- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

GULLANE, Scotland Tiger Woods was prepared for questions about his pursuit of an historic Grand Slam this week at Muirfield.
He wasn't ready for the flood of questions yesterday about something else: What he thinks about the absence of women in the membership of Augusta National and Muirfield and what he plans to do about it.
"It's one of those things where everyone has they're entitled to set up their own rules the way they want them," said Woods, who appeared uncomfortable and answered vaguely at times. "It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate if they wanted to, but there's nothing you can do about it."
Woods said he would feel the same way if such golf clubs had no blacks or Asians.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "But it's just the way it is."
A controversy over Augusta National's male-only membership unfurled last week when club chairman Hootie Johnson angrily responded to a national women's group that demanded female members by next year's Masters tournament.
"There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet," he said.
However, there are no groups demanding female members at Muirfield. Yesterday, there were only reporters making it an issue.
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has been around since 1744 making it 32 years older than the United States and a decade older than the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which runs the British Open.
Women can play Muirfield as guests, just as they can at Augusta National.
One difference is that Augusta National owns the Masters, while the R&A; only conducts the British Open at a rotation of courses in Scotland and England.
Asked whether he was concerned that Muirfield excluded women as members, R&A; secretary Peter Dawson said, "We take the Open to the best links in the British Isles."
"We don't regard social engineering as part of our remit," he said.
Most of the questions yesterday regarding admission policies of Augusta National and Murifield were directed to Woods.
"With your stature in the game, do you think you can force the change?" one reporter asked.
Woods said he has done his part through the Tiger Woods Foundation to involve more kids in golf who did not have access.
Among other things, he conducts an annual clinic for kids from inner cities.
"It would be nice to see every golf course open to everyone who wanted to participate, but that's just not where society is," Woods said. "If you just pigeonholed this single issue, I think you're not doing justice in the bigger scope, and I think there are a lot of other things that go into it. It's just not that simple."
Woods felt much more comfortable inside the ropes at Muirfield, where he turned in another sharp practice round on a surprisingly still, misty day along the Firth of Forth.
For now, Woods is far more interested in denying equal rights to players who want to win a major championship this year.
He has owned the majors lately. Not only is he the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year, Woods has won seven of the last 11 majors dating to the '99 PGA Championship.
Woods already won a version of the Grand Slam last year when he claimed the Masters, becoming the first player to win four straight professional majors.
This time, he's going for all four in the same year.
"I think it's probably going to be a little more difficult to win in the same calendar year because you have to start off with the first one," he said. "The hardest thing when I won four in a row was to wait seven months between tournaments, and have to be asked that question for seven straight months.
"It's easier to deal with than the buildup to Augusta in '01."
This time, the buildup is only four weeks. Still, that represents his longest break from competitive golf before a major, brought on by flu-like symptoms that caused him to skip the Western Open in Chicago.
Woods isn't worried.
"It wasn't like I was playing poorly," he said. "My practice rounds have gone very well and I'm pleased with the way I'm hitting the golf ball right now. I don't foresee a problem."

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