Continued from page 1

“Really, I don’t think it’s her responsibility,” Burk said. “It’s the board of directors. They need to take action here. They don’t need to put that on her. They need to say, `This is wrong. We thought the club was on the verge of making changes several years ago, and we regretfully end our sponsorship to maintain her credibility and the company brand.’ “

The debate returns just in time for one of the most anticipated Masters in years. Tiger Woods finally returned to winning last week at Bay Hill and is considered one of the favorites, along with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. Eight of the top 20 players in the world ranking have won heading into the first major of the year, a list that includes world No. 1 Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson.

Now comes a sensitive issue that dogged the tournament a decade ago, and might not go away easily.

Augusta National does not ban women. They can play the golf course, but no woman has worn an Augusta green jacket, a status symbol in business and golf.

Rometty is said to play golf sparingly. Her greater passion is scuba diving.

The new CEO has been named to Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for the last seven years, and was at No. 7 a year ago. She started with IBM in 1981.

“We have a face, we have a resume, we have a title and we have a credible reason to do it that doesn’t involve Martha Burk,” she said.

Burk said she is no longer chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations. She had planned to step down until the first flap with the Masters began in the summer of 2002. Now, she said she runs the Corporate Accountability Project for the council, a project born from her battle with Augusta.