Balls in the Air: Tiger and The Stinger…
By Stephanie Wei under Balls in the Air

Stingin' it.

Be warned: I’ve been nodding off since 9pm local and it’s past midnight now, so I’m beyond delirious. There’s a good chance I might literally fall asleep on my keyboard, but I wanted to at least post a reader’s digest version of “Balls in the Air” and name some of my picks.

The forecast for Wednesday called for torrential showers. In fact, it was supposed to be the worst weather day of the week. Well, this is how things go at The Open — instead, the clouds cleared and the sun came out turning it into a beautiful afternoon.

A lot of players had finished their “work” and preparation for the week yesterday because of the weather forecast. Shortly after the skies cleared, the practice areas filled up with guys cramming in some extra reps or playing a few holes to test out the course conditions (links are sand-based and drain well, except for the bunkers here at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, apparently.

As you can see in the above picture, Tiger Woods was one of the many guys to perfect his famous stinger and instill (even more) confidence in his ballstriking. From the looks of it, he was striping the ball.

Here’s a screenshot of my Fantasy Golf team — I really don’t like the Yahoo format, but short of joining a pool where it’s money-list based, this is all there is, so it’s better than nothing… just a quick note: I based all my pics on the best tactical players who are also excellent ballstrikers — or grinders/technicians — particularly off the tee and also creative shotmakers. Length isn’t premium. It’s all about positioning the ball of the tee and accuracy. If you hit it in the long hay or in one of the 206 bunkers that line the landing area off the fairways and surround the greens, then you’re basically screwed, for lack of a better term.

I actually have Hunter Mahan instead of Nicholas Colsaerts in my line-up, but Colsaerts isn’t a bad long shot pick. I had a hard time narrowing it down to those players. I also like Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy (hey, if it stays wet and the wind down, then can anyone say Congressional?), Jim Furyk, Ernie Els (T2 in ’96 and T3 in ’01), among others. Other than Colsaerts, other dark horses include Raphael Jacquelin and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

I think Royal Lytham St. Annes will produce a worthy winner; not a “fluke” champ. The course is such a great test that I’d be surprised if it didn’t identify the guy who is hitting the ball the best and tackling the course with a shrewd game plan.

Here’s an interesting stat: In the history of The Open Championships at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, every winner — Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Bob Charles, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Lehman and David Duval — have held the No. 1 ranking in the world (since the OWGR started in 1986) or have been inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

So I suppose think future Hall-of-Famers and past-and-present world No. 1s! Luke, Lee, Rory and Tiger. Boom.

Alright, before I nod off, here are some pictures from the day.

Harris English, Justin Leonard, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk prepare to tee off No. 1

The guys walking off the par-3 No. 1


Foley and Tiggy checking out video


Rory practicing bunker shots


Nice...job teeing the ball.

Check out some of the 360-degree panoramic views I took on the golf course throughout the week and near the practice areas on Wednesday…

*Standing between the 8th green and 9th tee: http://360.io/ULNwPm

*Standing on the 11th tee: http://360.io/uHq7mx

*Standing on the overpass bridge that connects the chipping practice area to the driving range: http://360.io/uHq7mx

*Standing next to the practice putting green and the clubhouse: http://360.io/F7r7r7

Can someone get me a stepladder perhaps?

Wednesday was officially Day 1 of @TheOpenLive broadcast. Thanks to those of you who tuned in. For those who missed the previous posts, be sure to tune into the R&A’s official online “behind-the-scenes” channel — go to TheOpen.com (the official Open Championship website), Livestream.com and/or the app. We go live at 7:30am local time (2:30am EST and 11:30 PST).

I’m not going to get into it now, but I feel incredibly lucky to be working with such a talented crew and wonderful team. I’ve learned more than I can articulate about on-air broadcasting/reporting in three days than you could imagine. I’ve obviously got a long ways to go and a lot to learn, but I’m having a good time and with each rep, I’m improving (I hope). Point is, I love it and this is what I’ve set out to do when I started my blog three years ago…

Enough about that. Way past my bedtime. See you LIVE in a few hours.