| Tiger Woods prepares for a recovery shot during the Phoenix Challenge exhibition match in Miyazaki on Tuesday. (Reuters)
New York: Two-time defending champion Tiger Woods could help open the door to women members at Augusta National Golf Club by skipping the 2003 Masters, the New York Times suggested in a Monday editorial.
Woods could become the first man to ever win the event three years in a row by capturing his fourth Masters crown next April in Georgia.
Woods, however, refused to be drawn into the controversy. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have always said there should be women members, but it’s up to the membership to decide,” Woods said on Tuesday from Japan where he is preparing for this week’s Dunlop Phoenix tournament.
“I’m just an honorary member, so I don’t have voting rights. I’ve stated my opinion in the past but it’s definitely a tough issue.”
William ‘Hootie’ Johnson, chairman of Augusta National, said last week the club would not change its admission policies and add women members in the near future.
Women’s groups have objected on discrimination grounds and plan a picketing campaign at the year’s first major golf championship.
“The absence of golf’s best player would put a dreaded asterisk by the name of next year’s winner,” the newspaper editorial said.
“And a tournament without Mr Woods would send a powerful message that discrimination isn’t good for the golfing business.
“Of course, if Mr Woods took that view, the club might suddenly find room for a few female members.”
Financial backers and the firms whose executives are members at Augusta National have been targets of protest. Augusta National dropped television sponsors for the 2003 event so they would not be protest targets.
The editorial also said such executives as Sanford Weill of Citigroup and Kenneth Chenault of American Express should resign from Augusta National and that CBS should re-think its commitment to telecasting the event.
“That Masters magic is based on discrimination that Citigroup, American Express and CBS and other modern corporations vowed to eradicate decades ago,” the editorial stated.
“Mr Weill and Mr Chenault should lead the way by resigning from the club and encouraging other CEOs to do the same. CBS Sports, which seems to think this issue is no big deal, needs to think again.”