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Friday, June 24, 2011

Rory's LPGA Ties

In case you didn't realize it, this week the LPGA is playing their 2nd major of the year, the Wegmans LPGA Championship. We're in the midst of a six-week period where the last 3 majors of the year are being played. That's not quite as cramped as it sounds:
  • this week is the Wegmans;
  • the LPGA skips next week and plays the U.S. Women's Open the week after that (July 7-10);
  • then they skip another week before playing the Evian Masters (July 21-24) and the RICOH Women's British Open (July 26-31).
Although all those events are pretty close, at least it's not as bad as the Champions Tour. They play the Senior Open Championship and the U.S. Senior Open Championship back-to-back during that July 21-31 stretch (can you say jet lag?), then tack on the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship just two weeks later (August 18-21).

Yet with all of this activity, what the ladies are buzzing about is last week's U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. It seems the LPGA has a few connections to the new champ, and these connections emerged during GC's broadcast of the Wegman's on Thursday.

For example, on Monday Cristie Kerr played with Rory in a corporate outing for Audemars Piguet at Willowbrook Country Club in Cape Cod. (Audemars Piguet is a watch manufacturer that's been around since 1875. Apparently both Kerr and McIlroy are ambassadors for the company.) He hadn't slept Sunday night -- what a surprise! -- and she said he clearly looked tired. She also said she was impressed that he still kept his commitment and showed up; clearly no one would have faulted him if he hadn't. Having won the Wegman's last year in a 12-stroke blowout of her own, she certainly has some idea how it feels to win that way.

Perhaps a more interesting connection exists between Rory and Yani Tseng. Apparently the ladies' world #1 and the new U.S. Open champ know each other from the Nick Faldo Series. According to Sir Nick's website,
"Sir Nick Faldo created the Faldo Series (charity number 1102719) in 1996 to provide opportunities to young people through golf and to help identify and nurture the next generation of champions.

"35 tournaments now take place each year in 25 countries worldwide, covering the UK, Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia. Boys and girls aged 12 to 21 are invited to take part."
If I heard correctly, Yani played the series in 2005 and Rory in 2006, and that's where they became acquainted. I guess we have to give Nick some points for "identifying and nurturing the next generation of champions."

But whatever connections may exist, one thing came through loud and clear during the broadcast: The women are just generally excited about seeing Rory play so well. As Jim Furyk said during the rain delay at the Travelers Championship, it's not so much about the score itself as it is about separating oneself from the field. It doesn't happen that often -- in the last 15 years, can you think of any besides Tiger at the Masters in 1997 and again at Pebble Beach in 2000, Cristie at the Wegman's and Louis Oosthuizen at the Open last year, and Rory last week?

Maybe it shouldn't, but it always surprises me how often the players from the different tours seem to mingle with each other... and especially the good players. That players from Northern Ireland, Arizona, and Taiwan -- and on different tours -- are connected in such varied ways sounds more like a game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" than reality.

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see if any of the ladies can duplicate Rory's (or Cristie's) feat this week. The course in Rochester is playing soft right now and, unlike the men last week, several of the women are pressing their advantage. It's going to take some work to create any separation from the field.

Perhaps while they're all bunched up they can entertain themselves by playing "Six Degrees of Rory McIlroy." ;-)

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