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Golf Tidbits: U.S. Open starts a run of big events

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The next 10 weeks will be one of the best stretches of golf that a fan could ask for. In that span, there are nine significant championships at stake, and several other huge tournaments.

On the major stage, that stretch includes the U.S. Open this weekend, as well as British Open (July 15-18) and PGA Championship (Aug. 12-15). Two weeks away is the AT&T National, which is an invitational (only 120 players) with one of the top-15 purses of the season. Also, the third World Golf Championship event takes place the week before the PGA Championship.

One could argue this is the most important part of the PGA Tour schedule, with five important events in the next 10 weeks.

If the LPGA is more your speed, the tour treks through three majors in its next six events. The tour is in a stretch where it is playing five consecutive weeks, which is the second-longest continuous run of the season.

Also in this stretch is the Evian Masters for the LPGA. That event, along with the U.S. Women's Open, share the largest purse of the tour's schedule.

If you follow the Champions Tour, you are in for three majors in a six-event span. The seniors go back-to-back with majors starting with the Senior British Open and following with the U.S. Senior Open.

Not only are we starting a run of stellar events, but the venues are among the best of the best as well.

This week's U.S. Open is at Pebble Beach, one of the most scenic venues in all of golf, and of course the place where Tiger Woods rolled to an historic 15- stroke win back in 2000.

The PGA Tour stops at Aronimink Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia for the first time since the 1962 PGA Championship, then heads to the "home of golf" -- St. Andrews -- two weeks later.

The British Open Championship, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, will be contested on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Woods will go for his third straight title at St. Andrews. He won by five strokes in 2005, the year Jack Nicklaus said goodbye to the Open, and cruised to an eight-stroke win there in 2000.

Three weeks after St. Andrews will be the third WGC event of the season at Firestone, which serves as the final tune-up for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

For the LPGA, the tour returns to Locust Hill for the LPGA Championship next weekend. Locust Hill had been one of the longest-running venues on tour with the Wegmans LPGA, but that event ended last year.

The ladies will play the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club (July 8-11) for the first time since 1992. The men played the U.S. Open there in 2007 and Angel Cabrera won with a score of five-over par, so this will be a very tough test for the women.

After traveling to France to play at scenic Evian Masters Golf Club for the Evian Masters (July 22-25), the LPGA shifts to Royal Birkdale for the Women's British Open Championship (July 29 - Aug. 1st).

Birkdale has hosted the Women's British four times previously, with the last two being major championships. That event only became a major for the women in 2001.

The Champions Tour's first major in this stretch is the Senior British at Carnoustie (July 22-25), which has hosted seven British Opens, but is hosting the Senior British for the first time.

It will be a tough go for those playing the Senior British and the U.S. Senior Open in consecutive weeks. For those playing both events, they'll have to get from Scotland to Sammamish, Wash.

Three weeks later, and wrapping up this strong run of tournaments, the Champions Tour will play its fourth of the year at the JELD-WEN Tradition.

IS THOMPSON TURNING PRO TOO SOON?

Alexis Thompson turned pro on Wednesday after a stellar amateur career. That is the normal step these days, but the interesting note here is that Thompson is just 15 years old.

Yes, she was one of the top amateurs in the world and sure, her brother Nicholas is in his fourth season on the PGA Tour, but is this too soon?

There are many players under 21 on the LPGA Tour, but no one as young as Thompson, who won't be fully eligible until at least 2012. She is now eligible to earn paychecks at golf tournaments despite the fact that she can't legally drive a car or get into a R-rated movie without being accompanied by an adult.

Thompson is following the path that Michelle Wie set a few years back when she turned professional at the age of 16. The biggest problem she will face is the fact the LPGA Tour has a rule that their members must be at least 18 years old, a plateau that is still more than three years away for Thompson.

In the meantime, she will only be able to play in six tournaments a year via sponsor exemptions, per LPGA rules, along with a few additional events if she were able to qualify. However, she will not be a full-time LPGA Tour member until at least 2012.

Wie and Aree Song are among those that challenged the 18-year-old rule on the LPGA, and were allowed to join the tour full-time before their 18th birthday. Thompson could do the same and could also play other ladies' tours in the meantime.

Had she remained an amateur, Thompson could have played as many events as she wanted every year. By turning professional, she might collect a paycheck just five-to-10 times a year.

Does she have the talent to make this move? Absolutely, but if it were my child I'd say let's get your drivers license before we turn pro.

MINI-TIDBITS

- During the aforementioned 10-week run, Tom Watson will be competing in five major championships. He will go from the U.S. Open to the British Open, the Senior British, the U.S. Senior Open and finally to the JELD-WEN Tradition. The only major in that span that he is missing is the PGA Championship. He will also squeeze in two regular Champions Tour events as well.

- Many people are not fans of John Daly because of his troubles off the course. Others like him despite his missteps. Either way, there's no arguing that Daly has always been generous to a fault, and this week he will help an event with his mere presence. Daly, an Arkansas native, is competing at the Fort Smith Classic on the Nationwide Tour, a tour he has not played on since 1991. The tournament, which isn't far from Daly's hometown, has been struggling to find sponsors and he hopes his playing there this week will help keep the event on the schedule for years to come.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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