Tiger Woods today refused to be drawn into the debate surrounding this year’s Open Championship at Muirfield, which is one of the three courses on the Open rota not to allow women members.
• Tiger Woods stays silent on controversy surrounding Muirfield’s men-only membership policy
• “I don’t make the policies here. I’m not a member so I’m not going to speak for the club,” says Woods
• First Minister Alex Salmond among those boycotting Open Championship
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond is among the political figures who have said they will not attend the event in protest, describing the policy as “indefensible in the 21st century”.
However, when asked if he felt there was a moral difference between a golf club excluding members based on their gender or their race, Woods said: “I don’t make the policies here. I’m not a member so I’m not going to speak for the club.”
Pressed on whether he was comfortable playing at Muirfield, the world number one added: “We’ve played the Masters, we’ve played here and I don’t know of any other places.”
Muirfield, Royal St George’s and Troon are the three courses on the nine-strong Open rota which remain men-only.
Former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore became Augusta National’s first female members in August last year, almost a decade after activist Martha Burk stepped up pressure on the club to admit women, to which then chairman Hootie Johnson responded that they would not be forced to change “at the point of a bayonet”.
That position softened over the years and current chairman Billy Payne described Rice and Moore’s membership as a “joyous occasion”, but Open organisers the R&A remain men-only and said at the time: “We read the announcement from Augusta National with great interest and we congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on their membership.
“The rules of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews specify a male membership and this policy remains a matter for our members to determine.”
Salmond did attend the Open at Royal St George’s in 2011, but claimed he was unaware they shared the same approach as Muirfield.
“I didn’t know actually Royal St George’s had that policy and learned of the controversy the day I was there,” Salmond said last week. “I could list the clubs in Scotland that have that policy but I didn’t know about Royal St George’s.”
Muirfield is formally known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and Salmond added: “I would be delighted if Muirfield decided to set up the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Lady Golfers and have playing rights to the course. What I object to is where people can’t be members of the course.”
Chief executive Peter Dawson re-iterated the R&A’s stance on taking the Open to clubs like Muirfield in April, saying courses would not be bullied into changing their policies by the threat of losing the Open.
“We come for the golf course,” he said. “To think we would not come to a course as wonderful as this (Muirfield) is something we could not countenance. It’s like taking the Boat Race to the Humber if you did not like (mayor of London) Boris (Johnson’s) policies.”