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Players Hoopla Wont Affect Play

Players like to speak of a singular mentality. The ability to focus on one shot at a time. Extract distraction.
Its a clich, but players love clichs. Theyre easy, compact, less thoughtful answers ' and theyre mostly truthful.
Ask a player about his round and hell give you mundane facts. Ask him something more personal and youll get anything from sincerity to sarcasm. Ask him about anything involving controversy and you wont get much of an answer at all.
No comment.
Those are two words Davis Love III expects to utter on more than one occasion next week in Augusta, Ga.
Ill talk to anybody to tell you how good Im playing or how I feel and let that be that, Love said after winning The Players Championship. Im going to play golf and Im not going to do anything else.
Love is talking, of course, about the peripheral distractions in wait at The Masters.
Of the host of players who had the good fortune to make it into the interview room at Sawgrass, few were spared at least one question about outside influences at Augusta National Golf Club.
And most agreed that they would not be influenced because it is on the outside.
The golf course is so well surrounded by ropes and fences, said Mike Weir, and the protests will be outside the ropes and the gates. I dont think it will affect the tournament at all.
Perhaps not on the outcome, but it has already had a major impact on the event and its surroundings.
The dispute over whether or not Augusta National should admit females as club members has affected everything from the local economy to national exposure.
Its been nearly 10 months since Dr. Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Womens Organizations, sent Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson a letter requesting the club to include its first female member.
Since then, weve witnessed a demonstrative reply, the dropping of sponsors, subjective polls supporting both sides, televised debates, a surplus of publicity seekers and judicial decisions.
I think its tarnished it this year, Tiger Woods said about the negative light under which the tournament has been placed. I think eventually it will go away and it will be resolved and Augusta and the Masters will be what it is.
Tiger even joked that the best way onto club grounds would be to parachute in. Youve just got to sky dive in there, he said with a smile.
Under normal circumstances the Masters would go into hibernation after the presentation of the green jacket, occasionally popping its head out of the ground to announce course changes.
The seasons first major wouldnt make steam until the PGA Tour hit Florida. And by this point, there would be two major story lines: Tiger trying for an unprecedented third straight victory; past champions age limit rescinded.
It would be about golf and little more. But the scenery, the stories, the serenity ' all have been upset by one terse two-page response from Johnson.
Its not just about a golf tournament anymore, said Woods. It used to be the first major of the year and everyone looked forward to that. Now its not that anymore.
It would be great if it would all go away and we could just play a golf tournament again, but thats not the reality of it.
What should be expected is exceeded by the unknown. Who will protest, how many will picket, and will it change a thing are all to be determined.
But there are two givens.
One, players believe it will not affect play: I don't think it will be different from a player's point of view. When we get inside the gates and when we're playing and competing in our first major championship of 2003, the field will be the same as it always has been, said Phil Mickelson.
Said 1992 champion Fred Couples: They will still have 50,000 people out there screaming and yelling and having fun.
And two, they dont want to talk about it: I dont feel like my opinion, one way or the other, means a whole lot, said Jay Haas, who will be competing in his 19th Masters Tournament.
Its understandable that players dont want to speak out on the subject. Theyre not controversial types; controversy harms the image, which, in turn, hinders endorsement deals. And theyre not only leery, theyre weary of the subject; theyve been asked to state their opinions ad nauseam.
In a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated, 49 percent of the players asked said that Augusta National should open its membership to a female. Twenty-three percent said no, while 28 percent said its up to them, not me.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has supported that 28-percentile, stating the tournament, like all of the four major championships, is not run by the tour.
Its not really something I want to get into again, said last years Masters runner-up Retief Goosen when prompted last week.
I really dont have a comment, said six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus, who is also a club member.
As Love said, no comment will be two of the most expressed words in the media center and under the old oak tree behind the clubhouse next week.
You dont want to try and avoid either place, but you want to try and play well enough to change the subject, he said.
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology