An old story got new legs last week when Woods was asked again ' for the hundredth time ' about the issue. He answered the question when it was brought up the first time at the British Open. The story was front-burner news for a month or so ' Tiger Waffles On Women at Augusta National, the headlines read. Then it died down, only to be resurrected again last week.
There is no new information from this quarter. Woods didnt set down and write a long position paper on the subject. He didnt promise to go up on the mountain for the women affected. He said in the past exactly what he believed, and there was nothing wishy-washy about it: No. 1, he dislikes discrimination again women; No. 2, non-members, even one who is Tiger Woods, are in no position to do anything about it.
Regardless of what youve read, this does not equate to race discrimination. Augusta National welcomes women who have gained admittance to the grounds under the accepted manner ' either wives of members or guests of members. Women played 1,000 rounds there last year, which is a good number when you consider that the club is closed from May to October, and it isnt used extensively when it IS open.
Blacks were ' and in many cases still are - routinely prohibited from using the grounds at many country clubs. By contrast, most of the members at Augusta have wives and many have daughters. All, it is presumed, had mothers. Until the past decade, there were no blacks ' mothers or daughters, fathers or sons ' who strolled the Augusta fairways.
Tiger is being asked questions that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer arent for precisely that reason ' he is not lily white. The issue is being race-based, even though it clearly is gender-based. To try to somehow construe the two issues as one is a fallacy.
For the reason that there are many loopholes in the so-called no women allowed rule, Im ambivalent about the issue. I certainly would not belong to a club which did not allow women. But not once since the issue arose has any representative of Augusta called and asked me for my opinion. They havent called Woods, either. But just about everyone in the media has.
I go back to what Ive said before ' how about the hundreds of thousands of womans associations in our country? Theyre harmless, really. Does any man alive object to not being in the ladies' loop? No, of course not. And Augusta National, for that matter, does not object to women playing golf until their hands are bloody.
Woods is right when he says that so many people demand that he take up their cause ' yes, demand it. He is in a rather delicate position now ' people who are sure they are right want to involve him on their side. It doesnt matter that he has come out in favor of the position of women. They demand that he be anti-Augusta as well. He must see the issue exactly as they see it, or else he is a Judas. The truth is ' he doesnt.
If it were a black-white issue, the situation would be far different. But this isnt, and the argument that it is the same is just so much baloney.
This is not a defense of Augusta National. It is a defense of Tiger Woods. He is not straddling the fence. The question was one that was proper to ask, and Woods gave a response. He wasnt coy or trying to be all things to all people. It is wrong to discriminate against women, he said. But since he is not a member, there is nothing he can do to change the situation. And as a personal aside, I seriously doubt that he could change things even if he decided to boycott. Augusta National, dont forget, threw away the millions of its Masters television sponsors. Does it seem likely that Woods absence would affect them, either?
Some of the members, thank goodness, have voiced reservations about the ban of women members. But to take Woods to task because he is not as rabid as many of the protestors is clearly wrong. Its an argument that he just cannot win.
If you want a more definitive answer, then ask him a question where the two issues are more clear-cut. Clearly, Augusta National is on the way toward admitting a woman, regardless of the stance of Hootie Johnson. But dont expect Woods to equate the argument to one of race. That just isnt going to fly. This isnt a question of someone being hanged solely because he is black. Pardon me, but the links simply dont stretch that far.