Balls in the Air: U.S. Open at Olympic
By Stephanie Wei under Balls in the Air

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.

Tiger: Later, guys.

Alright, I’ve officially shut the media center down for the second night in a row, so I’ve gotta get out of here and find something to eat, but I wanted to at least post my Fantasy Golf picks, along with some other favorites and dark horses first. I’ll elaborate when I return to the hotel later. Not too many surprises, but for long-time readers, you’ll know I’m a fan of the underdog, so I’ll throw some names out there that may not have come to mind (not saying they’ll win, but just keep an eye out).

Yeah, I’m sure you’re all shocked by the line-up, huh? No real surprises. I’m not completely happy with it, so I might update it later. Why not Phil? Well, I think he’ll actually play well. Actually, it’s a toss-up. I just thought some of his comments about the course were kind of negative during his press conference. He didn’t seem to “love” the setup and that’s not usually a good sign if someone doesn’t have 100% positive feelings going into any tournament.

Matt Kuchar is my top pick, along with just about everyone else.

When I spoke with Lee Janzen, who won here in ’98 two weeks ago, he was very, very high on Kuchar. When I asked him to name a player whose game suited Olympic, he replied without hesitation: “Matt Kuchar.”

Added Janzen: “Before the Masters, we do a pool out here at our club, I looked at all Kuchar’s stats, and he is ‑‑ I think he’s pretty high up there in total driving and ball‑striking and scrambling.  I’m sure he putts well, or well enough. I should have picked him and I don’t know why I didn’t pick him in the Masters pool, but he played really well there, and it was no surprise he won at The Players Championship.  I know he was the low amateur at Olympic (in ’98 and placed T10).

“I just think if you have good memories from that place and it’s a special place for the player. I’d look to see what guys are playing pretty well now and would think that they have a good chance of playing well.”

Oh, now this cracked me up. I don’t want to name any names even though I don’t think he’d mind, but I always ask a certain player-manager who he’s tipping. We were sitting in the presser of one of the players from his stable and he replied, “Kuchar,” without hesitation. When I brought up that a lot of people like his player sitting up on the stage, the manager said, “Yeah, he’ll be up there. He’ll be close.”

I asked yet another manager who also manages many high-profile players for his favorite, and once again, without a second thought, he said “Kuchar.”

Meanwhile, look out for Martin Kaymer. He hits a high fade, which is perfect for the many sloping right-to-left greens. In order to control the ball and hold it on the small, firm, somewhat tricky greens, it’s better to hit a cut against the slope, so it doesn’t spin/roll off the green (which you’ll see a lot of from players this week). You know, like on the infamous Nos. 13 and 17.

Other players to watch: Davis Love III, Matteo Manasssero, Steve Stricker (though from my scouting report, he was having some trouble looking comfortable hitting a cut at times) , John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy, Peter Hanson, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia (he shapes the ball sooooo well both ways, but you never know when he might lose it and make a large number), Adam Scott (?), Robert Garrigus.

More details and thoughts to come. Also stay tuned for the pictures of a caddies’ yardage book with the mark-ups and everything!

Who are your picks for the week? And who’s in your line-up?

(Getty Images/Andrew Redington)