Balls in the Air: the John Deere Classic
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 me if my picks suck. There’s no mathematical formula to my attempt at predicting something as random as golf scores.

Remember last week when I said my friend doesn’t read “Balls in the Air” because he said “There’s no Stephanie in it”? Well, with the feedback I received, it wasn’t just me that thinks there’s a ton of Wei in these posts. And it makes me happy to know that Jerry Foltz (the friend) will now actually be reading every word I write. In fact, there will be a quiz on Thursday afternoon! So, study up!

By the way, Jerry’s advice on who to pick was pretty good. Surprisingly. I mean, it’s not like he’s the best announcer at the Golf Channel and doesn’t know his stuff or anything. Wait, he does! Well, he blew it with the Tiger pick, but he was right about Moore — even though I knew he was playing too well not to pick him. But we all know there’s almost a better chance of winning the lottery than picking the winner. (OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because I’ve done it three times, but it’s all pure luck.)

It’s a little tough to get revved up for the John Deere Classic with the US Women’s Open happening this week and the British Open taking place next week. I mean, clearly the Deere is a fantastic tournament and all, but it’s no major championship.

I’d like to start with my picks for the Women’s Open. This is easy — Cristie Kerr. No explanation needed. She drives it well, hits greens, one of the best putters on tour, etc. Otherwise, I’d also keep an eye out for the ladies who finished well at the LPGA Championship a few weeks ago, like Ai Miyazato, who is ranked second in putting and already has four wins this season, Song-Hee Kim (I don’t know her game, but she’s Korean so I’m sure she does everything pretty well), Jiyai Shin, one of the most accurate drivers and just overall consistent, In-Kyung Kim, who finished T5 at Wegmans and won last week, and Morgan Pressel.

Others to watch for are Suzann Pettersen, who is always in the mix — she’s almost like Ms. Second Place, Anna Nordqvist, who is a fantastic putter, and Azahara Munoz, the Spanish rookie who has been playing well. For a sleeper, I’d look out for Jennifer Song, who just recently turned pro and finished T13 at last year’s Open as an amateur. And of course, Paige Mackenzie — she’s always been a solid ballstriker, but has struggled a little on the greens. A new putter in the bag might just what she needs to break out. (And yes, I’m biased.)

OK, now for the men. Ugh, I know.


Steve Stricker: I was reluctant to pick him, but I decided to give him a shot. I just checked and he’s still ranked fourth in the world. That seems a little odd. He started the season hot, but he’s been battling a shoulder injury since April, which probably explains his recent mediocre play. Come on, Stricks, get it together!


Zach Johnson: He was runner-up at the Deere last year and the champion at the Colonial. This is his first start since his disastrous finish at the US Open. And who can forget his 9 on the 14th? Ouchie. But it’s been a few weeks and I’m sure he’s over it by now. Plus, he had a great tour fellowship meeting on Wednesday night! He would like us all to love one another. Got that, guys?


KJ Choi: The Tank is just solid and a safe choice at this event. He hasn’t missed a cut all season. From what I understand, the course sets up nicely for his game.

Chad Campbell: See ball, hit ball. I’m pretty sure that just about sums up Campbell’s strategy week-in and week-out, which isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. He finished T5 in his last start at Hartford and he’s fared with at the Deere with a T15 finish last year and 7th in 2008.


Charley Hoffman: Hoff was paired with Moore last Saturday at the AT&T National, so I walked all 18 with him. It wasn’t pretty, but TPC Deere Run isn’t Aronimink. I’ve always liked Charley. Nice guy in the brief encounters I’ve had with him. How can you not root for a dude who’s sponsored by Waste Management?

Fredrik Jacobson: Like I’ve said, he’s the best five-handicapper in the world! He’s also been in the mix lately — not in contention per se, but he could always break out with some solid rounds. I’m not sure if he can do it for four with his swing, but I’d love for him to prove me wrong. He seems to play well in these mini-tour stops. And I just like the guy’s style.


Rickie Fowler: Thanks, Rickie, for bringing some life to this field. Even though I still can’t believe he did just bag it and fly to Scotland early for some extra practice rounds. He missed the cut at the AT&T National last week with an awful 77 in the second round. But no doubt the kid is playing well and must be feeling good after getting into the British Open at the last minute. Oh, he also hits a lot of greens, which I hear is important at TPC Deere Run. Let’s just get that putter rolling this week, Rickie!


Tim Clark: No longer Mr. Second Place after winning The Players! I probably should have started him, but I can always switch out Rickie in between rounds. He’s one of three top-25 players in the field. In his last start at Pebble Beach, he T12. Watch him hit greens and make putts this week.


Okay, that’s it. I probably won’t watch a second of the Deere this week. Sorry! Between the Women’s Open, playing golf and preparing for the trip across the pond on Sunday, I’m not sure when I’ll have time to sleep. But I’m sure it’ll be absolutely riveting action. You guys can tell me all about it.

So, who you got this week?