Balls in the Air: HP Byron Nelson Championship
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.

Honestly, I’m way more interested in the Sybase Match Play Championship (stay tuned for a couple of posts on stuff from Wednesday) for obvious reasons. First of all, the field isn’t super thrilling at the Byron Nelson this year, and the Sybase match-play format is more intriguing.

Most important, I’m on-site covering it all week (and commuting back-and-forth from the city). I’m strongly considering an attempt to live-blog from a hole or two during the first-round matches. Thoughts?

I have to keep up with Balls in the Air, though. My favorite to win? Adam Scott.

Wait, what? He’s not playing?! But he made the putt of his life in a playoff against Ryan Moore to win this event in 2008. IMHO, that screams to me that he (or his people) thinks he’s too good to play here. Sorry, but I feel like there’s an unspoken rule that past champions should automatically enter. Maybe he has a good excuse.

Oh, here he goes via Twitter.

Weak. Intern Kevin is appalled, too. “I think it is hilarious that Scott is ‘changing his US Open prep’ and missing a tournament he won — considering he f’ing sucks in majors.” Ouch, but good point.

Because I’ve been busy with reporting at Sybase, Intern Kevin stepped in and made my picks for me this week. Naturally, I’ll blame him if they suck. Here we go, courtesy of Intern Kevin…


Justin Leonard: Definitely the best option of the A players in my opinion. Hasn’t missed the cut here since 2000. Regularly finishes in the top 20 at this event. He’s a Texan and we all know that Texans are Texan.


Scott Verplank: Nelson was a mentor to Scott from a young age. This is probably the most important regular tour event for him. His win in ‘07 was very emotional — even made a cold-hearted snake like myself take notice. Top 20 this year at The Masters and The Players.  A win and 3 more top-10s at this event since 2000.


Dustin Johnson: My pick to win the event. T4 last year here, where his worst round was 68. Long hitter, blah blah blah.

Charley Hoffman: Two top-10s and another top-25 in four appearances at this event.  He’s starting to improve after a tough start to the year.  Top-25 at The Players and 13th at the Texas Open. Wears a green glove, so he has that going for him.


Rory Sabbatini: Defending champion. Having an up-and-down year, but was having the same exact type of year last year going into this event. Loves playing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area because he lives here. Had a T3 in ‘07 and multiple top 25s in past years.

Sean O’Hair: Finished runner-up here in his rookie year of 2005. Top 25 both in ‘06 and ‘07. For some reason, he didn’t play last year.

[Ed. note: I’m going to trust Intern Kevin, but I’m shocked he didn’t pick Hunter Mahan — who apparently is a big favorite because, you know, he’s from Texas — at least for the bench. Too bad his best finish at the Byron Nelson is T42, though.]


Ben Crane: Could potentially bore every other competitor in the field to death with his slow play. He has finished second at this tournament in the past. [Ed note: I’m already bored. That sound you hear is me snoring.]


Ryan Palmer: Actually has a crappy record here. I’d pick someone else. [Ed. note: That’s what I said. Ryan Effing Palmer? I mean, seriously? I had a tough time deciding between Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes, but Rickie has failed me recently (which means he’ll career it this week). Intern Kevin wouldn’t pick Barnes if he were leading by 10 going into the final nine holes. He hates him that much. I’m not a big fan of his “bro” attitude either, but Barnes has been playing pretty well. Whatever, bro. Oh, my final bench pick: Ricky Barnes.]

Final words from Intern Kevin:

Pretty boring and probably pretty similar to what others will have. It is a terrible field. I just picked Verplank because he has won here and Byron Nelson became like a grandfather to him, so we can be sure that he is treating this tournament like a major. I really like Dustin Johnson to win the whole thing. The rest of the picks are pretty blah.

Thanks, Intern Kevin. You rock!