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: My picks may suck, but I do think through the factors that may weigh in.
Welcome to the Phoenix Open, the Greatest Show on the Frost, the Tour’s Party Stop, where golf is secondary for the fans and beer is primary. Unfortunately, we’ve had a chilly front come through Scottsdale the past few days. Wednesday’s pro-am was canceled because the greens were frozen. Chances of play on Thursday kicking off as scheduled appear very slim. Golfers playing in the morning wave, check the phones for text message updates and then go back to sleep. Guys in the afternoon wave should just be on-call starting around noon, but realize the odds are slim that they’ll tee off. Bring games and iPads!
First off, last week a reader commented that he received the highest score and asked if there was a prize. There wasn’t, but let’s make one up. I haven’t heard from the winners from the first two weeks. Let’s make this clear right now — it’s up to you to check and see if you were the top scorer of the week (across all three leagues) and then email me: Steph[dot]Wei@gmail[dot]com with the subject line: “Fantasy Golf Winner.” I’m giving the winners from the first two weeks one last chance to claim their prizes…the deadline is the end of the week. Thanks!
As for my picks, I decided to go with a theme — the Under 30s, the Young Guns, the Rising Stars, the Guys Who Don’t Take Cialis — whatever. Simply, every guy I chose for my team is under 30 years old. Let’s see who they were:
Dustin Johnson: He was cut in his first and only start at the Phoenix Open in 2009, but we can’t hold that against him. DJ seems like the kind of guy who would thrive in the atmosphere of the party stop. Whatever the fans come up with to heckle DJ on No. 16, I doubt they’ll get under his skin. The 16th is made for players like DJ. I bet he’ll have some fun with it, too! Also, DJ is playing well, with a T3 finish last week at the Farmers Insurance Open. I predict DJ taking home multiple wins this season, including that elusive major.
GROUP A BENCHER
Nick Watney turned the front nine at Torrey Pines into a pitch and putt course, making eight birdies. He tore the course apart and went on to shoot 63 in the final round. Watney is one of those players that is unstoppable when he gets hot. Watney hasn’t had any spectacular finishes at TPC Scottsdale, but they’re not awful, either. In six starts, he’s made the cut five times. And you just never know if he’ll catch fire.
Rickie Fowler almost won this tournament last year. The course obviously suits his game. Now I wonder if he has 200 yards into the par-5 No. 15 again on Sunday, will he go for it or will he lay up? Please say the former. Could this be Rick’s big week when he finally breaks through to get that elusive W.
Hunter Mahan, the defending champ, is a lock to be a favorite. Mahan is a newlywed, as well. He played great at the Farmers and was in contention until a bunch of bogeys in the final nine took him out of it, but he still finished T6.
GROUP B BENCHERS
Chris Kirk is a bit of a risky pick, but of all the rookies, he’s playing the best (besides Vegas). In three starts, he’s placed T30, T7 and T44 (after struggling in the third round at Torrey). Kirk hits it a high sweeping draw very accurately, especially off the tee. His irons are consistent, too. From when I watched him play at the Sony, his game looked steady and reliable. He doesn’t hit it a mile and his draw reminds me of my ball flight — not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just most guys hit high fades.
Kevin Na is the slowest and rudest golfer on the PGA Tour, but during those four grueling hours at the Hope a few weeks ago, I witnessed his phenomenal short game. His ballstriking was not very impressive, but the guy grinds it out and doesn’t miss a putt within 10 feet. But you know that if I’m near Na’s group, I’m taking out my stopwatch and putting him on the clock (even if it’s unofficial). I mean, someone’s gotta do it if the Tour won’t.
Jhonattan Vegas is the hottest player on Tour right now. He’s also leading in FedEx points!!! After winning the Hope and his near-miss at Torrey Pines, this kid has proved he’s not a one-hit wonder. He has the least amount of pressure on him, too. As a rookie with a win, he has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, so he doesn’t have to worry about losing his card. He just gets to go out there and play golf. If it goes well, great! And if it doesn’t, oh well. Plus, he’s got a great perspective on life and a good head on his shoulders. Jhonny Vegas!!!
GROUP C BENCHER
Ryan Moore is making his first start without the flu. He played the first round of the Bob Hope and posted a 74. He withdrew the next day due to illness. It was a tough call between Moore and Anthony Kim, since the only round Moore’s played was pretty horrendous (even if he was sick). Meanwhile, AK has started to show more consistency, moving up the leaderboard with each start. At Torrey Pines he placed T6, managing to string four good rounds together. However, I reminded myself that we’re at the Tours party stop and AK might be tempted to party like a rock star one of these nights. Exhibit A: Last year he played beautifully until Saturday when he posted a 76. His other rounds were 67, 65 and 67. So, long story short, I’d rather hedge my bets with Ryan, whom I watched hit balls on Saturday and he appears confident with his game. He’s loving his new Adams clubs. Apparently he hits his new driver so far that it’s almost freaky.
Alright, your turn. Who are your favorites to win?