Welcome (back) 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 and tidbits from behind the scenes. Disclaimer: I’m just as full of crap as the next guy, maybe slightly less than others, but take my ramblings for what their worth. Ramblings.
I’m a jerk and didn’t have time to post this pre-1AM Thursday morning, but I think I should get points for publishing it before the Fantasy Golf deadline — okay, you’re right, I’m pushing it. Somehow I feel like everyone managed and there have been no reported panic attacks, so carry on. I’ll try harder next week.
As you’ll see, I noticed after the fact that apparently I’m real high on students of swing coach Sean Foley at the Memorial. They’re like the cool kids this week.
Ballstriking is premium at Muirfield Village, particularly precise iron play into the tiny, narrow greens — which is what players always say, but also the takeaway I got on Monday. Spencer Levin, Harris English and Brian Harman played the front nine in a practice round late in the afternoon at the start of the week. I asked if they wouldn’t mind if I walked along to observe and get a feel of the course. You get a way better feel for it walking down the fairway and seeing the shots from next to the player than you do from strolling in the rough an arms-length from the ropes (don’t get me wrong, you see a lot, but nothing like seeing shots from the perspective a player is).
So I got a really good workout. It’s not a hilly course, but there’s way more undulation than you expect, and just the thought of standing outside in 95-degree muggy heat makes me a little nauseous.
There was also music playing the entire time. Not saying the type would have been my preference, but that’s subjective. Not the point, though. It was certainly different. See this video.
Joking aside, what a pure, pure course.
For what it’s worth — which is practically nothing because everyone knows playing well in practice rounds doesn’t amount to playing well in competition, but some times it’s a decent indicator — Hunter Mahan’s team placed 1st in the pro-am competition and Tiger Woods’ team came second. Of course, keep in mind their amateur partners may have been the biggest sandbaggers on this side of the planet, so they carried Hunter and Tiger on their backs or maybe not.
Luke Donald. Only two words needed to justify the pick: Luke Donald.
Ben Curtis is a hometown guy and will have good vibes with probably a few dozen locals supporting him. He also has one of the hottest hands in the game at the moment, but unsurprisingly he’s flown so far under the radar that I didn’t know that level existed. In his last five starts, he’s placed first, 13th, 5th, second, and finally his worst finish being the most recent, 68th, on the other side of the pond at Wentworth.
Alex Miceli picked Brandt Jobe as his dark horse favorite on Golf Channel last year before the tournament started and the guy placed second. Since then, I always ask Miceli who his favorites are because I’m convinced he has some sort of crystal ball. He’s sticking with Jobe again in 2012. His favorite to win? Robert Garrigus.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Webb Simpson or defending champ Steve Stricker near the top of the leaderboard. A few random guys to watch: Ricky Barnes and Bryce Molder.
Rory Mcilroy poked fun at himself in his press conference Wednesday and hopes he won’t have another weekend off. After all, he needs those two extra reps in competitive rounds. He’s already four behind and looks to find his top form in time to defend his U.S. Open title. Last time after McIlroy missed two cuts in a row was in 2010 — the Shell Houston Open and the Masters — he won the following event at Quail Hollow. Will history repeat itself? Will it be like deja-2010? We’ll see!
Your turn. Which players are in your line-up? Who’s your money on?
(Photo by Getty Images/Andy Lyons)