Votaw Augusta Owes it to Golf to Invite Women
The LPGA Tour is not involved with the Masters. Votaw said he wanted to make his position clear because, 'We represent not just women, but the game.'
'Augusta's exclusionary practices with respect to women speaks volumes,' he said Wednesday at the season-ending ADT Championship. 'The message it sends is that women cannot be part of that face of golf. And that's wrong.'
He said the club's decision to treat race differently from gender is 'perpetuating golf's exclusionary past and the perception that golf is elitist and exclusionary.'
Club spokesman Glenn Greenspan disagreed. He said single-gender groups like Augusta National and the LPGA are 'legally and morally proper.'
'It is clear that millions of Americans both support and belong to these organizations,' Greenspan said.
The LPGA Tour excludes men from competition, and Votaw said that would continue because of the physical differences between men and women.
However, he has recommended that his board of directors accept men as members of the LPGA Teaching and Club Pro division, which has 1,200 members.
The debate over Augusta National's all-male membership escalated in July when club chairman Hootie Johnson denounced Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations for demanding a female member by the next Masters, in April.
The Masters already has dropped its three television sponsors to keep them out of the controversy, and he said two weeks ago there was no chance Augusta National would have a female member in the near future.
'This news is disappointing because the highly charged rhetoric on both sides of this issue has become a distraction and is damaging to the game of golf,' Votaw said.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem refused to be drawn into the debate earlier this month during his state-of-the-tour message, saying only that the tour will continue to recognize the Masters as an official tournament.
Votaw said he has spoken with Finchem and Johnson recently, but said those conversations would remain private.
'Ty has broken ranks and that's good,' Burk said Wednesday evening. 'I think it's more significant than just one more voice. Because the LPGA is one of the ruling bodies, I hope it's going to increase the pressure on the PGA Tour to stop behaving hypocritically.'
Augusta National donates more than $3 million a year to charities, and the LPGA Tour is among the beneficiaries. Karrie Webb and Kelly Robbins are among LPGA members who have played Augusta National this year.
'The Masters has been the LPGA's friend in many ways,' Votaw said. 'We respect and appreciate and want to acknowledge much of what the organization has done. But we cannot condone its stance on this issue.'
The issue has not gone away, even as golf heads into its short offseason.
The New York Times wrote an editorial Monday suggesting that two-time defending champion Tiger Woods not play, and that corporate executives give up their membership.
Woods said from Japan the editorial was frustrating, because 'I'm the only player they're asking. They're asking me to give up an opportunity no one has ever had -- winning the Masters three years in a row.'
During a conference call for the upcoming Skins Game, former Masters champions Mark O'Meara and Fred Couples agreed that it was unfair to single out Woods.
They also said they would continue to play in the Masters.
'Listen, I'm all for women's rights,' O'Meara said. 'I'm all for equal pay and for women doing as good a job as men. She's got my vote. But I think it's getting a little out of control.'
In a letter to the Times published Thursday, Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Woods 'ought not to be expected to shoulder this burden alone.'
'The NAACP believes that the athletes who play at discriminatory golf clubs endorse wrongful exclusion by their presence,' Bond added. 'Businesses that sponsor memberships and advertisers and broadcasters of club events subsidize and condone discrimination.'
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said last week he would organize protests during the Masters if the club did not admit a female member, and encouraged players not to cross picket lines.
'I didn't even know he played golf or knew any golfers,' Couples said. 'I really can't speak on what he's trying to do. I can commend him for it. I think that's great. But I play golf for a living, and it's my favorite tournament.
'There is no way that I am not flying to Augusta in April and not playing at Augusta National. There is just no way.'
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand
CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.
Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.
''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''
Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.
Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.
Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.
She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.
''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''
Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.
Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.
''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.
Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.
Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.
''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''
It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.
Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.
Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.
The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.
''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''
PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.
Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.
Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.
''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''
It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.
He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.
''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''
Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.
Later, he laughed about the moment.
''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''
Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.
Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”
Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”
The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.
“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”
The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.
“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”
Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.
“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”
Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .
“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.