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.
After a two-week respite, welcome back to Balls in the Air — I’m sure there’s been an empty place in your lives without it, so I’m struggling to stay up 20 or so extra minutes to maintain my commitment. Well, I’m happy to report that I had a smooth trip to Seattle and I’m pumped to get out to Sahalee tomorrow morning to watch Fred Couples and Tom Watson tee off at 7:45AM (yeah, right, considering it’s 1:00AM right now — I’ll catch them on the back nine). Well, honestly, my mind couldn’t be further removed from the Greenbrier Classic with a big major for the 50+ studs and the Women’s British Open. Oh, by the way, fans should cheer for the pros to make aces (lots of them!) at Greenbrier this week. And alas, here are my picks.
Charlie Wi: Wiiiiiiiiiii! In two of his past three starts, he’s finished fourth. It seems like he’s been doing well at the courses where distance isn’t an issue, rather consistency is more critical. But can the dude finally pull off a win? I like his shot until the last 12 or so holes on Sunday.
GROUP A BENCHER
Stephen Ames: Because it was slim pickings and according to Intern Kevin (whose voice is missed greatly), Ames is the greatest Canadian to have ever played the game.
Charley Hoffman: The Hoff has almost become one of my insurance picks, especially this week. In his past two starts he’s finished T4 and T7, respectively. You know the dude has at least one good round in him.
JB Holmes: He makes a lot of birdies. The long-hitting Kentuckian can actually putt pretty well. He T14 at the British Open and placed 5th at the AT&T National. Most notable, he won the CVS Caremark Charity Classic! For those who missed the BBC Broadcast of the Open, the announcers had some fun trying to guess or figure out what the B in JB stands for. In case you didn’t know, JB went by John before he turned pro when he was advised to change his name as to not be confused for the other, more notorious John Holmes. The more you know!
GROUP B BENCHERS
Jim Furyk: He’s been my insurance policy all year and because of that, I only have a few starts left in him. He’s also let me down recently, which means he’ll probably have a solid week, and hell, perhaps even win. From the sounds of it, Greenbrier suits his game and he’s the highest ranked player in the field. Well, given the leaderboards lately, we know that’s almost a non-factor.
Jeff Overton: Quietly having a great year. Lately he’s been appearing on lots of leaderboards, like at the British Open, where he placed T11 (excellent for an American!). He has four top-10s and eight top-12s this season. Time to close coming down the stretch, buddy!
Matt Kuchar: He’s tied for most top-10s on Tour with Retief Goosen. His moniker might as well be Mr. Consistency this year. Kooch has come through almost every week with a solid finish (when I’ve picked him — which means I’ve just jinxed him). He finished T4 last week at the Canadian Open.
GROUP C BENCHER
Richard S. Johnson: I was going to go with the other dude who has been a bastion of consistency (despite his unconventional and hard-on-the-eyes swing) lately — Ricky Barnes. But then I decided I had to pick RSJ, a guy who won last week in Europe with a Swedish radio DJ as his caddie. And it gets even better this week — his caddie’s name is Bing Bing, according to Golfweek‘s Sean Martin. (RSJ’s regular looper, Lance Ten Broeck, played in the Senior British last week and this week he’s caddying for his brother in the US Senior Open.)
Alright, that’s it. Have I mentioned I’m exhausted? I’m exhausted — but pumped for tomorrow. As one illustrious scribe sardonically said to me, “You’re the first person I’ve ever heard who is excited for the Senior Open!” What can I say? I’m just a bundle of enthusiasm.
As for my picks for the Senior Open? Fred Couples. Duh. Apparently because the Seattle-area has been so dry lately, the greens and the course are even firmer and faster than usual. Guys who hit the ball high and land it softly should do well, too — a la Freddie.
Otherwise, Sahalee is Corey Pavin’s type of course — short (relatively), narrower than almost anything you’ve ever seen and lightning fast greens where you need an extra good touch. The American Ryder Cup captain has been playing well lately with a runner-up finish at the Travelers Championship in June and another bridesmaid title at the Senior British Open last week. Maybe this week will be his turn to hoist the trophy.