Balls in the Air: The Crowne Plaza Invitational
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.

After a pseudo-one-week respite, I’m back to make my totally arbitrary informed Fantasy picks. I hope you all survived. I’m sure it was difficult and I apologize for the inconvenience. I must credit Intern Kevin for doing a fantastic job. For some reason, he didn’t feel like subbing for me this week, though.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to the Byron Nelson Championship last week and I should have — because some of the benchers did well while some of the starters tanked. Like Scott Verplank, who placed 5th, was benched. So was Sean O’Hair, who finished 12th. That’s all on me. At least Dustin Johnson and Ben Crane tied for 7th.

Well, no point to focus on the past. Onward!

In case you haven’t heard, Phil Mickelson is once again in position to overtake Tiger as the world’s number one. He just needs to win the Colonial, which is entirely possible — he won the event when he last played in 2008. He’s been waiting years to move to the top of the rankings. Could this be his week? Perhaps this new and improved Phil can do it. I wouldn’t put real money on him, though. That said, my starter for Group A goes to…


Phil Mickelson: Because everyone knows how much I love Phil. Seriously, though, he’s wearing pink this week and how can you not pick a guy who’s sporting pink?! So, will the opportunity to pull ahead of Tiger as the world’s number one give him the right motivation to play well? Or will he do something silly, as he’s known to do (Winged Foot, 2006, etc.)? But I mean, he’s on a roll. I’m putting aside my personal feelings because, you know, IN IT TO WIN IT.


Heath Slocum: He’s an incredibly dynamic player, which is supposed to be good at the Colonial. Slocum isn’t exactly the longest hitter, but that’s not a problem at this course. After his big breakout win at The Barclays (almost a major!!!), he’s having a solid year with two top-ten finishes, including T4 at THE PLAYERS. Placed T12 last week. Intern Kevin advised I pick Justin Leonard, but dude has come up short (not just talking about his height and distance) the past few weeks when he’s been in my line-up. Which definitely means he’ll have a fantastic week.


Brian Gay: His short-hitting ways won’t pose a problem at Colonial. After finishing T2 and closing with a smooth 63 last week, he’s probably feeling pretty good. Intern Kevin says Gay is going to win this week. For whatever that’s worth. I just don’t know how you can’t cheer for a guy who wears wacky pants (like in the picture above, middle) like Gay often does.

Jim Furyk: He’s a fine shotmaker, which is apparently important at Colonial. His habit of hitting lots of fairways and greens sets up perfectly for the course. T9 last year and lost in a playoff in 2007. Blah blah blah. I call him the “safe” pick.


Sean O’Hair: Even though he hasn’t really been in the mix this year, he quietly manages to pull off a decent finish. Oh, if only he could putt. He doesn’t have a bad record at the event — T18 and T26.

KJ Choi: THE TANK! Since his fantastic performance at The Masters, where he finished T4, he’s fizzled out in his last few starts. But hey, maybe this week he’ll have his A-game. Why the hell not? And who the hell knows?


Tim Clark: Oh, tiny Tim. The PGA Tour player, formerly known as “Mr. Second Place,” returns to some terrible memories here from last year. Remember? I sure do because it was painful to see him fall apart in those final holes. Just when we thought he was going to finally win, he blew it. He’s even admitted to it! For a quick refresher, Timmy was leading going into the 72nd hole, but left a par putt short to make bogey, which left him in a playoff with Steve Stricker. Then, he missed a straightaway seven-footer on the first extra hole. Ouchie! But now he’s won the fifth major, THE PLAYERS, so all if forgiven (but perhaps not forgotten). For some players, the first victory is the hardest and then the trophies start piling up. Maybe he’ll be fired up for redemption. This week should be a good test to see if he’s gotten over old demons.


Ben Crane: He’s as boring as this tournament, which makes him a fitting champion. His tortoise-paced play seems suitable, too. Oh, he’s also having a pretty damn good year. He has four top-ten finishes this year, including a big W at the Farmers Insurance Open. Last week he placed T7 and at THE PLAYERS, he was T4.

Alright. Who you got? Or who do you like this week? Please share.