completely screwed things up. Pfffftt. I mean, honestly, what happened to toughening it out? Throw on some ice and take some ibuprofen! I guess someone who wears pink pants doesn’t have a high threshold for pain…Kidding, obviously. I hope it’s nothing serious and for both to have a speedy recovery.
Steve Marino: With Stricker pulling out at the last minute, I had to scramble for a new starter. Considering the options were rather slim — I mean, solid players, but Jason Dufner or Scott Verplank don’t really scream great bet to me — I went with Marino, who is quietly having a pretty good year. Until I looked up his results, I didn’t realize he’d been playing so well. Let’s see, two top-5 finishes, T11 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T14 at both Shell Houston and The Masters. By the way, is Marino the best player without a win yet? Or is that Tim Clark? Probably a toss-up.
GROUP A BENCHER
Stephen Ames: Intern Kevin is always gushing about Ames, so I figure I’ll give him a chance. Plus, I can blame Intern Kevin if Ames doesn’t play up to the hype. But you know, with five top-20 finishes, he’s actually another one who’s sneakily having a decent year. Maybe he’ll pull another 74-65-65-74 performance like last week and by chance, I’ll switch out Marino to play Ames on the days he shoots 65.
Charles Howell III: I’m going with the mob mentality here. Everyone seems to love Howell for the win. In fact, with three top-10 finishes, he’s flown under the radar as one of the most consistent dudes out there. He finished T2 last year and also in 2006. More important, he’s ranked second in total birdies on Tour — and the more of those, the more fantasy points.
David Toms: He’s from Louisiana, so of course, he’s going to play well on home turf, right? He placed T5 at this event last year. In his last start at The Masters, he finished T14.
GROUP B BENCHERS
KJ Choi: According to the oddsmakers, the Tank is the favorite at 16/1. After his solid T4 finish at The Masters, he’s considered one of the hottest players on Tour. He hasn’t missed a cut and was the runner-up at the Transitions Championship. He started hot last week at the Verizon Heritage, firing a 64, but then fizzled the following three rounds — which is why he’s sitting on the bench…for now.
Brian Davis: KARMA. Logically, by calling a penalty on himself last week, he’s the most virtuous athlete with a pulse and living proof that golf is a morally superior sport. Duh! Or maybe I just looked down the list of options, and for some reason, I’m not confident that Sergio Garcia can put together two decent rounds to make the cut. I mean, he’s dealing with some major grip change. Or whatever gripe it is this week.
Jerry Kelly: Poulter was my original pick, so I did an awful lot of head-scratching trying to decide on a replacement. Do I go with Kelly? Jarrod Lyle? Mark Hensby? So many choices that it’s tough to pin just one down! Well, the defending champ is always a good bet. I’ve heard the pre- and mid-tournament festivities involve a lot of eating and even more boozing. My concern is that he’ll have a bad batch of clams or too many beers. But he strikes me as the type who might play even better after carousing on Bourbon Street the nights before.
Boo Weekley: The fried catfish and Cajun delights should have good ol’ Boo in merry spirits. Or he’ll get distracted trying to catch some of his own fish mid-round.
That’s all for now. Can’t wait for this weekend when Jim Nantz waxes sap like no other over Emeril’s cooking and the New Orlean Saints winning the Super Bowl. Wake me if anything moderately interesting happens before Tiger and Phil tee off at Quail Hollow next Thursday. Otherwise, go Blazers! (RIP Sonics.)