Balls in the Air: Valero Texas Open
By Stephanie Wei under Balls in the Air

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. There’s no mathematical formula to my attempt at predicting something as random as golf scores.

So far, the big story going into the Valero Texas Open has been the golf course, TPC San Antonio Oaks, co-masterminded by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia, which makes its debut on the PGA Tour. Early reports reveal the track is more difficult (or complicated) compared to the event’s old home, La Cantera. Kevin Robbins reports that the few guys who played practice rounds on Tuesday were reluctant to speak on their first impressions — usually not a good sign. I’m curious to hear player reactions after Thursday’s round on the Norman/Sergio design. For some reason, I feel like there’s a joke in there about what happens when those two put their heads together…

As for picks, be wary if you went with Zach Johnson just because he won this event the past two years — it’s being played on a completely different course. According to Robbins’ report, TPC San Antonio is long and narrow unlike the generous fairways at La Cantera. Oh, also, a caddie wasn’t impressed with Norman’s multi-level, elevated greens, calling them “stupid.”

Anyway, my fantasy team didn’t fare too well last week. Sure, I had Westwood, who unfortunately faltered coming down the stretch, but both of my Group C guys missed the cut. And it’s all John Merrick’s fault. I mean, honestly — I was really looking forward to Poulter pulling a McIlroy. Well, hopefully I’ll have some better luck this week. But to be honest, my pick strategy went kinda like this: /cover eyes/spin chair three times/point finger at screen/open eyes to see where finger landed/select nearest name.

And you think I’m kidding.


Ernie Els: Top-ranked player in the field. He’s not necessarily strong off the tee, but he’s OK distance-wise. He’s won twice this year. More important, he’s leading in FedEx Cup points (which is clearly the number one factor I use to determine my picks).


Justin Leonard: He’s won the event three times, but again, it’s at a new venue. Not exactly the longest hitter on Tour, but he knows how to handle the ball in the blustery Texas winds. (A stroll down memory lane: When I was growing up and learning how to play in windy conditions, I remember being forced to watch Leonard and instructed to mimic his punch-shot skills. “Hit it like Justin Leonard!” So for me, wind and Justin Leonard are practically synonymous. Sorry, Justin.)


J.B. Holmes: He’s my favorite for the week. Hits the long ball. Done. Oh, he’s also coming off a T13 finish at The Players, and he’s had a solid season with two top-tens and six top-25s.

Bo Van Pelt: My second favorite to win. In his last three starts, he’s finished T3-5-T4. After a great showing at The Players, it could definitely carry over to this week. More important, you’d never guess (at least without knowing him, I wouldn’t have), but he’s great on Twitter.

(Why do I have a bad feeling about this?)


Charley Hoffman: It was either him or Sergio and you just never know with Serg these days. I mean, it’s not exactly an easy adjustment to change your grip and in the middle of the season, no less. The Hoff hasn’t played that well this season compared to last where he made something like 20 consecutive cuts, but he’s a solid contender. He played well at The Players, finishing T22 — and that was with a 77 in the final round.

Chad Campbell: It was a toss-up between Campbell and Adam Scott. For whatever reason, he’s always struck me as a “see ball, find ball, hit ball” type of player, which sounds like it might be a good strategy at this course.


John Rollins: No offense to the Group C options, but it was slim pickings. I mean, there was someone named Marco Dawson, who apparently has a good Fantasy record. But Rollins was the logical choice. He’s quietly having a consistent year. He finished T13 at The Players and has six top-25 finishes.


Joe Ogilvie: Um, because when I closed my eyes and pointed at the screen, my finger landed on his name. I like Ogilvie, though. He’s someone I’d love to sit down and chat with someday. Yeah, I know, totally a sensible reason.


Alright, your turn. Please treat this as your first-round open thread. Favorites? Most likely to tear up the course? (Double-entendre!) Thoughts on the Norman-Garcia design? Etc. Discuss.