Balls in the Air: Masters picks and other random predictions
By Stephanie Wei under Balls in the Air
Cute alert!

Cute alert!

It’s Wednesday before The Masters and it feels like Christmas Eve. I’ve been trying to explain that to my roommate, a non-golfer, who knows nothing about the game. She is insisting it can’t be Christmas tomorrow without presents and she will be incredibly disappointed if she doesn’t wake up to a tree with pretty lights with gifts underneath it.

“Yeah, dream on,” I told her. 

“I’m leaving my wish list outside your door tonight,” she replied.

Don’t mind her, Carson — that’s my roommate’s name — is delusional. However, I am looking forward to introducing her to The Masters tomorrow. Yep, she has never watched the Holy Grail of Golf before and I plan on trying to teach her how to understand and appreciate golf. Which will most certainly be a challenge. And I may come to regret all of this. After all, I was looking forward to just watching The Masters at peace on my couch this year… Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Anyway, let’s talk picks and favorites for the Masters. Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. DUH. Other than the Big Cat? Well, Phil Mickelson came close to becoming a potential victim of the dreaded Par 3 contest curse, but Ted Potter Jr. beat Mickelson and Matt Kuchar in a playoff.

Nick Watney and Ernie Els also tied the other three at four-under for the nine holes, but they opted to skip the playoff because, well, the darn curse! — no winner of the Par 3 contest has gone on to don the Green Jacket four days later.

Let’s move right on to my Fantasy Golf team, which was, like, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD PICKS! So I just went with my gut and filled it out the quicker than ever.

Here’s my lineup: Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 7.16.15 PM

Yes, I know Stricker doesn’t traditionally play well at Augusta National, but we also know that Zach Johnson won The Masters while laying up on every par-5. So there! Same with Jim Furyk. 

My insider friends all say Jason Day is absolutely striping the ball.

Other players I like:

*Henrik Stenson: Stenson heads into Augusta with two top-10 finishes in his last two starts at Bay Hill and the Shell Houston Open. In the past he’s never felt good about his game going into The Masters, but he finally does this year. His game suits Augusta National well — he hits it long and high and moves the ball. He can flight it right-to-left. Last year he was sixth headed into Sunday until he had a disastrous back nine that led to a final-round 81. He also was cruising on Thursday when he made a quadruple-bogey on the 18th. So, you see, he can go low at Augusta if he eliminates those big numbers.

*Lee Westwood: Westy has a good record at Augusta. In the past three years, he’s finished T3-T11-2. So far this season on the PGA Tour he’s notched two top-10 finishes. It’s no secret that his Achilles heel is his short game. Can it hold up under pressure? I guess we’ll see. It’d be nice to see Westy get that monkey off his back.

*Rory McIlroy: Tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki is in town and Rory always plays well when she’s at a tournament. Rory also usually gets off to a fast start, so look out for him on Thursday and Friday. Is his game ready? I think so. Now if he can eliminate a dopey mistake, then I expect him to seriously contend on Sunday. He’s matured and we won’t see that same nervous kid from 2011 fall apart on the back nine. At least I hope not.

*Adam Scott: The Aussie finishes T8 and T2 at the last two Masters and he’s in solid form so far this season, with his best showing a T3 at Doral.  He’s also top-tenned in four of the last eight majors. He’ll be seeking — sorry, I hate this cliched storyline — redemption for his loss at the Open Championship last year.

*K.J. Choi: He’s a good sleeper. While he missed the cut in last year’s Masters, he struggled in 2012, working through some swing changes. He appears to have them sorted out this year and seems to be rounding into form just in time for the season’s first major after his sixth-place finish at the Valero Texas Open last week. Choi is another player who has had success at Augusta National in recent years, placing T4 in 2010 and T8 in 2011. He’s one of the top three genuinely good guys on Tour and it’d be fantastic to see him win a major.

*Peter Hanson: The Swede was the 54-hole leader last year. Watch out for him again this year. That’s all I have to say.

*Fred Couples: Swoon. Always look out for Freddie early in the week. He’s bound to pop up on the leaderboard and tease us.

*Pick a South African, any South African! 



*Most eagles: Robert Garrigus – he hits it long

*Low-am: Steven Fox — because he’s been playing in some Tour events. (Though I kind of want to say Nathan Smith because he’s played in so many darn Masters.)

*Over/under that 14-year-old Tianlang Guan breaks 80 in the first round: I’ll take the over.

*First-round leader: Dave Tindall of Sky Sports is the pro has Bubba Watson at 40/1. I know nothing about betting, so uhhh, sure?


*Stop with the ‘Redemption’ — AMEN!


Alright, time for bed. Again, it feels like Christmas Eve. I’m giddy and exhausted. One last thing, to everyone who asked for my help with their Masters pools, I’m sorry in advance and I told you, Tiger is going to win. Mmkay, bye.

 (AP Photo/David Goldman)