McIlroy joins Woods on ‘Tiger 2011’ cover

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EA Sports

For the first time in the history of EA Sports’ “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” video game series, Tiger Woods won’t be alone on the game’s cover.

He’ll be joined on the front of “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011” by 20-year-old Rory McIlory, arguably the game’s greatest youngster – along with the flags of both the United States and the European Union.

Why?

While it’s easy to speculate that it has something do with Woods’ scandal, this year’s game, which hits stores June 8, will feature an officially-licensed Ryder Cup for the first time.

“The Ryder Cup... brings together the best American and European golfers in a team competition format, and the cover of ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11’ is a direct reflection of the tournament – as Tiger Woods denotes the U.S. team and Rory McIlroy represents the Europeans,” EA Sports said in a release.

One of the game’s designers said Tuesday on ESPN that the company had plans to feature a European golfer on the cover with Woods since last October, when the Ryder Cup deal was finalized.

To be sure, the addition of the Ryder Cup, the best team event in golf, hardly comes from out of the blue. As I mentioned in my review of last year’s game, a growing appreciation of authenticity in the “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” series (not to mention all of their sports titles) is obvious.

Last year, EA Sports added an official “U.S. Open” to the game and featured three of the year’s four major courses (Turnberry, Bethpage Black and Hazeltine). Missing, not surprisingly, was Augusta National Golf Club, which has never made an appearance in any game. (When contacted, Augusta National declined to comment on the possibility of any future involvement in a video game.)

New features are the foundation of recurring video game titles like “Tiger Woods PGA Tour.” You have to give gamers a reason to cough up to $60 for what typically is a pretty similar game from year-to-year.

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EA Sports

This year, the Ryder Cup is that reason. It’s a pretty good reason, too.

Theoretically, I now have the ability to gather 23 friends (there are 12 players on each Ryder Cup team) and play an entire Cup through online play.

That is awesome.

Right, Rory?

“This is a huge honor for me to be the on the cover with Tiger Woods as I grew up idolizing Tiger,” McIlroy said in a release. “The Ryder Cup has always been my favorite sporting event and the tournament is being played at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales in 2010. Also, I’m hopeful to have an opportunity to represent the European team later in the year – it’s all very special.”

Let’s all just hope that being a “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” cover boy comes without a dreaded curse similar to what we’ve seen with EA Sports’ “John Madden NFL” series. Ever since EA Sports took Madden off the cover in 1999, there has been a pretty consistent history of players featured on the cover getting injured or having a subpar season.

Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of last year’s cover boys, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the first game of last season.

McIlroy is currently No. 9 in the World Ranking and plays golf, not tackle football.

He’s safe to make the team, right?

Right?

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